TOKYO (AFP) - Newly-crowned Asian champions Seongnam Ilhwa of South Korea will have to prove whether they can cope with the Europeans when they take part in the Club World Cup next month for a chance to play Inter Milan.
Seongnam earned a place in the competition between representatives from five continents by winning the AFC Champions League beating Iranian side Zobahan 3-1 at the national stadium in Tokyo on Saturday.
They will compete in next month's FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, where they will face the winners of the tie between hosts Al Wahda and OFC champions Hekari United for the chance to play Inter Milan in the semi-finals.
"It's not easy to eclipse European teams physically, but Asian football has its own strong point. Iranian teams are the most similar to the Europeans," said Seongnam coach Shin Tae-Yong.
"To beat physically stronger Europeans, we must use speed instead of height -- quickly moving into top speed and attack efficiently. We can create chances by connecting quick short passes," he said.
Seongnam are South Korea's most successful club with seven K-League titles and they have made regular appearances in Asia's club competitions, winning the Asian Club Championship in 1995.
They also reached the AFC Champions League final in 2004 and the semi-finals in 2007.
It was a third Champions League victory for South Korea, following triumphs by Jeonbuk Motors in 2006 and Pohang Steelers in 2009, while Japan and Saudi Arabia have won twice and the United Arab Emirates once.
Shin said it was a big advantage to play the final in Tokyo, with a Korean team winning the title for a second year running.
"The reason is quite simple. It would have been very difficult if it was a home-and-away final against a Middle Eastern team because of a long trip and time lag," said Shin.
"The biggest element why we won was that we played the final in Tokyo."
In the Club World Cup, Asian clubs finished third with Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds in 2007, Gamba Osaka in 2008 and Pohang Steelers last year, but no clubs have ever broken the barrier of the European-South American clubs.
"Our goal is just to do our best. We will have the best players next month, so first of all, we will try to win the K-League, because my players gained a lot of confidence by winning the Champions League," Shin said.
"We want to show the world that the level of Asian football is pretty high."
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