• Ulsan Hyundai to take part in FIFA Club World Cup for the second time
  • AFC Champions League winners to face UANL Tigers on February 4
  • South Koreans hope to win “Battle of the Tigers”

More than 11,000 kilometers, on either side of the Pacific Ocean, separate the Ulsan Hyundai Tigers, in the Republic of Korea, from the UANL Tigers, in Mexico. The showdown between the two teams in the second round of the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020 ™ will decide which club is king in the Tiger Kingdom.

At the end of 2020, Ulsan won the AFC Champions League and will not be disoriented in Qatar. After being postponed due to COVID-19, the Asian continental ordeal resumed and concluded in a centralized form in Qatar. In the final, the Tigers ended their run with a 2-1 victory over Persepolis, Yoon Bitgaram having been named the competition’s best player on the occasion.

“I was just trying to enjoy every game, rather than being overwhelmed by the pressure to get a result,” Yoon said. “And I’m not the only one, the whole team enjoyed playing together, which gave us positive energy and allowed us to play really well. The most memorable goal for me is the one against FC Tokyo in the group stage, where I scored from a direct free kick. It was the goal of the equalizer, very important, especially in a haniljeon (game between Korea Republic and Japan). This match is very much in my memory. “

Pleasure and honor

Coach Hong Myungbo can count on Yoon as the spearhead of a formidable attacking sector, but also on an airtight defense, as evidenced by the seven goals conceded in ten matches during the AFC Champions League campaign. Center-back Kim Keehee and midfielder Won Dujae will have a hard time facing André-Pierre Gignac, the Tigers’ top scorer in history.

“Representing the K-League in general and Ulsan Hyundai in particular in a tournament that only a small number of teams around the world have played in their history is what appeals to me the most,” said Kim. “For us, it’s exciting, and we’re having a lot of fun preparing for the upcoming game.”

The uniqueness of this World Cup enchants Won. “It’s not the kind of competition that anyone can participate in. Whether you are from Asia or Europe, only the best team participates in it. It is a great honor and we are going to have to show our best. face, ”he announces, without lacking ambition. “All the players have the same goal: to get to the end. But first, we want to win our first game. Only after that will we think about the final goal.”

Siamak Nemati of Persepolis and Won Dujae of Ulsan Hyundai compete for the ball during the AFC Champions League final
© Getty Images

A nickname to honor

Won and Kim are also reassured because they have behind them a last bulwark full of experience on the international scene, in the person of Jo Hyeonwoo. Jo was the keeper of the Republic of Korea who eliminated Germany from the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia ™. “It is working very well between our players and I’m sure they will produce a very interesting game again,” predicted the goalkeeper. “We have to live up to our ‘Asian Tigers’ nickname and prove that we are not an easy team to play.”

If successful in the Battle of the Tigers, Ulsan will meet in the semi-finals the Brazilian club Palmeiras, winner of the Copa Libertadores.

Jo Hyeonwoo of Ulsan Hyundai looks on
© imago images

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