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Ulsan Hyundai don’t need home comforts in AFC Champions League Final, says captain Sin Jin-ho


Doha: In a year of change, the regular home and away AFC Champions League final has been replaced with a one-off clash in the neutral venue of Doha, and that suits Ulsan Hyundai FC just fine according to captain Sin Jin-ho.

Under normal conditions, the Korean club and West zone semi-final winners Persepolis FC would be gearing up for 90 minutes each in front of their own fans, but apart from a few lucky fans in Doha, the 2020 decider will be run and won in one night, and experienced largely through screens everywhere from Ulsan to Tehran.

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Ulsan Hyundai’s hardcore fans will no doubt be disappointed not to be in the stands for what could be the club’s second ever Asian title but, with eight consecutive wins under their belt, team leader Sin says he’s happy enough where he is.

“I think there are some positive effects of playing in a centralised tournament,” said the 32-year-old midfielder, who spent two seasons playing in the Qatar Stars League in his mid-20s.

Interview - Ulsan Hyundai captain Sin Jin-ho

“It’s different from the tournaments of 2018 and 2019. We are staying in one venue, so we feel kind of comfortable. We have a good quality squad here, and that’s why we have been showing strong performances.

“Through social media and the internet, we are still getting a lot of energy from the fans in Korea. In the domestic competitions like the FA Cup and K League we didn’t have the best result, so we are eager to win the tournament and I think the fans have the same energy and eagerness.

“I think that’s part of the reason we are doing well.”

#ACL2020 Road to Final: Ulsan Hyundai FC

That Ulsan have won every match since arriving in Qatar a month ago suggests Kim Do-hoon’s side have cruised into the final without raising a sweat, but while they were a cut above their group stage rivals, their quarter and semi-finals both presented challenges.

They were beaten in almost every statistical indicator except goals in their 2-0 win over Bejing FC, and it took a 119th-minute penalty to finally see off Vissel Kobe.

Júnior Negrão’s ruthlessness in front of goal was vital to their progression on both occasions, and Sin is fully aware that Ulsan are likely to have another stern test when they meet Persepolis, who are appearing in their second ACL final in three seasons.

“The AFC Champions League final is definitely not an easy match,” Sin declared.

“We’ve shown our quality during the whole tournament. We are analysing the Persepolis team, preparing for how to deal with them, and we will try our best in the final.

“I felt they had a kind of energy and physicality when we watched their matches. They seem dominant in attack, but they enjoy using the counterattack, so we are expecting a match along those lines. Since this is a final, we are expecting a match which will be very competitive from start to finish," said Sin.

Sin is one of several experienced players in an Ulsan squad which includes two previous winners, but he will be the one given the honour of hoisting the famous trophy aloft should the K League outfit prevail at Al Janoub Stadium on Saturday, and he admits the enormity of the achievement has crossed his mind.

“It would be a huge honour to be the champions of the tournament, and for me to be the captain of the team.

“We have two players who have experienced being champions before – Lee Keun-ho and Jung Seung-hyun – and we know that it’s hard to reach this level. That’s why we’re doing our best to be well prepared for the match.”

*Poll ends at 19:00 (UTC+8) on December 19.

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