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Nagoya’s Ficcadenti looks ahead, Kim optimistic about Pohang’s AFC Champions League chances

Bangkok: Massimo Ficcadenti has challenged his Nagoya Grampus side to build on their unbeaten run in the 2021 AFC Champions League after the Japanese side ended their Group G campaign with a 1-1 draw against Korea Republic’s Pohang Steelers on Wednesday.

Pohang’s Boris Tashchy struck late in the game to cancel out Naoki Maeda’s second half goal to deny Nagoya a sixth consecutive victory at the Rajamangala Stadium.

Nagoya ended their campaign with 16 points with Pohang five adrift and needing results elsewhere to go their way if they are to advance to the Round of 16 as one of the three best runners-up from the East zone.

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Nagoya defeated 10-man Pohang comfortably on Matchday Two, firing three goals past the Korea Republic side but Kim Gi-dong’s side were more resilient in the second meeting.

“Both teams played well in this final game as it was a tactical battle, said Ficcadenti. “We didn’t have many chances but we scored the early goal in the second half.

“Pohang showed patience and waited for their chance. In that time we wanted to score the second goal but could not convert our chances. The momentum shifted in Pohang’s favour and they drew level."

2021 AFC Champions League: FC Pohang Steelers 1-1 Nagoya Grampus

“We tried our best to break the deadlock but the window of opportunity grew smaller by every passing minute. We’re always pushing for victory as we enjoyed possession in the second half and created space to attack."

Ficcadenti made seven changes to the starting line up against Pohang and the Italian tacticians stressed that the draw will not derail their progress in the competition.

“Overall we showed great organisation as a team and it was unfortunate that we dropped points today."

“This draw does not affect our confidence at all, in fact it’s the complete opposite. After six matchdays, we will go back to Japan to continue this momentum to win all of our matches in the J League.

“This year, Nagoya’s style is very different from the previous teams that have played before us. We performed well, five wins and one draw. We showed our best style."

For Pohang, the draw wasn't an ideal result as three points would have boosted their chances of progressing to the Round of 16.

“We came into this competition following the tight schedule of the K League and some of the players were carrying injuries and we had to play with a limited squad,” said Kim.

“The players did well today, they played according to the plan. Even though we didn’t get the three points, I was pleased with the players’ efforts on the pitch."

“I want to thank the team and players and yes we have one point and still have the possibility to advance into the next round. But for now, we have to wait for the results from the other groups.

“I would also like to thank the AFC and the Thai Football Association for successfully organising the group stage of the competition under the strict bio bubble and all their hard work."

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