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Yokohama F. Marinos’ Postecoglou hails importance of AFC Champions League milestone

Doha: Ange Postecoglou hailed the importance of reaching the 2020 AFC Champions League Round of 16 after his Yokohama F. Marinos side secured their progression with a 4-1 win over Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Tuesday.

Yokohama reached the knockout stage for the first time in club history with the win, as goals from Theerathon Bunmathan, Marcos Junior and Terhuito Nakagawa, plus a Song Bum-keun own goal, rounded out a banner day for the 2019 J League champions.

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While Jeonbuk’s defeat confirmed their elimination, Yokohama can look forward to challenges to come, and Postecoglou said there was significant value in reaching the landmark.

“It’s a great performance and a credit to the players, because it’s the first time the club has got out of the group stage. It’s a fantastic achievement and we’re very proud of everyone involved," said Postecoglou, who Yokohama announced on Wednesday has extended his contract for another year.

Group H - MD5: Yokohama F. Marinos 4-1 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

“I think it’s important (to get to the next stage of the competition). That’s how you grow, because we obviously had success last year - we won the championship for the first time in 15 years – and it’s always important that the year after that you try and achieve something.

“We missed out on the league this year, got knocked out in the semi-final of the cup, so just to be able to achieve something this year, it just adds belief to us as a club and to everyone involved, that we can do these things.

“There’s still a lot ahead of us and as a club we’re not yet at the stature of the some of the other clubs competing here, but we’ve progressed over time, and success, in one form or another, is the best way to build. It was important, because we’ve had a disappointing year in the league, in an extraordinary year, and to still be able to say we’ve made progress is important.”

With the group stage safely navigated with a game to spare, Yokohama will now have the opportunity to benefit from Postecoglou’s significant experience in the heightened intensity of tournament football.

The 55-year-old led Australia at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and won the AFC Asian Cup on home soil the following year, and with club football rarely played in centralised tournaments, that resume could prove valuable for the Japanese outfit.

“I’ve had a lot of experience in it, and it is a different sort of existence,” said Postecoglou, who also took charge of Australia at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup as well as multiple age-group World Cups.

“You have some huge positives because you have access to the players 24/7, which really helps in terms of recovery and treatment, and from that perspective you’ve got to make sure you’re organised, then there’s an added uniqueness to this with the whole bubble scenario."

"Always, the biggest challenge is that you are stuck together 24/7 and just making sure mentally the players don’t find it too draining. You’ve got to make sure the players get enough time away from thinking about football all the time. We make sure that both physically and mentally, they’re fresh.

“They’re a great group of players and the staff are working awfully hard to try and create a good environment for them. If you do it well, (a centralised tournament) is an advantage, but if you don’t do it well it can certainly become a burden.”

Meanwhile, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors boss Jose Morais was left to lament a disappointing end to the club’s bid for a 2020 treble.

Citing the absence of a number of senior players, the Portuguese coach couldn’t fault the effort of those who did take to the pitch for the Korean champions, despite Yokohama taking advantage of their efforts to chase the game in the second half.

“The team gave what it was possible to do with the contingent that we have,” said Morais, who led Jeonbuk to league and cup success this year.

“In the first half, strategically, we went in terms of containing the offensive game of Yokohama, which is a big game and a quality game, and countering this game.

“In the second half, the result as it was wasn’t enough to take us forward, so we took more risks, and taking more risks, you conceded more space and (Yokohama) is a team that wants this space to create. They created chances, they scored goals."

“(Group H) was a difficult group, also a quality group, but it’s a good experience for the young lads, definitely something they can use for the future. They will remember in terms of experience; I won’t remember in terms of result.”

Jeonbuk will look to end their time in Doha on a high when they face Shanghai SIPG on Friday, while Yokohama F. Marinos will confirm their status as group winners if they avoid defeat against Sydney FC.

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