Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Football: Scolari sets out Asian ambition

Luiz Felipe Scolari wants to become the first coach in history to win the World Cup and the Club World Cup – and won't complain if he happens to complete the double in Tashkent rather than the more glamorous surroundings of Chelsea in southwest London.
Scolari led his native Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title and is now preparing his Uzbek club Bunyodkor for the quarterfinals of the Asian Champions League against Pohang Steelers of South Korea on Wednesday.
The winners of the ACL competition will represent the world's most populous continent at the Fifa Club World Cup in December and could face European giants Barcelona.
New wealth
Scolari was fired by Chelsea earlier this year but found solace with the ambitious and newly wealthy Central Asian club helped by the fact, according to British media speculation, that he is the highest-paid coach in the world with an annual salary of around $18million.
"I am here because I believe I can contribute to the growth of the Uzbek game," Scolari said of his move.
"I also believe in this project."
Quarter-final first leg
Wednesday September 23 Umm-Salal v FC Seoul Kawasaki F v Nagoya G Bunyodkor v PohangThursday September 24 Pakhtakor v Al IttihadDomestic success is a given. Bunyodkor demand Asian championships.
"Certainly, I would like Bunyodkor to win the continental title," said Scolari, who took Portugal to the final of Euro 2004 and the semi-final of the 2006 World Cup.
"I think we will have equal chances of winning against Pohang Steelers."
As well as the 2002 World Cup winning coach, Bunyodkor have recruited Rivaldo, a star player of that Brazilian squad and the 1999 World Player of the Year.
The former Barcelona star played a big part in Scolari's decision to head to Tashkent.
"Rivaldo suggested it to me," Scolari revealed.
"He had already been here almost a year at the time. I already knew about the structure of the club and was fascinated by the ambition of the Bunyodkor chiefs.
"A project of this scale is a fantasy."
Scolari's arrival was anything but fantastic for Bunyodkor's domestic rivals, especially Pakhtakor who have lost their best players to the new powerhouse.
Huge lead
Despite just squeezing through the group stage of the continental competition with eight points from six games, Bunyodkor have won 23 games out of 23 in the Uzbek league and enjoy a 19-point lead.
Newcastle Jets were humbled by the Pohang Steelers [GALLO/GETTY]If challenges have been hard to come by at home, Pohang will present a stiffer test.
"Pohang have a Brazilian star, Denilson, in their squad and their coach Sergio Farias is well known, so we should take Pohang very seriously and not treat them like a usual rival," Rivaldo said.
That would be wise as the Koreans have won eight and drawn four of their last 12 games in the K-League and on September 13 recorded the biggest win in the competition's 26-year history by thrashing Jeju United 8-1.
Pohang also destroyed Australia's Newcastle Jets 6-0 in the second round of the ACL and the two-time Asian champions are on course to score 100 goals in all competitions this season.
Fellow K-League club FC Seoul, coached by Fifa 2002 Coach Of The Year Senol Gunes, take on Umm Salal of Qatar.
The Qataris have assembled an expensive Brazilian strike force of Magno Alves and Davi, who was signed from Japan's Nagoya Grampus in the summer.
Nagoya used the money to buy tall Australian forward Josh Kennedy and he will lead the line in an all-Japanese clash with Kawasaki Frontale.
In the other quarter-final match, two-time champions Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia meet Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor on Thursday.

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