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Head coach of football champ Pohang braces for new challenge

All Headlines 09:55 January 14, 2014

SEOUL, Jan. 14 (Yonhap) -- Coming off a successful season in which his club lifted two major trophies in domestic football, Pohang Steelers' head coach Hwang Sun-hong said Tuesday he's braced for "a new challenge."

In 2013, the Steelers captured the K League Classic championship and also won the FA Cup, becoming the first South Korean club to win those titles in the same year. They did so without the service of foreign players, and the historic season earned Hwang, a former star striker, his first K League Classic Coach of the Year honors.

With the team scheduled to depart for Abu Dhabi on Wednesday to open the training camp and move to Antalya, Turkey, a week later, Hwang said he was already concerned about his team for the new season.

Of its free agents, Pohang has only managed to re-sign the goalkeeper Shin Hwa-yong, while midfielders Hwang Jin-sung and forwards Park Sung-ho and Noh Byeong-jun remain un-signed.

Another player, defensive back Kim Hyung-il, is nearing a transfer to a Chinese club.

"At this rate, I don't think we will have a better squad than last year," the coach said. "I think this year will present a new challenge. We will have to get ready the best we can at the training camp."

Hwang said while he feels the pressure to repeat last year's success, he will try not to dwell on wins and losses.

"I think the key is whether we can play our own style of football," he said. "We can't play well in every game but we will focus on reducing mistakes in all situations."

Hwang said his players will mostly do physical training in Abu Dhabi and get into about a dozen practice matches in Turkey.

The coach said he also stresses the psychological aspect of the sport

"Last year, I tried to make sure the players wouldn't get ahead of themselves too much," he said. "This year, we have to maintain our composure, too. It's important to feel confident but at the same time, we shouldn't worry about being the chased team."

The 2014 K League Classic season will kick off on March 8 but Pohang will begin its season a bit earlier than that. On Feb. 25, Pohang will host Cerezo Osaka of Japan in the opening Group E match of the AFC Champions League, the top club competition in Asia.

Pohang was knocked out of the tournament in 2012 and 2013. While defending the domestic league title, Hwang said he would like to capture the AFC crown in 2014, too.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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