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June 29, 2017

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Asian Champion League 2nd round sets high stakes

SEOUL -- The second round of the Asian Champions League takes on extra emphasis for some World Cup hopefuls this week, with South Korea's Hong Myung-bo among the national team coaches carefully watching the continental club competition before announcing his squad for Brazil 2014.

Hong plans to finalize his 23-man World Cup squad later this week, after attending the all-Korean match-up between Jeonbuk Motors and Pohang Steelers.

With Lee Myung-joo of Pohang and Lee Seung-gi of Jeonbuk hoping to make the list, there is plenty to play for, not least a place in the quarterfinals of Asian Champions League.

Players from clubs in Japan, Iran and Australia are in similar situations in the opening matches of the home-and-away second-round series on Tuesday and Wednesday.

But few will be under as much scrutiny as young Pohang striker Kim Seung-dae. The 23 year-old Kim is the top scorer in the K-League and has also found the target four times in the Asian Champions League, helping the three-time continental title winner become the first team to qualify from the East Asian section of the draw.

Kim could be a late addition to South Korea's World Cup squad.

"The national team seems so far away," Kim told domestic media. "At the moment I am focusing on my role at my club. But I would be lying if I said that I didn't dream about playing for my country or going to play overseas."

Pohang and Jeonbuk may both be recent winners of the competition, but the biggest clash of the round takes place between defending champion Guangzhou Evergrande and Diego Forlan's Cerezo Osaka.

Yoichiro Kakitani is one of Japan's brightest young stars but just one goal in eleven appearances in the 2014 J-League season could be putting his World Cup chances in jeopardy. With national team coach Alberto Zaccheroni due to name his squad early next week, Tuesday's game is a timely opportunity for the highly-rated attacker.

Forlan, preparing for the World Cup with Uruguay, insists that Kakitani is on track due to his four goals in the continental championship.

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