thumbnail Hello,

The 2008 Asian champions may have suffered a shock early exit from this season's competition, but their boss says that's a sign of the strength of football in the region

Gamba Osaka boss Masanobu Matsunami insists he's proud of his side despite the 2008 Asian champions' early exit from the 2012 AFC Champions League after Wednesday's 2-0 loss to Pohang Steelers.

The defeat in South Korea confirmed Gamba, who have had a difficult start to life post-Akira Nishino, would finish last in Group E however Matsunami was upbeat after the game.

“Even though we lost the players did their best and I am proud,” he told reporters. “When we were able to gain possession of the ball we lost it very quickly as the opposition did not give us lot of time or space."

Matsunami added he felt Gamba's exit was a sign of the improving strength of Asian football in general as they were beaten in a group containing Adelaide United, Bunyodkor and Pohang.

“The standard of the teams in Asia is getting better and all the teams in the group have found it hard,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pohang now face an away match against Bunyodkor where any result will see them throug to the Round of 16 and boss Hwang Sun-Hong was delighted by that position.

“I am quite content with the result. I am really happy because the result has revived our hope of reaching the last 16," he said.

“The match against Bunyodkor is now very important. As it will be a decisive game I will ask my players to keep their concentration for the next match.”

Hwang refused to dwell on Zoran Rendulic's missed first-half penalty and added he was impressed by his side's performance.

"Today the play of our Korean players was quite good. Especially the play of Park Sung-Ho and Kim Jin-Yong was encouraging. Ko Moo-Yeol hasn't found his touch yet, but he showed some signs," he said.

"Rendulic missed a penalty kick but he did his job as a defender. I think his miss was just meant to be. We just have to trust our players and hope they get in."

Follow Ben Somerford on

Follow Asia on and for the latest in Asian footballing news, features, and analysis