Rock of the Year 2017
This award goes to the best defender in the K-League Classic for the 2017 season. Continue reading “The 2017 Alternative K-League Awards – Rock of the Year”
This award goes to the best defender in the K-League Classic for the 2017 season. Continue reading “The 2017 Alternative K-League Awards – Rock of the Year”
This award goes to the best K-league player serving their military service with Sangju FC. Continue reading “The 2017 Alternative K-League Awards – Soldier of the Year”
After a week off for international duty domestic football returns this weekend with the first of the post-split fixtures. For some the international break is a welcome distraction and a time to rest and recharge the batteries and this is undoubtedly the case for most K-League players as international coach Uli Stielike continues to select his players on a ‘anywhere but Korea’ basis. And so after a rather disappointing international week for Korean football fans in which they yet again fell short in Tehran it’s time to get back to real deal and the bread and butter of the K-league.
The Classic has now split into two groups, one that will compete for the title and the automatic ACL spots the other that will fight to avoid relegation and the play-off spot against the best from the Challenge. Unlike last season, this year we have really competitive matches in both groups and with all to play for it should be a tense end to the season for most teams.
First up we have the Championship Group….
Jeonbuk v Jeju United (Sat @ 3pm)
Jeonbuk welcome Jeju to the Jeonju World Cup Stadium for a match that would really have been practically meaningless were it not for the host’s 9pt deduction a couple of weeks ago, now though it is a match which could go a long way to deciding the destination of the title and also ACL qualification. Jeonbuk still remain undefeated so far this season in the league and as undoubtedly impressive as that is they have found themselves snatching a draw from the jaws of victory on several occasions. They have drawn four of their last five matches and in fairness that’s probably not really what you would call the form of champions. Jeju have put together a late run of form that has seen them edge above Ulsan into third place and with two wins in a row they will be feeling confident about staying there. With both Jeonbuk and Jeju topping the scoring charts you would imagine there will be goals in this one…so I guess it’ll probably end up 0-0 now I’ve said that.
Prediction: Home Win : Jeonbuk 2 – Jeju 1
FC Seoul v Ulsan (Sat @ 3pm)
The other Championship group match on Saturday sees second placed FC Seoul welcome fourth placed Ulsan to the capital with, you imagine, as many eyes on Naver watching the Jeonbuk score as watching the action on the pitch. This will be the third time the teams have played at Sangnam in the league this season, as yet again we see why having a league with a split tends to be as unpopular as a certain presidential candidate at a sewing circle. Seoul have had their title bid reinvigorated by Jeonbuk’s punishment and now a cause that seemed lost is almost within their grasp again, although that’s usually when they blow it. They have won their last two league games which has pulled them to within 3 points of Jeonbuk who they also meet midweek in the ACL semi-final. Ulsan are firmly in the battle for an ACL spot although they will also have the safety net of the FA Cup which if they were to win would guarantee them a place in next year’s groups and probably an easier route to the last sixteen also. They lost their match, a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Incheon, so will be looking to bounce back in this one. It will be a close game with the last two matches, also played in Seoul, finishing in draws.
Prediction : Score Draw : Seoul 1 – Ulsan 1
Sangju v Jeonnam (Sun @ 3pm)
This season the K-League has decided to spread the group matches across the weekend instead of in previous years where one group played on Saturday and the other on Sunday. That means that on Sunday we have Sangju hosting Jeonnam as the only two teams with nothing to play for in the Championship group go head to head. Sangju secured their first every spot in the top group on the last day of the pre-split with a draw at home to Jeonbuk. They have been on a poor run of form since losing so many key players to their parent clubs and haven’t won in the last seven games and probably only the shocking form of Seongnam allowed them to make it into the top half. Jeonnam came from nowhere to make the Championship group but will probably view an ACL spot as being out of their reach. They lost to Jeju in the last round but had been unbeaten in six before that. Interestingly this game could see Sangju’s key player of 2016 Park Ki Dong start against them as he recently returned to Jeonnam. These games do tend to see goals and this could be another high scoring affair.
Prediction : Away Win : Sangju 1 – Jeonnam 2
Pohang v Suwon Bluewings (Sat @ 3pm)
At the beginning of the season if you had said that one of these sides would be in the Relegation group you would have been scoffed at yet alone the idea that both would find themselves among the bottom teams and potentially fighting to remain in the Classic. The year started with both sides playing Champions League football so it is quite the fall from grace for both. After a quite atrocious run of four defeats Pohang have won their last two games and are probably the only team in the bottom six that goes into the split with a modicum of confidence and security. They defeated Seongnam FC in the last round and even though the 4-1 result was a little more than they deserved they showed a hunger in that match that has been missing much of the season. Bluewings have only one win in ten games, I feel that needs repeating one win in ten, and have been a pale reflection of the team that finished second last year. They have amassed sixteen draws this season and although the optimist among you will say if they had won some of them they could be sitting at the top the flip side is just how lucky they are not to be bottom. None of their key players have turned up consistently this year and if they continue this way for the last five fixtures they could well be facing a playoff. This year all three matches have been draws, it could be tough to separate them again.
Prediction : Home Win : Pohang 2 – Bluewings 1
Seongnam FC v Incheon United (Sun @ 3pm)
The first of two matches in the Relegation group on Sunday is somewhat of a derby as Seongnam FC host Incheon United in a game few thought they would see again until 2107. If Pohang and Bluewings fans are disappointed to be in the bottom six Seongnam fans are almost distraught, and in fact only the prospect of potentially relegating their Bluewwings rivals is helping them crack a smile. Sitting atop the table in April Soengnam have gone on the kind of poor run that keeps managers awake at night. Only 4 points from their final 8 games has pushed them close to the edge of the relegation dogfight. They need to stop the rot asap or they might well end up being the team representing the Classic in the playoffs. Incheon on the other hand are in the middle of a purple patch with three wins from five keeping them above Suwon FC. Their away win at Ulsan in the last round raised many an eyebrow and ruined many a bet in the process. They won on their last visit to Tancheon, Kevin Oris the hero that day. That match also set the ball rolling for Seongnam’s drastic decline in form. This a huge match for both teams.
Prediction: 1 – 2
Suwon FC v Gwangju FC (Sun @ 3pm)
The final game to preview of the weekend pits bottom club FC Suwon against Gwangju FC in a match that is a huge match for the hosts as relegation rivals Incheon and Bluewings have tricky away fixtures. Suwon come into the match on the back of a quite incredible 5-4 away win in the Suwon derby in a game that must be a contender for match of the year. Although they have been at the foot of the table most of the season they are capable of rising to the big occasion and have taken quite a few big scalps over the year. Gwangju failed to make the top 6 after losing three of their last five matches and sit in 9th tied on 41 pts with Seongnam and Pohang. They were unlucky in their match when they fell at home to Seoul to a last minute Yun Il Lok goal. They of course have previous in the playoffs having defeated Gyeongnam back in 2014 but it’s an experience you can guarantee they don’t want to have to repeat. We have had two home wins and a draw so far this season between the teams and you just get the feeling that Suwon might have a little more desire to win than their opponents.
Prediction: Home Win : Suwon 2 – Gwangju 1
After an international break (well excluding the Seoul v Ulsan match) the Classic is back in full flow and it’s ‘Derby weekend’ to boot with the Jeolla Derby, the Gyeongin Derby and the Seongnam v Bluewings Derby. With a huge tie between third and fourth down in Jeju it’s shaping up to be a great weekend of K-League action.
First up this weekend is the Jeolla Derby and it ‘s between sides at opposite ends of the table, as league leaders, and still undefeated, Jeonbuk take on their local rivals Jeonnam. Jeonbuk pretty much all but clinched their third title in a row when they recorded an emphatic 3-1 win over FC Seoul in the last round. Although far from impressive this season they just seem to be able to turn up the heat whenever they need to and that defeat moved them 12 pts clear at the top. Leonardo, once again, was the hero notching up two goals. Jeonnam are sitting 8th in the table and should feel more confident about not being dragged into an end of season dogfight at the bottom. They have still been inconsistent with two wins, two losses and a draw in their last five matches but the other teams around them have been woeful. On paper Jeonbuk should run out easy winners but then they do have the Asian Champions League on their minds next week and stranger things have happened.
Prediction: Home Win : Jeonbuk 2 – Jeonnam 0
The first of our evening matches this week is the Gyeongin Derby between Incheon United and FC Seoul. The clubs have played each other a total of forty times and Seoul have by far the upper hand in the fixture winning seven of the last eight encounters. Incheon have lost their last 4 games on the bounce and have slipped back to the bottom of the table and in all honesty look like they could be marooned there for the foreseeable. The last defeat to Suwon FC was a bitter pill to swallow and will have undoubtedly hit them hard. As previously mentioned Seoul lost to Jeonbuk and must now consider their title hopes gone. They are still in the FA Cup and the ACL and travel to China during the week to complete the task against Shandong. They may look to rest some players given the importance of that match and the relative safety net of a nine point lead over third place.
Prediction: Away Win : Incheon 1 – Seoul 2
The third derby of the weekend sees sixth placed Seongnam FC take on tenth placed Suwon Bluewings in a match which is more than capable of producing a few fireworks. Seongnam started the season brightly but have lost their way of late and are in great danger of slipping out of the top 6. They have lost two on the bounce and have been unable to ‘buy’ a win since June. The loss of Tiago was huge but they still have a number of capable players including Pitu and Hwang Uijo so you have to start asking if the problem lies somewhere deeper. Speaking of deep problems, it really is strange to see the Bluewings dwell so far down the table at this stage. Everybody still seems to be waiting on them bouncing back but it really does look like that’s unlikely. They have drawn their last three games all 1-1, and haven’t won since July. The teams have met each other three times already this season in both the league and FA Cup with Seongnam winning both league matches and Bluewings winning the cup tie. It is always a tough one to call and will be a close match for sure.
Prediction: Score Draw : Seongnam 1 – Bluewings 1
Saturday’s late game is a relatively bottom of the table clash between Pohang and Suwon FC in a match that could well see The Steelers move within goals scored of the top 6. It should be noted that a defeat would and it would see them firmly still in the relegation battle. Pohang have only one win in six games and this must go down as a disastrous debut season for coach Choi Jin Cheul. They lost their last match against fellow bottom sixers Jeonnam to a last minute Jair strike and it’s results like that which have resulted in them slumming with the commoners in the bottom half. Suwon on the other hand have put together a good little run and have picked up seven points from their last three games which saw them move off the bottom of the table. Incredibly Suwon have 2 wins over Pohang so far this season both with 1-0 scorelines, could they make it a hat-trick?
Prediction: Home Win : Pohang 2 – Suwon 1
The first of Sunday’s games is between fourth and third and ultimately two sides racing for the Asian Champions League spots as 4th place Jeju United host 3rd place Ulsan. Jeju, after a bit of a sticky patch, have won their last two games including a huge victory over Seongnam in the last round. They are traditionally strong at home and there’s still not many teams who leave the island all too happy. Ulsan have had a rather strange season, ranging from protests and having their bus blocked to sublime last minute goals. They have only one win in the last nine games but do still find themselves in third which is as much a reflection on their rival’s misfortunes as anything else. They showed some spirit last weekend coming form two down to snatch a point against Seoul and that could just give them the momentum to carry them over the line into third and that all important ACL spot.
Prediction: A tough home win : Jeju 2 – Ulsan 1
The final game of the weekend is between the two surprise packages of 2016 in Gwangju and Sangju Sangmu, who are separated by only three points in seventh and fifth respectively. The fact that we are not referring to this match as a relegaiton battle goes some way to sum up just how well they’ve both done this year. Gwangju are undefeated in five games and boast the league’s top scorer Jung Jo-Gook among their squad. They are a tough nut to crack at home and have been a thorn in many a Classic side this year. High-flying Sangju have unfortunately had a number of players return to their parent clubs in recent weeks which has obviously weakened their squad considerably. They will be hoping to cling on and maintain their place among the top six but with only one win in five games it’s already looking a tough ask. This tie generally always has goals and it could well be another high scorer this weekend.
Prediction: Home Win : Gwangju 2 – Sangju 1
From warring clans, to envious brothers, to countries divided by civil strife throughout history there have been events which have divided nations, corporations and even families. This weekend we see another such event as Seongnam host FC Seoul in a match which divides a podcast! In the ‘black’ corner we have Seongnam’s Mark and in the ‘red’ corner we have Seoul’s Paul both of whom will be descending on Tancheon this weekend hoping to earn bragging rights for the next few months.
The match itself is more important though than just bragging rights, one glance at the league table shows how huge a match it is. Seongnam win they go top, Seoul win they go 3 pts clear, a draw and well I guess those pesky Jeonju-ers will be celebrating in their bibimbaps come 5pm!
Players to watch
There are several key players in each team, from returning heroes and new heroes, to midfield generals and tenacious wingers but we at 48 Shades believe there are two men who the outcome of the match will hinge upon. They are….
We doubt there’s a person in Korea who hasn’t heard the name Adriano such have been his goal-scoring exploits this year. From free-kicks to goals from ridiculous angles it’s fair to say Seoul’s Brazilian is practically a one-man team as was greatly evident when he came off the bench mid-week and scored four goals in fifty minutes to see his team past a stubborn Daegu. He is quickly becoming the deadliest striker in the league and has prompted some to even call him the best ever. If he is on fire Seongnam will need to be alert.
Kim Do Heon
The Seongnam captain may well be entering the twilight of his career but there is no denying that he is still the man that makes this whole team tick. Motivating, creative and with a fine shot to boot he is capable of dictating the outcome of any match and was incredible in the opening game of the season against the Bluewings. He has been used a little sparingly at times so far this year and the team greatly suffers when he is absent, although with a game this size you have to imagine he’ll be on the pitch from the start. If he can get space and time on the ball he will punish an often flat-footed looking Seoul defence.
Mark – I never feel confident going into a Seongnam match against Seoul as I feel I’ve witnessed more tears than smiles over the last couple of seasons. The fact that we are ‘flying high’ so to speak fills me with even more trepidation as expectations are higher than normal. In saying that I do feel that if our key players play and if we can stop Takahagi bossing things in the middle then we could well see our boys taking another celebration selfie come 5pm. So I’m going to go for a Seongnam victory. Tiago the hero, 1-0 Seongnam.
Paul -If you had asked me about this one two weeks ago I would have been much more confident but now to be honest I’m just not sure. The biggest issue we have at the moment is that if you press Seoul and don’t give them time then they really don’t seem to know what to do and struggle to deal with it. If teams are able to properly mark Adriano out the game then Choi seems to lack a plan B. In saying that though he is a great plan A to have. If we can get him on the ball we will score and for that reason I’m going for a score draw. Seongnam 1 Seoul 1.
The predictions are locked in and it’s almost time for the beers to get opened and hopefully a cracking match will ensue. If you can’t get to the stadium then follow us on Twitter at @Kleague_Podcast for live updates and not doubt the odd spat!
Five things we learned from Round 6
Yet again it would appear that the concept of attaining all three points in a game is alien to the poorer cousins in Jeolla Province. Leading 1-0 at home to Gwangju through a fantastic Orsic free-kick Jeonnam were only able to hold that lead for a total of 5 minutes before Hong Joon Ho squared things. They would then succumb to a strike from substitute Cho Ju Young with just over five minutes left. There was still time for the experienced figure of Stevo to miss a penalty as he squeezed his effort past the post although the penalty was a pretty harsh decision. They are still not bottom as that spot is currently occupied by Incheon but things are looking bleak for the POSCO boys.
A game lasts 90 mins when Incheon are in town
There’s an old saying in English football often coined by those soothsayers that are ex-pros which goes something like “a game lasts 90 minutes”. It’s up there with such classics as “the best team won” that make you want to throw your new 43 inch TV out the window upon hearing it after your team throw away the lead. In Incheon United’s case though it does ring true. After coming from behind away to Champions Jeonbuk with a 91st minute Song Si Jong goal in Round 5 they repeated the feat again in Round 6, this time leveling the score at home to rivals Suwon Bluewings with Song again begin the last-minute hero. They might still occupy last place in the table but it could all by so much worse for them if it wasn’t for their ‘never say die’ attitude or perhaps it’s simply down to their opponents lack of concentration.
Seoul’s ‘ghostly’ support
The sit atop the table, their hero has returned, they boast a rather impressive ‘goals for’ record of more than 2 goals per game so obviously the Seoul World Cup Stadium is packed to the rafters every home game right? Well it would seem not! It would appear that the simple threat of rain is enough to send the Suhoshin scampering for cover in the local malls as only just over 13,000 turned out for what had all the potential to be another goalfest at Sangam. It may seem unfair to target Seoul as K-League attendances are poor across the board but in a city of 10M and with the team looking like they could score against any opposition it is yet another shocking crowd in a stadium that’s only really close to being ‘full’ if they have closed off a stand and sold their soul to the the evils of K-POP.
Seongnam on the slide
It all started so well for Seongnam as they stormed to the top of the table with three wins out of four, which, coupled with Jeonbuk having a couple of unconvincing draws (including against cannon-fodder Incheon), resulted in renowned K-League talking head “48 Shades Mark” commenting that Seoul were Seongnam’s only realistic title-challenger. A draw at home to Jeonnam in R5 didn’t do much to quell Mark’s ebullience as he boarded the bus to Jeonju for R6’s 2nd place show-down at the rather grandiosely named Jeonbuk Castle (although to be fair the concrete is crumbling like the masonry on a 1,000 year-old castle). The game itself was pulsating as Jeonbuk twice took the lead before twice being pegged back only for Jeonbuk to snatch all three points at the death. With a couple of tough fixtures coming up we’ll have to see if this is a temporary set-back or if they are on the slide towards the bottom half of the table. Still at least he was able to console himself on the four hour bus journey back by looking forward to the next day’s Scottish Cup semi-final against a clearly inferior team….D’oh!!
The ‘goals scored’ rule is working?
One of the big changes in the K-league this season was the move from goal difference to goals scored in determining the order of the league table. Given that R6 didn’t have an obvious fifth talking point, 48 Shades has done some totally unscientific analysis of this years matches to date to determine whether the policy has worked.
Goals Scored: 83 (2.3 goals per game)
0-0 Draws: 5 (14%)
Teams failing to score: 23 (32%)
Goals Scored: 94 (2.6 goals per game)
0-0 Draws: 3 (8%)
Teams failing to score: (24%)
Could it be that the K-league authorities have finally got something right?
Five things we learned from Round 5
Due to Election Day in Korea round 5 was upon us quicker than a Suwon Bluewings ACL campaign ends. We started the round with Seongnam sitting pretty at the top and a pointless Incheon rooted to the bottom of the table. Would all that change by full-time? Or would we see a round of ‘business as usual’?. There’s only one way to to find out…..
Jeonbuk Ain’t All That
Average in the league, unconvincing in the ACL it’s not been the swashbuckling, ‘sweep all aside’ start to 2016 that most were predicting but surely even a disappointing Jeonbuk would have too much for an Incheon side that already looks like they’ll be locking horns with Daejeon again next year. Much has been made of Choi Kang Hee’s rotation policy this season and it is definitely looking like this could be his downfall as for the second match on the bounce they lost a last gasp goal to slump to a draw. The fact it was at home to Incheon compounded the result all the more. You get the feeling that if he doesn’t find a settled eleven soon that it could all go ‘Pete Tong’ this season for the Champions.
FC Seoul ‘Pay’ The Penalty
Last round we discussed ‘that’ penalty incident at Jeonnam when Seoul were awarded a rather ‘contentious’ decision, a decision which seems to have split podcasters and bloggers alike. In Round 5 Seoul would travel to Gwangju in the the hope of keeping the pressure on at the top of the table. Leading 1-0 after an early Park Chu Young goal they were gifted another penalty after a reckless challenge in the box by the Gwangju left-back, this time there was no dispute and the spot-kick was the correct decision. As Adriano stepped up and buried the ball in the net it was amazingly Seoul’s third penalty in three league matches. You could argue that the team that attacks the most has more chance of being brought down in the box….that or GS have invested in bigger brown envelopes this season.
Without Kim Do Heon Seongnam look very ordinary
After the highs of Round 4 which saw a return to scoring form for Hwang Uijo during a well-deserved victory over Incheon United it was time for the only other ‘winless’ team in the league to visit Fortress Tancheon and surely face a defeat. Unfortunately nothing went to plan for the boys in black and the match finished 0-0. It was evident pretty quickly during proceedings that without their captain and main play-maker Seongnam fail to create enough chances to win a match. Sure Tiago and Uijo made runs into space and sure Pitu did a good job of plugging the gaps in the middle but without the guile of Kim it was a little too predictable and pedestrian.
Jeju are the Jekyll & Hyde of the K-League
With five matches played Jeju have managed two victories, two defeats and one draw to find themselves in 5th position in the table. This doesn’t sound like a hugely ridiculous start to a season and could be described as a tad erratic but the fact is they are two completely different teams home and away. On their home patch they are undefeated this season having notched up nine goals in three games and they look like they are capable of out-gunning any team that comes across the sea. Away from the Island though is where the problem lies, two matches played and two defeats is hardly the kind of record that is going to see them cement their status as a top six team.
The “People’s” Suwon are still on top!
They were going to be the cannon fodder of 2016, this year’s Daejeon or so we were led to believe as first Japa and then Sisi left for pastures new but so far it’s every non-Bluewings fan’s favourite team from the capital of Gyeonggi-do that is sitting furthest up the table. They are a stubborn bunch that’s for sure and their pressing style of play is winning them one or two plaudits as they refuse to sit back and take a defeat. Round 5 saw Belgium striker Ogunjimi grab another goal as he converted a penalty just on the cusp of half-time. They unfortunately couldn’t hold out and eventually conceded the equalizer with 20 mins to go but given the ‘big’ Suwonites inability to convert home advantage into points earlier in the day and again we see Suwon FC above Suwon Bluewings in the Classic. How much longer will it last? Well the first Suwon derby is only a few weeks away!!