So last week was the inaugural 48 Shades prediction league round and it’s probably safe to say we won’t exactly be treating ourselves to succulent lamb with our winnings, in fact it this keeps up we might be dining out on kimbap for the foreseeable future!!
Paul managed to get 2 scores right with his Ulsan and Jeju predictions but unfortunately completely opposite scores in the Sangju v Gangwon and Bucheon v E-Land matches mean he is sitting on zero points after Week 1. Mark, on the other hand, got a full three points for his correct score prediction in the Jeolla Derby along with mirroring Paul’s correct results in the Ulsan and Jeju matches. A loss for Seongnam in the Seongnam v Busan match means he is sitting on six points after the opening fixtures. So after Week 1 the league table looks a little like this.
This week’s fixtures are below, who’ll come out on top this week and who will be fetching the coffees during the next recording?
Paul had this week opted to play his cards closer to his chest with new fewer than six draws and a couple of home wins.
This week sees Mark going for the single away win down in Daegu while after last weekend’s poor result for Seongnam it’s a “cagey draw” down in Daejeon for them.
Editor’s note: As it’s early doors yet if you would like to pit your wits against the 48 Shades guys then leave a comment below and we we can add you to the league!
For those of you who are avid listeners to the 48 Shades Podcast you’ll know that regularly the guys use their “expert” and “in-depth” knowledge of the K-League to predict the week ahead’s all-important clashes. So we decided that as a regular feature for the 2017 season we would put our reputations on the line and go ‘head-to-head’ over the year to see who really is the Nostradamus of the podcast and who is an Oda Mae Brown in waiting!
We will focus mainly on the K-League Classic and will add in Seongnam and E-Land matches also. The rules are fairly simple as below
3 pts awarded for a fully correct score
2 pts awarded for guessing the correct result – 2-2 instead of 1-1
-1 pt for a reversal – Seoul lose 1-0 instead of winning
-2 pts for a complete reversal – Pohang lose 2-0 instead of winning 2-0
A league table will be compiled so you can track your favourite tipster and prizes will be awarded at the midway point and end of season……perhaps!! Editor’s note: Mark hasn’t done his forfeit from last season yet!
Week 1 – Before it all goes horribly wrong!!
First up we have Paul’s predictions for the opening weekend. It looks as if he might need to watch the opening weekend through his fingers as he goes for an away win in The Supermatch.
Next up we have Mark who has 100% faith in the mighty Magpies, will he have to take off his Seongnam-tinted glasses in the weeks ahead although? All will be revealed!
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.
K-League Classic Round 34 Previews
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.
Saturday September 10th 2016:
Jeonbuk Hyundai vs. Jeonnam Dragons (3pm)
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
Incheon United vs. FC Seoul (6pm)
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
Seongnam FC vs. Suwon Bluewings (6pm)
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
Pohang Steelers vs. Suwon FC (7pm)
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
Sunday September 11th 2016:
Jeju United vs. Ulsan Hyundai (6pm)
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
Gwangju vs. Sangju Sangmu (6pm)
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.
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!
This past weekend brought down the curtain on the AFC Under 23 Championship. It was yet again a tournament of highs and ‘could have beens’ that were unfortunately brought crashing down to Earth by the now all too familiar under-achieving that has seemed to plague Korean national teams since those dizzy heights of 2002. In 2014 it was the abysmal World Cup campaign in Brazil which led to Hong Myung Bo resigning and candy stores the length and breadth of the country selling out. In 2015 it was a ‘hard luck’ story in Australia as Korea lost in the final of the Asian Cup to the hosts after snatching a last-gasp equalizer to take it to extra-time. 2016 would see the “rising stars” given their chance to shine and show that they could be a generation capable of living up to the lofty expectations of a country which only ever really seems interested in their national team the moment just before they falter and fail.
Korea were drawn in Group C along with Iraq, Uzbekistan and Yemen and were hotly tipped to emerge unscathed from the group. A 2-1 victory in the opening game against Uzbekistan in which Pohang’s Moon Chang Jin would bag himself a brace was followed by a 5-0 mauling of Yemen. That match would see Kwon Chang Hoon continue his good form of last season with Suwon Bluewings as he fired Korea into a 3-0 lead by half-time. Second half goals form Ryu Seung Woo (Bayer Leverkusen) and Kim Seung Jin (Ulsan) would be the icing on the cake. Korea at this point were living up to their pre-tournament billing as one of the favourites and in Moon and Kwon had two players who looked hungry. The final match of Group C would be against Iraq to decide who topped the table. Korea led for most of the match through a Kim Hyun (Jeju United) strike but as has been all too common of late that result would be snatched from them at the death as Iraq grabbed an equalizer. It wouldn’t alter the final standings in any way as that Yemen result had made sure that Korea would have the better goal difference but it did cast some doubt on the young team’s ability to see out a result.
A rather surprising goalless draw with Jordan had seen the Olyroos (I really hate the names Australians give to all their sporting teams) eliminated and Korea would instead face Jordan in the Quarter-finals who on paper really seemed the easiest of the two opponents. And for 45 mins is looked exactly like the pundits had called this one correct. Korea bossed the midfield and held a quite incredible 62% of possession to match their 1-0 lead when the HT whistle sounded, that first half goal coming courtesy off Moon Chang Jin again. The second half started much as how the previous 45 had gone and Korea really should have wrapped the game up easily. Unfortunately Jordan had other ideas and quite like the drunk who wakes up on the subway only to be spurred into a second wind they suddenly realized the match wasn’t over. This may have had something to do with the increasingly unstable display of Gu Sung Yun who was beginning to resemble said subway drunk the more the match went on. Suddenly where there had been steel in the middle of the park there were gaps, where passes had been sprayed across the pitch now they couldn’t find a teammate with a satnav. It was becoming all too familiar a scene as the match had a draw and extra time written all over it. It’s in games like this that you need a hero and Korea soon found one in the shape of the Iranian referee. A rather speculative overhead kick had fallen to a Jordanian teammate 6 yards out and he was left with the simplest of finishes. As the players turned away in celebration and we headed for another 30 mins the referee blew his whistle and ruled offside. On first viewing it was a poor call on replays it was criminal. There was no doubt the goal should have stood and the decision seemed to knock the stuffing out of Jordan. The match was played out and Korea finished the victors and booked a place in the semi-final against hosts Qatar but again as with the Iraq match chinks were beginning to show in their armour.
The victory over Jordan had set up a match against Qatar who had sent North Korea packing at the QF stage. As the AFC had decided to introduce Olympic qualification for the top 3 finishing teams it added an extra dimension as victory would ensure the chance to represent your country in Rio and that all important (and often more important) chance to gain exemption from military service. By the time the game kicked off both teams knew that Japan awaited them in the final and is there really any other motivation that a Korean team needs. The match would finish 3-1 to Korea and “haniljeon” (Korea v Japan) would indeed be on the menu. That scoreline would suggest that Korea had steadied the ship and were back on course to lift the trophy but that really wasn’t quite the case. Once again they would take the lead, Ryu Seung Woo with the opener, only to throw it away. 1-1 with only a few minutes plus injury time left on the clock it looked like both teams were heading towards extra time and ultimately the lottery of a penalty shootout but Kwon Chang Hoon and Moon Chang Jin had other ideas as first Kwon (89) and then Moon (90+2) scored to put Korea in the final and ultimately on ‘The Road To Rio”. It was a crazy final few minutes and the scenes at FT summed up just how much it meant to the players. They were in the final, they were on their way to Rio and they had the chance to beat Japan to win the tournament.
Both teams had already achieved their minimum goal which was to qualify for this year’s Olympic Games in Rio and as important as that was the fact that it was your greatest rivals that stood in your way of being named Champions of Asia gave the match more than just a little spice. Back when I was growing up watching football in Glasgow a common catchphrase of the time was “football is a game of two halves” and the 2016 AFC U23 final was exactly that and then some. I managed to secure one of those unlikeliest of items, a free-pass to watch football on a Saturday night. And so it was with a few cold ones that I sat down to watch what I hoped would be an epic match or least just a Korea win. The first point of note was that Japan weren’t wearing their traditional blue shirts and had opted for their second colours. It might have been this very decision which led to them looking like a pale shadow of the team that had won all five of their matches in the tournament conceding only 2 goals in the process. Again, like the Jordan match, Korea looked the hungrier of the two sides and it was no real surprise when they took the lead and no surprise that it was than man Kwon again. Sure the goal was a tad fortuitous as the ball took a deflection on its way passed the keeper but they were the better team. HT came and went, as did the Merrydown Cider I had purchased, and as I was choosing between terrible Korean beer or worse Korean beer the second half started. It took all of two minutes for Korea to double their lead as Jin Seong Uk looked to have put the match beyond Japan with a quite simply beautiful turn and shot in the box which left the Japanese keeper flat-footed. Korea continued to attack sensing that Japan were there for the taking but somehow passed up chance after chance with Kwon missing an easy header among them.
It was all going according to plan for Shin Tae Yong and his team but as is often the case in football that is when the carpet is pulled from under your feet. It all started with a substitution as Sanfreece Hiroshima starlet Takuma Asano was brought on with half an hour left on the clock. To say the switch was a pivotal moment is an understatement. Within six minutes of him coming on he had pulled a goal back with a clinical finish, chipping over the keeper after being put through 1-on-1. If that was the beginning of a crack then what came next truly shattered the team. Straight from kick-off Japan won the ball and raced down the left, and with one flash of a head from an inch-perfect cross and it was 2-2. It had taken Japan all of 90 secs to not just claw the match back but put themselves firmly in the driving seat.
That second goal seemed to suck all the confidence out of Korea and it didn’t really come as a surprise when Japan took the lead with ten minutes to go. And of course who else would it be but Asano again. Korea had been on the attack when they lost the ball which was worked through to Asano on the edge of the box and, again, 1-on-1 with the keeper he made no mistake. 3-2 Japan and it was all over and ultimately the age-old problem of Korea being unable to kill teams off would yet again lead them to defeat and disappointment.
And so the tournament ended with an apologetic bow and now thoughts turn to the summer and to Rio. Losing to your rivals is never good, being Scottish I know the feeling only too well, but the manner in which this latest defeat was delivered was extra tough to take. But it shouldn’t all be doom and gloom. The performances of Kwon Chang Hoon and Moon Chang Jin were highlights and given that Son Heung Min will almost certainly be added to the squad for Rio they might just be in with a chance of coming home with a medal.