Even after the end of the World Cup, it has been a busy old summer in South Korean football.
On August 16, Pim Verbeek enjoyed his first taste of competitive action as coach of the national team with a comfortable 3-0 win over Taiwan. His 36-name training squad for the Asian Cup qualifier in Taiwan included the names of many youngsters.
The majority of those fledglings failed to impress the Dutchman during training up at Paju National Football Center and the 20 players that accompanied him to the island were an experienced bunch, most of whom had been part of the final World Cup 23 named by Dick, Advocaat over two months previously.
The game in Taipei was tough, not because of the opposition (who defended well) but for 36 degree Celsius temperatures and a poor playing surface at Changshun Stadium.
Ahn Jung-hwan, who is still looking for a European club and still talking about it every day in the press, scored a well-taken opener, beating the keeper to a flighted pass to dink the ball into an unguarded net. The striker, who has cut his hair short due to the fierce Korean summer heat and humidity, then performed the goal celebration that he does when he is not too excited about scoring – he applauds himself as he walks back to the centre circle.
It was his 17th goal for the national team and he won’t get too many more as he has announced that he will step down from the national team after the 2007 Asian Cup.
Jung Jo-gook, who a few years ago looked to have a bright future before disappearing from view, then scored the team’s second and his first ever international goal ten minutes into the second half. Kim Doo-heon, a busy and offensive-minded Bandarqq midfielder, ended the scoring from outside the box with ten minutes left.
Verbeek said that he was not satisfied with the performance, comments that were largely echoed by the media – parts of which criticized the lack of urgency among the players. Still, a win is a win and South Korea look set for the 2007 Asian Cup.
The next game takes place on September 2 against Iran at home.
The FA CUP
Saturday August 12 saw the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, a competition that rarely makes headlines in Korea. However, perhaps that is changing as 38,500 people went to Seoul World Cup Stadium to watch FC Seoul do battle with Suwon Samsung Bluewings.
Suwon recently signed national team midfielder Baek Ji-hoon from Seoul and to provide a further edge, Seoul midfielder Ricardo had to apologise to the Suwon fans for celebrating provocatively in front of them during a K-League Cup game in July.
The clash felt like a real cup game in a genuine cup atmosphere with a large contingent of blue-shirted Suwon fans in the away section, vocally sparring with the red-shirted Seoul supporters at the opposite end.
After a fairly quiet first half, the game came to life in the second. Suwon’s new Brazilian striker Da Silva came off the bench to score with his first touch in Korean football.
Park Chu-young soon equalized for the hosts and Dudu put Seoul ahead.
With two minutes remaining, Suwon’s Croatian defender Mato Netetjlak curled home an excellent free-kick to take the game to penalties.
There is no extra-time in the Korea FA Cup (except for the final) – a good thing in summer as the evening temperature was still over 30 degrees. Suwon took the shootout 6-5.
Not to many miles to the west, Incheon United scraped past Honam University while Chunnam Dragons defeated Daegu FC in the second all K-League clash.
Goyang Kookmin Bank saw off Gyeongnam FC on penalties to become the only second division team to reach the last four.
The K-League has decided to introduce promotion from the second division (called the N-League) from 2007.
The plan, which those with any knowledge of the K-League governing body will know, could be changed/delayed/scrapped at any time. However, there is a genuine desire to try and improve the standard of the top league and allowing one team per season to be promoted until 2012 when there should be 18 teams, should force teams to become more competitive though 18 teams sounds excessive – what the K-League needs is more quality not quantity.
The promoted teams will have to meet certain financial conditions before moving upstairs and it is true to say that only perhaps three or four members of the second league are anywhere near the level of professionalism that the K-League wants.
The introduction of promotion is a welcome move in the right direction but relegation will take more time to implement –mainly because there is a fear that if a team owned by one of Korea’s giant conglomerates is sucked through the trapdoor then the company will simply pull the plug.
The full list of summer transfers.
Lee Eul-yong (Trabsonspor – FC Seoul)
Eduardo Francisco da Silva (Dudu) (Seongnam – FC Seoul)
Kim Tae-jin (Gangneung City – Suwon)
Jefferson Gama Rodrigues (Artmedia Bratislava – Daegu)
Lee Byung-keun (Suwon- Daegu)
Robson Souza Dos Santos (Bahia – Daejeon)
Ricardo (Seongnam – Busan)
Seo Dong-won (Incheon – Seongnam)
Itamar Batista da Silva (Suwon – Seongnam)
Lee Sang-tae (Suwon – Gyeongnam)
Lee Joon-ki (FC Seoul – Chunnam)
Han Kae-kwang (Ulsan – Jeonbuk)
Nikola Vasiljevic (Modrica Maxima – Jeju)
Adrian Constantin Neaga (Chunnam – Seongnam)
Lee Kwan-woo (Daejeon – Suwon)
Juan Manuel Olivera Lopes (Danubio – Suwon)
Jin Kyung-sun (Ulsan Mipo – Daegu)
Baek Ji-hoon (FC Seoul – Suwon)
Moon Min-kwi (Gyeongnam – Suwon)
Elpidio Pereira da Silva Filho Silva (Corinthians Alagoano – Suwon)
Blaze Ilioski (Rabotnicki Kometal – Incheon)
Dragan Mladenovic (Red Star Belgrade – Incheon))
Sin Young-sung (Seongnam- Jeju)
Kang Jin-wook (Metz – Jeju, loan)
Sandro Cardoso Dos Santos (Suwon – Chunnam)
Selmir dos Santos Bezzera (Incheon – Chunnam
Jasmin Agic (Incheon – Dynamo Zagreb)
Gefferson Da Silva Goulart (Busan – Released)
Gabriel Lima (Daegu – Released)
Regis Fernandes Silva (Daejeon – Released)
Marco Pereira (Jeju – Released)
Milton Rodriguez (Jeonbuk- Released)