Monday, October 9, 2006

K League Nearing Final Stage

K-League newsThe race for the play-offs in South Korea is entering the final lap with five games remaining in the second stage.

Four teams enter the end of season title deciders – the winners of each stage ( first stage victors Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma have already booked their place) – and the two teams which amass the most points over the season as a whole.

Pohang Steelers are odds on to extend their season for the second time since the two-stage system was reintroduced in 2004. Brazilian coach Sergio Farias has thrown off the shackles after his first season on the south-east coast and his team have scored more than any other so far this season – even without injured star striker Lee Dong-gook.

The Steelers most recent win was an impressive 4-1 victory over Busan I’Park with Hwang Jin-sung and Koh Ki-goo causing big problems for a Busan defence that is the worst in the league.

Eight points is a comfortable cushion for Pohang in the overall table especially with games running out. There is still a reasonable chance that the three-time champs could win the second stage outright but the team’s away form will have to improve in order for that to happen.

Suwon Samsung Bluewing’s lead at the top of the second stage has been cut to two points after they crashed to a 1-0 defeat at Chunnam Dragons. Since the mid-season break, Suwon are looking like their 2004 selves. Then, Cha Bum-keun’s team ground their way to the title, doing just enough to edge out their rivals. Their five victories have all been by a single goal.

Mid-season signings such as Baek Ji-hoon, Lee Kwan-woo and Juan Olivera certainly didn’t come cheap but have made a difference at significant times and though it remains to be seen if Suwon take the stage title they should find a place in the play-offs well within their reach.

Incheon United currently occupy the last play-off spot despite having what feels like a poor season on the west coast. 13 points out of a possible 15 have made the difference in what is a tight league. Ex-Rangers and Red Star Belgrade midfielder Dragan Mladenovic has settled in well in the gritty port city since joining in July.

United are not safe yet. Daejeon Citizen are in tenth place in the overall standings – six places below Incheon but only four points behind.

Most expected FC Seoul and Ulsan Hyundai Horang-I to have staked their claim for a play-off place but both teams have been unable to put together a decent run.

At least Ulsan have the Asian Champions League as an excuse and the Tigers look odds-on to reach the final of the continental competition as they defeated fellow K-League outfit Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 3-2 in the first leg.

Asian Games

South Korean coach Pim Verbeek has named his 20-man squad for December’s Asian Games.

The Koreans find themselves in the same group as Vietnam, Bangladesh and Bahrain and will be expecting nothing less than a place in the knockout stage in the Doha meet.

Three players over the age of 23 are allowed. The Dutchman has gone for a defender – Kim Dong-jin, midfielder Kim Doo-hyun and forward Lee Chun-soo.

The main story was the fact that Park Chu-young has made the cut despite being dropped from the senior squad. The 2004 Asian Player of the Year has been out of form in 2006 and after returning from the World Cup he has been in and out of the FC Seoul team.

"If the Asian Games were next week,” Verbeek told reporters in Seoul. “I wouldn’t not select Park Chu-young. Because, at this moment, he is still not the same Park Chu-young we knew the last season.’’
"But, for sure, he is one of our most talented strikers. And the coaching staff and I have confidence Park Chu-young will be in his best form in a few months,’’ the coach said. "When the Asian Games start, we expect Park Chu-young to be as important as he was last year for our national team.’’

The squad:

GK – Kim Young-kwang (Chunnam) Jung Sung-ryeong (Pohang)
DF – Jung In-hwan (Jeonbuk) Cho Won-hee (Suwon) Kim Chi-keon (Seoul) Kim Chi-woo (Incheon) Kim Jin-kyu (Jubilo Iwata) Kim Dong-jin (Zenit St. Petersburg)
MF- Baek Ji-hoon (Suwon) Oh Beom-seok (Pohang) Oh Jang-eun (Daegu) Lee Ho (Zenit St. Petersburg) Kim Doo-hyun (Seongnam)
FW – Choi Sung-kuk (Ulsan) Lee Jong-min ( Ulsan) Jung Jo-gook (Seoul) Yeom Ki-hoon (Jeonbuk) Park Chu-young (Seoul) Lee Chun-soo (Ulsan) Kim Dong-hyun (Rubin Kazan)
K.League News

Copyright © John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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