Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Out Of It Octet Already Thinking Of 2011

K.League news.
While much of the attention is understandably at the top end of the K-league as the end of the season approaches, those a little lower down the standings have issues of their own.

Seven of the 15 still have much to play for but the bottom eight are already thinking about next season. One has more to think about than most. Gwangju Sangmu FC is the league’s military club and gives the nation’s players a place to swap the khaki uniform for the orange soccer shirt during their two years of military service. The team usually struggles - it hasn’t won in the last 15 games - as would most teams if they couldn’t sign any new players and saw their entire personnel change every two years.

Sangmu’s contract with the southwestern city is coming to an end and as Gwangju will have its own team from 2011, a real soccer team, the army men are marching in search for a new base. It is proving difficult as cities that had previously been interested in welcoming the team such as Anyang, Ansan and Paju have had a change of heart.

Happier times look to be ahead for Incheon United. The west coast club is now under the control of Huh Jung-moo, the man who took South Korea to the second round of the 2010 World Cup. Since arriving in July, Huh has been frustrated and encouraged in equal measure. His new team have an infuriating habit of losing leads. A 3-0 lead against lowly Daejeon Citizen ended 3-3 and caused Huh to blast his players for “idiotic football”. With two minutes to go the week before last, United were 2-0 ahead over title-chasing Gyeongnam FC but ending up drawing 2-2.

Huh has been delighted with the form however of Yoo Byung-soo. The coach may have ignored the young striker for the World Cup but Yoo can’t stop scoring and will top the K-league’s chart by some distance. Keeping hold of the powerful attacker may be Huh’s greatest challenge over the next few months.

Of the teams in the lower reaches of the standings, the one looking around at unfamiliar company and wondering ‘where the hell are we?’ is Pohang Steelers. The Gyeongsang giants ended 2009 as Asian champions, for a record third time, and playing (and impressing) at FIFA’s Club World Cup. Soon after, Brazilian coach Sergio Farias was tempted away by the riches of Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli.

He didn’t last long there but neither did his replacement in Korea, Waldermar Lemos. Pohang’s domestic form has been poor all season and while the team made it to the last eight of the continental competition, a chance of a fourth title was ended by Zob Ahan of Iran. The club has a temporary coach while it seeks a new guy ahead of next season. He will be Korean - and Busan I’Park coach Hwang Sun-hong is rumoured to be the favoured candidate.

Busan’s season has been reasonable for a club without much money. The former giant of Korean and Asian football flirted with the play-offs for a time but never really seemed serious about getting among the big boys.

The other names down the depths are familiar ones. Daegu FC and Daejeon Citizen are not able to sign the top players and struggle more often than not while Gangwon FC is in only its second season. The Gangneung/Chuncheon based club has enjoyed some good results but has been unable to gain any momentum.

Down in South Jeolla Province, Chunnam Dragons will be disappointed with 2010 after enjoying 2009. The Dragons has spent much of the season down the bottom and despite a team boasting the talents of Brazilians Adrian Chuva and Indio are already in off-season mode.

This time next week it will all be over for the also-rans as the top six commence the play-offs but then there is always next season.

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