Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Olympics Take Korean Minds Off Summer Heat

K League news.
The first few days of August will be remembered in South Korea for sizzling temperatures that reached 38 degrees Celsius. With the high humidity levels, many Seoulites headed for the river to cool down and watch the Olympics sat on the grass while drinking beer and directing fried chicken delivery riders through the sea of mats on the grass.

As well as brewers and chicken friers, it has been a successful couple of weeks in all kinds of events as the country quickly moved to the near the top of the medal standings and stayed there. Football is not going to add to that golden haul but that doesn't mean that it has not been an exciting couple of weeks as the Olympic team reached the semi-finals of the men’s football tournament.

That dream ended with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Brazil at Old Trafford but it was no disgrace. In that game, Korea caused problems for the South Americans, favourites for the gold. With the game goalless defender Juan kicked Ji Dong-won the head as the Sunderland striker tried to nod the ball home into an empty net.

With Brazil leading 1-0 at the start of the second half, a clearer spot-kick was refused as Kim Bo-kyoung was chopped down in the box by Sandro. 3-0 flattered the Brazilians but once again, Korea could not take their chances when they came. That was the story of the competition though Brazil were the first team that the Taeguk Warriors met who were good enough to make them pay.

The group stage had been unspectacular but solid. A 2-1 win over Switzerland was sandwiched between goalless draws against Mexico, now preparing for the final against Brazil, and Gabon. All three group games saw Korea in control of possession but struggling to create clear-cut chances and struggling to convert those that were made. What was encouraging was the fact that the defence held firm, conceding one goal in 270 minutes of football.

Koo Ja-cheol, of German club Augsburg and Celtic’s Ki Sung-yeung, caught the eye in midfield with Kim Chang-soo roving up and down the flank from the right-back spot. Kim was injured five minutes into the quarter-final against Great Britain, a game won by the Asian team after a penalty shootout.

That was the high point for Korea. Beating the hosts in front of 80,000 fans at Millenium Stadium. A bright start saw Ji Dong-won fire home from the outside the area and a couple of soft penalties went to the hosts. One was converted by Aaron Ramsey and one soon after was saved by Jung Sung-ryeong.

The game went to penalties and in the end, a spot kick from Daniel Sturridge was saved by goalkeeper Lee Beom-yeong, who came on in the second half for the injured Jung, and Ki Sung-yeung fired home the last penalty.

Then came the Brazil match. It wasn’t to be but for fans at home, to see some of the K-League’s best young players in action and matching counterparts around the world certainly took minds off the oppressive conditions at home.

Back Home

Jeonbuk Motors and FC Seoul have been pulling away and the title race is looking increasingly a two-horse race with Suwon Bluewings falling by the wayside. Jeonbuk have said goodbye to two talented imports in Huang Bowen from China and Luis henique. Luis has been replaced by another Brazilian by the name of Leanardo while Australian defender Alex Wilkinson fills the Asian quota.

Suwon fans have been voicing their displeasure at a series of bad results and the fact that after a recent setback the players did not come and bow to the faithful behind the goals.

There are only four games left for most of the 16 teams before they are split into two groups with the top half fighting it out for the title and the bottom battling to avoid relegation.

Seongnam Ilhwa are the surprise name in the bottom group and need some good results sooner rather than later in order to avoid the ignominy of being stuck in the lower half for the rest of the season. Chunnam Dragons, a usual mid-table team, find themselves much further down than usual and are in real trouble.

Two teams will be relegated this year with army club Sangju Sangmu guaranteed to drop so there is one spot for the others to avoid.

As things stand, Gwangju FC, a little surprisingly as the team has some decent players is seriously struggling along with other usual suspects such as Gangwon FC and Daejeon Citizen – who managed a shock 1-0 win at Jeonbuk last weekend. Daegu FC have been performing reasonably well under Brazilian coach Moacir Pereira and while they are unlikely to escape the bottom half, relegation should not be too much of a worry.

No comments: