I recall reading a complaint that there would be no South Korean football after the next round of qualifiers this summer. But, fear not! There is international action for South Korea (and even a small trophy up for grabs) this summer. In July to be more exact. That action is the East Asian Cup. Rather strangely written in Korean as the 동아시안컵. Strange in that ‘East’ is written using the Korean word 동 (dong), while Asian and Cup are simply Koreanized versions of their English counterparts. But the strange choice to mix Korean and English isn’t the point. It’s that there is action to watch after the qualifiers (instead of pointless money-making club friendlies).
The EAFF East Asian Cup, as it’s officially known, was started in 2003, taking over from the now defunct Dynasty Cup. The tournament was designed to help further boost the image and quality of east Asian teams. There is a version for men and women’s teams. The tournament itself is a multi-stage tournament. With smaller teams having to play preliminary rounds, if you will, to make it to the final stage. The tournament is a simple four team group where everyone plays each other one time. 3 points for winning, 1 for drawing, 0 for losing. Most points wins.
South Korea has won the tournament twice, the inaugural 2003 one, and again in 2008. In the last edition (in 2010) South Korea finished second, surprisingly to China. When South Korea hosted the tournament in 2005, they had their worst finish of 4th (behind China, Japan, and North Korea). What that means for this summer, when South Korea will again be the host remains to be seen.
Preliminary Round 1 saw three teams compete, the powerhouses of Guam, Macau, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Guam topped that group with 6 points, and moved on to round 2.
In Preliminary Round 2, a couple big powers stepped in, the newly allowed, because-Australia-is-kind-of-east-but-really-we-just-need-another-good-team-to-compete-so-our-tournament-seems-legitimate, Australian team and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (aka North Korea). The other two teams in that round were Chinese Taipei (aka Taiwan) and Hong Kong. Unsurprisingly, Australia and North Korea dominated that round. Both going undefeated (beating the other three teams and drawing with each other), with Australia having a +18 goal difference, and North Korea +14. Australia beat Guam 9-0 and Chinese Taipei 8-0. North Korea recorded more modest wins of 5-0 and 6-1 against those respective teams. Australia moved on to the final round due to the greater goal difference.
Which leads us to the final round, which will be held in mid-late July around Seoul. South Korea, Japan, and China automatically qualify for the final round. For South Korean fans, it means three interesting matches against Australia, China, and old enemies Japan. The dates of these three matches, July 20, 24, and 28 respectively, means we probably won’t see our bigger name European players, but will (hopefully) get to see some of the more promising young players playing in Japan and the K League. The 2010 tournament (held in February) saw the likes of Kim Bo-Kyung, Koo Ja-Cheol, Park Joo-Ho, and Shin Hyung-Min play. Hopefully we will see something similar this year with possibly Han Kook-Young, Nam Tae-Hee, Hong Jeong-Ho, and Kim Young-Kwon given chances to make their case for a regular place with the senior squad.
If you have plans to be in South Korea, and in the Seoul area, it would be worth the time to check out a match. The schedule is:
vs Australia, 7PM, July 20 at Seoul World Cup Stadium
vs China, 8PM, July 24 at Hwaseong Stadium (just outside of Seoul)
vs Japan, 8PM, July 28 at Jamsil Olympic Stadium *I will be at least attending this one, must beat Japan!!!!
Anyway, it’s not the biggest of tournaments, but it’s still a chance to see some fun games, and hope and pray for the future. More about these matches and the tournament as the date draws closer.