November 13, 2013
South Korea vs Australia Friendly + South Korea semifinal clash with Uzbekistan in the AFC U-19 Championship = double your fun Wednesday! Ai-gu-nah, it’s the Wednesday morning edition of the Taeguk Tavern Kickaround. Right, strap in and hang on, it’s going to get a bit wild (Tavern bartender – more soju now).
Let’s start with news from Korean media site Ilgan Sports. They have some startling news: Ji Dong-Won is headed to German side FC Augsburg, home to fellow Olympic Taeguk Warrior teammate Koo Ja-Cheol. This loan transfer is set to be announced in a few days, according to Ilgan. The Sunderland man, who appeared in a number of games last season (who can forget his game winning goal against Manchester City), hasn’t gotten a single minute this season. Perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise, seeing as Martin O’Neil’s side is self destruct mode right now. The flip-side of not playing for Sunderland’s first team is the fear that Ji would be lost in football’s version of purgatory (i.e. Park Chu-Young‘s season last year with Arsenal). If confirmed, this could be a win-win; Ji would get his chance to floss his fast penetrative offensive, and Augsburg could get a goalscorer to escape the Bundesliga’s relegation zone. Koo Ja-Cheol no doubt had a hand in attempting to secure Ji’s escape from Sunderland [I call Trademark on that phrase if this really is happening]. Stay tuned.
In about 3 hours, the South Korean national team is set to play a friendly against Australia. As our inaugural podcast indicated, it’s a friendly fraught with implications for both teams. Both managers are under fire for a string of lackluster performances, so it comes as no surprise both countries fell in November’s new FIFA rankings [Kick Off Asia reported the slide last week]. Due to the very short international window, coach Choi opted to call up domestic K-Leaguers and a few J-League and middle east Korean players for the friendly. European based Taeguk Warriors won’t have to worry about excessive jet lag. We’ll have the roster toward the end of the post. The match is set for 5 am EST in the US/ 7pm Korea time. The game will be at Hwaseong Stadium in Gyeonggi province, which happens to be Cha Bum-Kun country, or at least that’s where he’s from. Cha Bum-Kun Country…not trademarked yet, someone get on that…
Which brings us to the 2nd Taeguk Warriors match of the day, this time it’s a younger version of the team playing in the AFC U-19 Championship semifinals against Uzbekistan. South Korea defeated Iran, surprisingly 4-1 last Sunday. The U-19 South Korean side seems to be quite capable of scoring goals (7 total), but in Uzbekistan they could be facing stiff opposition and equally capable goalscorers. The match is set to start later today at 7 am EST in the US/ 10 pm Korea time at Emirates Stadium, Ras al-Khaimah city in the United Arab Emirates. If the Taeguk Warriors were to advance, they will face either Iraq or Australia on Saturday. Note: sadly no Haniljeon (한일전) between Korea and Japan as the Nippon side crashed out in their quarterfinal match last weekend, losing 2-1 against Iraq.
Let’s go back and bask in the Asian Champions League win by Ulsan Hyundai Horangi last weekend, just for a moment shall we?
The Tavern speculated on it’s inaugural podcast that Ulsan would not only get an automatic berth to next year’s Asian Champions League, but that by winning it, it may open up another K-League spot in the tournament. The Tavern was wrong -on both counts!
John Duerden of Kick Off Asia confirmed the Tavern’s first incorrect assertion via Twitter:
@johnnyduerden with the win, does the K-League get an additional Asian Champions League spot?
— Roy Ghim (@taeguk_warrior) November 10, 2012
@taeguk_warrior No, I think that Ulsan should be given a chance to defend their title though
— John Duerden (@JohnnyDuerden) November 11, 2012
After berating my Tavern minister of information for the incorrect intel, I finally came to grips with the wack nature of the Asian Football Confederation: Chris Ayres of K-Talk warned me on the podcast that the AFC operates in a strangely different manner. First, it would seem that even the winner of the Asian Champions League would not be assured of a guaranteed spot in next years competition -but has to re-qualify by being in one of top 4 spots offered to the K-League.
Now mired 5th in the K-League table, as John Duerden referenced earlier, Ulsan may have the unfortunate distinction of being Champions of Asia without the ability to defend the title next year. The fact the title winner doesn’t automatically qualify runs contrary to the UEFA Champions League model – to which automatic qualification rules dramatically affected the tail end of the English Premier League season. Chelsea ended the season 5th in the table and didn’t have a chance to qualify for the prestigious Champions League, with Tottenham clinching that last coveted 4th position to qualify instead. There was however, that slim sliver of chance that they could beat the odds and win the whole damn tournament; unlike Manchester City and Manchester United who fell by the wayside early on, Chelsea was still in it at that point. So despite the season ending domestically in ignominy, they fought their way past Barcelona in the semis and outlasted Bayern Munich in the finals to be crowned victors of Europe. Tottenham was in complete disbelief; once having qualified through the table position, they instantly found themselves booted into the less glamourous Europa League despite ending the season ahead of Chelsea. You can’t get any better than that for epic football drama.
Any chance of convincing the AFC with changing the rules may have to wait until 2013 when they are set to review their format. The allocation of Asian Champions League spots given to the various professional football divisions on paper reflect strength of the various leagues, but by in large, the top 10 Asian leagues are crudely given 4 spots each with little practical regard for divisional strength. So despite the fact that South Korean teams won 3 out of the last 4 Asian Champions League titles in a row and overall 10 Asian titles in the belonging to K-League teams over the years, the K-League is still only allocated 4 spots, as do Japan’s J-League despite winning only 5 titles and Australia’s A-League with their impressive zero titles.
Meanwhile, a corporate battle will be underway behind the scenes as Ulsan, sponsored by Hyundai, is set to play CONCACAF winners Monterrey in the quarterfinals of the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, sponsored by none other than Toyota. Additionally, the quarterfinal match is scheduled on December 9th at Toyota City. Do the car companies have their own mascots? I predict any fight between them will be quite chippy.
Should Ulsan Hyundai make it past Monterrey, they have a gauntlet in the form of Chelsea for a semifinal match up. Let’s see… Lee Keun-Ho vs John Terry. Now that’s a matchup I’d very much like to see. The world could get one last good look at the talented midfielder before he gets conscripted into military service for South Korea and anonymity for their army football team in -get this- the 2nd division of Korean club football. Rule change please…
Lee Chung-Yong is back from injury, back in form and scoring goals again for Bolton; his American teammate Stuart Holden hasn’t been so lucky. Since getting knocked out with a leg breaking injury (from Manchester United’s Johnny Evans), he’s been out for more than a year, 2 surgeries and extensive rehabilitation in Delaware. Rumours are swirling on the light at the end of the rehab tunnel, possibly adding another offensive option the Wanderers can utilize in their battle for promotion back to the Premier League. The New York Times republished this article originally written in the debut issue of Howler Magazine, you can read that here.
I’m watching the Colbert Report as I’m writing this: tonight Newt Gingrich just bemoaned the fact that Asian Americans voted in overwhelming numbers for Obama instead of Romney. 73% of Asian Americans backed Obama in last week’s US elections. Additionally, Gingrich issued a mea culpa on the show as he had predicted a huge victory for Romney early last week. I suppose that’s a bit better than Karl Rove’s pompous and erroneous predictions, his antics on election day -on his own partisan TV network, and his utter lack of contrition, not to mentioin calling Obama (I’m paraphrasing here) ‘a suppressor of votes’ – a rich statement coming from a mouthpiece for a party that attempted to disenfranchise minority voters this past election season via unnecessary voter ID laws. Wait, this isn’t the Taeguk Political Warrior blog? My bad. Moving on…
Least I forget, here’s the full roster of players called up for today’s friendly with Australia. We’ll try to update via Tavern Twitter on all the day’s matches.