U17 World Cup: Korea v Brazil kicks off group stage today

Korea’s U17 adventure in Group B for the Chile U17 World Cup this afternoon (or morning if you’re in Asia to watch) against always formidable Brazil. Here’s the skinny on all the bare minimums you need to be aware of to keep tabs on this opening match:

Brazil v Korea  at Estadio Francisco Sanchez Coquimbo

KICKOFF: Saturday 6pm US EST / [Sunday AM 7am Korea Time]

TV: Fox Soccer Plus (streaming FoxSoccer2go) in the US / MBC in Korea

Otherwise, creative streaming options exist for the interweb saavy.

Not an in depth preview, the few items I can add to this post is that a number of people will be watching this Korea squad for a number of reasons, namely the Barcelona La Masia academy boys Lee Seung-Woo and Jang Gyeol-Hee …sadly we must scratch Jang from the roster as he sprained his ankles before the tournament last week and will be out the entire tournament.  A major blow for the team’s chances for going deep into the tournament, but never say die – let’s take quick look at their Group B opponents.

GROUP B
TEAMS MP W D L GF GA +/- FPP Pts
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

 

Brazil will be obviously the Group’s toughest opposition. Coach Choi Jin-Cheul could be thinking uber defensively to hope for a draw today, but should he attempt a rabbit trick from his managerial hat, could we see a surprisingly forward minded approach?  [The Tavern actual resident rabbit who’s been pilfering the wife’s veggie garden has dug a hole and disappeared under the Tavern – not sure what to make of that to interpret today’s tactical approach accurately].

Next up, Korea faces the West African nation of Guinea, a must win fixture in a few short days on Tuesday October 20 [7pm US EST / Wed 8AM Korea Time].

The last group stage match for Korea will see them square off against England on Friday October 23 (4pm US EST/ Saturday 5am Korea Time).

 

Good luck to Team Korea. What we do know from past performances from the U16 AFC championship tourney – the one that allowed Korea to qualify for the U17 WC, this team sparkled brightly, with video highlight reels circulating across the interwebs featuring the younger Lee Seung-Woo beasting his way around the opposition.

 

However, with his teammate Jang Gyeol-hee out injured, it could prove a tougher climate, though not an impossible mountain to climb to emerge out of the group stages. And what of North Korea, the one that beat Lee Seung-Woo’s squad to snatch the AFC U16 title?  Their group E consists of Costa Rica, South Africa and Russia. Luck of the draw.

 

Weekend matches underway already, a number of injuries and post international break absences: Lee Chung-Yong not in the 18 for Crystal Palace, Son Heung-Min still recovering, not in the 18 for the scoreless Liverpool/Spurs draw, Kim Jin-Su subbed in for Hoffenheim’s clash with Wolfsburg, Augsburg v Darmstadt -Koo subbed in for Augsburg but Ji and Hong not in 18 (both injured?). Ryu Seung-Woo, after a decent U23 victory against Australia, injured and not available for Leverkusen as they visit Hamburg. Yesterday Park Joo-Ho’s first league match start in Germany-his BVB side beat his former team Mainz 0-2. Conspiracy theory on the forums whether his shot on goal against his former team was intentionally tepid. Haven’t seen the game yet, I’ll watch this on DVR later to weigh in.

In the K-League post split table: upset at Jeonbuk with Pohang Steelers taking all 3 points in a 0-1 victory – here’s the scores so far in Round 34:

Saturday, October 17

Busan IPark
0
FT
Gwangju
1

Jeonbuk
0
FT

Steelers
1

Incheon
2
FT

Ulsan
2

The post table split has largely been deemed as unnecessary and a failed experiment, but nevertheless, from here on to the end in 4 weeks time, the top and bottom of the table are sealed off. Will the format continue?

Sunday fixtures in K-League Classic

Sunday, October 18
Daejeon
1:00 AM

Dragons

Suwon
1:00 AM

Jeju United

Seongnam
3:00 AM

FC Seoul
All times are in US Eastern Time
Though mathematically Suwon and Pohang could catch up to Jeonbuk, only a spectacular late season collapse scenario in which Jeonbuk loses 4 straight could that be remotely possible. Here’s the top 5 of the table:
#
Team
GP
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
PTS
1
Jeonbuk
34
21
5
8
54
36
18
68
2
Suwon
33
17
9
7
53
36
17
60
3
Steelers
34
16
11
7
44
28
16
59
4
Seongnam
33
14
12
7
37
29
8
54
5
FC Seoul
33
15
9
9
44
37
7
54

The interesting race here is for a Asian Champions League spot, with FC Seoul battling for the 4th place position with Seongnam. However, the FA Cup final on Halloween October 31 (12:30 AM US EST/1:30 PM Korea Time) sees Seoul battle with 6th place Incheon for the trophy AND an automatic qualifying berth to the ACL.

The race to the bottom pretty much sealed up with Gwangju safe enough to avoid the drop. At the very end, Daejeon Citizens with a mere 13 points to their season so far will go back to the K-League Challenge, while at a holding pattern in 11th place, Busan I’Park must prepare for a playoff against a yet to be determined K-League Challenger (winner of the playoff spot). Could Lee Jung-Hyup, back with Busan from military duty & loan spell at Sangju Sangmu, see a straight return back to the Challenge?

Meanwhile at the K-League Challenge, the automatic promotion position and playoff spots are all in play, only 6 points separating the top 4 teams.

 

# Team MP W D L F A D P Last 5 matches H2H
1 34 17 10 7 56 36 +20 61 WWWWD
2 34 17 7 10 65 47 +18 58 WWLLL
3 Previous rank: 4 35 15 11 9 60 46 +14 56 WDWDW
4 Previous rank: 3 34 15 10 9 51 46 +5 55 DWWDL
[table “” not found /]
Extra Time:
The U22 Korea Olympic squad won both friendlies against Australia, 2-0 and 2-1 last week. Jinseok posted his thoughts about the first result here at the Tavern. In the 2nd match, a great cross by St Pauli’s Choi Kyong-Rok was met by an equally impressive header by Bayer Leverkusen’s Ryu Seung-Woo. Hilarity followed with what could be the on-goal of the year by Australia’s keeper to give Korea the 2 goal cushion (until an impressive last minute consolation goal by Australia at the end). Check out highlights of the 2nd half where all the action apparently was at.
Here’s the strange part, both matches boasted amazing attendances, the stadiums were packed at Hwaseong Stadium and the older Icheon stadium. This is after all, Korea, a country that is mad about it’s domestic baseball, but ‘meh’ about going to domestic football games. The only difference was that it was a national team match of a sort (though youth KNT matches usually fare less well than senior squad attendances). It just so happens that Hwaseong stadium was the subject of Steve Price’s recent IBWM piece, exploring the unusual peculiarities with that ‘spaceship’ stadium that usually sits empty 99% of the year.  I did a quick Q&A with Steve (which I’ll probably repost next week in a future kickaround) about the problems with domestic football attendances).
Tavern Owner: You wrote an excellent IBWM piece recently entitled, A White Elephant Among White Elephants, about Hwaseong stadium. You alluded to corruption or ineptitude in city planning when Hwaseong stadium (as you put it, a space ship dropped into the Korean countryside) was constructed 4 years ago. With no anchor club tenants, it’s appalling to think it has no real use outside of occasional KNT matches – as well as an absolute inconvenience for supporters to get to.  Were you able to get a sense from local news accounts earlier on of what long term vision of the stadium -especially given the lack of a club to use it regularly? Or, have you further evidence of corruption -the kind designed to pilfer public construction funds by way of building this useless facility? 
Steve Price: I first became aware of the stadium during the 2013 East Asian Cup when Korea played China there. Every town in Korea has some kind of municipal stadium so when Hwaseong became a city I imagine somebody said ‘we need a stadium’. The people running Hwaseong actually started developing a Universal Studios within the city area and have plans for the city to grow to up to a million people within the next five or so years. To me it seems like the main aim of the stadium is to ‘put Hwaseong on the map’ as it were. In Korea in general there is quite a lot of unnecessary construction, from airports to monorails to ghost towns of empty apartments, so the stadium construction is part of a bigger issue. Given Hwaseong stadium’s location, far away from the populated part of the city (as in 20km away), even having a tenant K-League club wouldn’t do much for its long term future. Sadly, playing matches like the upcoming Olympic team match against Australia there will probably result in less people watching that match rather than giving the stadium a genuine use.
Tavern Owner: You paint an accurate picture of anemic attendances in the K League, worse in the 2nd tier but only marginally better in the top tier. What’s your take on why that is? The K League usually does fairly well in the Asian Champions League, and it’s got some degree of quality where some players have managed to go on to top flight European leagues. Is it safe to blame it on the workaholic culture?  The lack of K League on TV?  Few explosive narrative storylines?  Baseball?  Or just wild speculating: self styled football aficionados stay up at midnight watching Son Heung-Min on TV, leaving no energy to attend their own local live football club matches the next day?  I have to imagine there’s some kind of detrimental effect on the development of Korean football on account of this “atmosphere.”
Steve Price: Regarding attendances, only FC Seoul, Jeonbuk, and Suwon Bluewings really get good crowds on a regular basis. There are several reasons for the lack of attendances, and I’m sure that people could argue into the night about which one is the most influential. Firstly, the quality of football is higher than people generally assume (and leagues with a much lower quality get better attendances than the K-League), but the problem is that the style of football isn’t particularly watch-able. Games are far slower than they are in England, especially the build-up play. If anything, it is similar to the stereotypical Italian style of play. This could be due to a risk-averse playing culture, although many sides have tried using foreign coaches with little effect. The weather could also be a factor, football was designed to be played in the British winter when the weather floats between 5 degrees and 15 degrees Celsius, but in Korea the weather falls in between these two temperatures for a very short period of time before becoming too cold for supporters during the winter. Possibly playing more games right at the start of the season before it gets too hot could improve the excitement factor. 
The evenings would also be a great time to play, but as most people only finish work at 6pm (if they don’t have to work late) having matches kick-off at 7:30 or 8p.m. still seems a bit early. Clubs could experiment with 9 p.m. kickoffs to see if that helps boost attendances. It is a shame that the attendances are so low considering how many people in Korea actually like football. The way the K-League is marketed doesn’t help, firstly it needs far better television coverage, with live games, behind the scenes access, and popular discussion shows to get people interested in the game. Secondly, the K-League constantly markets to non-football fans, with things like K-pop acts and village fete style pre-match attractions, but it should be targeting the football fans who dont currently watch K-league. These are the people who will turn up week-in-week-out and will generate a good atmosphere. Reading the Korean newspapers, the way the K-league is reported does actually include some decent narrative, its just that foreigners are excluded from this so it seems as if there isn’t any narrative. Baseball’s coverage on TV certainly is a negative influence on the K-League, but the atmosphere generated at baseball games is something that the K-league could learn from.The ‘Ultras’ at Korean matches are passionate too, its just that there aren’t enough of them. 
Tavern Owner: I applaud the effort of some clubs who are transitioning to smaller/sleeker stadiums to improve atmosphere.  A full 18K stadium makes more sense than the dreary views of a fractionally attended cavernous World Cup stadium.  However, I understand clubs like Incheon still struggle despite building a small football specific stadium.  Could smaller stadiums still be part of the answer or are there more fundamental issues to resolve in resurrecting interest back to the K League? 
Steve Price: The implementation of ‘Soccer specific stadia’ in the MLS seemed to make a difference in terms of atmosphere, attendance, and TV coverage in the States. There is some kind of correllation between soccer specific grounds and attendances in the K-League but this is influenced by the fact that most of the smaller clubs (Challenge teams for example) are the ones without soccer specific stadiums. Some of the lesser attended teams such as Daegu and Daejeon would probably benefit from smaller stadiums but it would be better to attract more fans to the league if possible. It is a bit too early to tell if Incheon’s stadium will be a success as they often end the season with little to play for which makes reading into their results a bit more tricky. One thing is for sure though, and that is nobody likes watching football when there is a running track between them and the pitch. Even the smallest of temporary stands (such as at Bucheon) is a positive move in that respect.Stadiums are one of the many issues that the K-League needs to deal with, but there are other issues too, at the end of the day a city of several million people in a country that has a reasonable percentage of its population interested in football should be getting crowds of more than a few hundred to support its local team.
Thanks to Steve, we’ll be exploring the topic more next week -some interesting attendance stats brought to my twitter feed by Jae Chee and a popular reality TV show in Korea that could be a weird but possible solution to the K-League’s attendance woes…stay tuned….
And a very belated congratulations to the U19 Korea squad, they bested the competition in Thailand, won the AFC U19 title several days ago -at least I think it was the AFC U19 title?  Tavern writers – can you help a Korean bro out (one who struggles with hangukmal) with verification?  A number of European and domestic based talent in U19 team, I’m looking forward to their further adventures.  It so happens the 2017 edition of the U20 World Cup will be in Korea (May 20- June 11th).  Korea has previously hosted the U17 World Cup in 2007, the Confederations Cup in 2001 and of course the 2002 World Cup.

 

About Roy Ghim 381 Articles
The old Tavern Owner

5 Comments

  1. Oh man. So much to comment on (which is a good thing).

    1. It was not the AFC U19 Championship, but the qualification for the AFC U19 Championship next year.

    2. Hwaseong is an odd stadium, but Incheon also serves as an example of the stadium-build craze. For the 2014 Asian Games they built a new Asiad Stadium when they already had the Munhak (2002) and they also have the football-specific stadium as well (2012). Considering the city is crazy cash-strapped, certainly an “odd” choice.

    3. I think the biggest, and most fundamental issue, to K League attendance issues is that the games just aren’t fun. Koreans go to sports games to be entertained. Sport = Life has not made it’s way into the culture much, and Clubs = city/community is also very much a work in progress. Go to a game that isn’t in Seoul, Suwon, or Jeonju and the atmosphere is dire. The handful of goals/close chances/nice play on the pitch isn’t enough over the ninety minutes. The best way to fix this is for teams to alter the style of play from cautious defending to more adventuresome attacking. In oversimplified terms, from Italy to Spain. This however is very difficult as it’s very much ingrained in the culture.

    4. TBH I’m not a huge fan of the people that like to put a lot of blame of the WC stadiums and running tracks. Would smaller stadiums be better? Sure. But, put the 3,000 that come to the Asiad in Busan in a 15-20K football specific stadium like in Changwon or Incheon and that atmosphere is still piss poor. Same goes for the hundreds that go to the stadiums in Daegu, Goyang, Anyang, and so on. They exacerbate the problem, but they don’t cause it.

    5. The other bigger issue is how to make the clubs financial viable entities on their own so they are not dependent on the will of their corporate parents’ or government benefactors. So that they can compete better in the global transfer market, own their own stadiums, and become “more than just a club”.

  2. Hey Jae! Thanks for the insightful comments (and 1 correction – not U19 AFC title -but qualified -got it and I’ll make the fix soon.

    Your #2 comment – this stadium building craze – kinda insane. I take it that the stadium building craze over?

    #3 spot on. #4 right – and I’m not necessarily blaming the WC stadiums but as everyone takes a step back with hindsight view – like the 2010 WC in S Africa – the stadiums built per FIFA specs didn’t forecast the fact they were too big for sustainable attendances in the future, given the climate for club football pre WC and now post WC. The MLS ‘smaller is better’ stadium campaign more than a decade ago would not in of itself solved their attendance problems back then, but part of a broader effort to improve attendance/atmoshere situation in the US – from facilitating organic community based ground up supporter base,etc etc. Now what’s on the pitch isn’t perfect, but getting better and atm entertaining enough to draw people to the games. So you’re right, it can’t be one thing, it isn’t one factor to improve situation in Korea but a number of initiatives has to be put into play.

    -on another track – is it my imagination or does J League clubs largely play in stadiums not specifically built for 2002 WC over there? Am I wrong to say it looks like they have the smaller stadiums for their clubs – no running tracks – fans close to the field – have good atmosphere b/c there’s supporters who come and pack the stadiums, waving flags, etc.?

    #5 absolutely -that’s a huge factor in all this.

    • J League clubs play in World Cup stadiums. Yokohama F. Marinos, Urawa Reds, Cerezo Osaka, Oita Trinita, Albirex Niigata, Kashima Antlers, Vissel Kobe, and Consadole Sapporo all play in World Cup venues. Perhaps it’s an issue of international visibility? There are 18 J1 teams and five play in World Cup venues (as opposed to eight of 12 K League sides).

      The stadiums are an issue, but at the moment there isn’t a feasible option around to replace them. If you take out the K League clubs, other than Seoul there isn’t any real point to them. Suwon and Incheon may get occasional use due to their proximity to Seoul, but the other seven (Busan, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju, Jeju, Ulsan, and Jeonju) would become “white elephants”.

      The ideal situation would be to completely raze those stadiums and re-build smaller, smarter football club centers in those spaces. Instead of just being a giant stadium, it’d have a smaller stadium and other attractions that can bring people when there aren’t games. Small practice fields for local/youth sides, club museums, entertainment venues, club shops, etc. This of course requires a significant sum of money to: A) purchase land from city, B) destroy and clear existing structures, C) build new structure. For a club with significant backing, this may make sense. But for a conglomerate who gets little return from the team, it does not.

      • as to the ideal situation – agreed and that piggybacks to your original point #5 from your first comment – clubs need a change in ownership structure – that may fundamentally be the root to making effective changes. Last question for you on this thread –Korean baseball – curious as to what the ownership situation looks like – conglomerate ownership like k league or more like how they do in the US (owner or owners with relatively deep financial resources) ?

        • Baseball teams (and sports team in general in Korea) are conglomerate owned as their names suggest. Samsung (Lions), LG (Twins), Doosan (Bears), Lotte (Giants), KIA (Tigers), Hanwha (Eagles), NC (Dinos), KT (Wiz), and SK (Wyverns). Nexen Heroes I believe are not actually owned by Nexen, but Nexen provides significant sponsorship funds that essentially allows the team to exist. I don’t believe that the baseball clubs make significantly more than the football teams do, or receive significantly more funding from their parent conglomerates.

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