Move aside Ballon D’Or, Puskas award be damned, heck this thing is bigger than the Oscars. It’s the 2nd annual Tavern of the Taeguk Warriors Year-End Awards! We nominate the candidates in a number of new and old categories, and YOU decide who takes the prize. Voting is open until January 5th, 2014. You can vote as many times as you’d like, so get your crazy netizen on. Without further ado, the nominees!
Don’t forget to check out the Asian Cup roster before clicking on this fantastic Read More button.
***I (Tim) drafted the list but I had the other Tavern writers put in their two cents. If you (the readers) have any objection to the nominees, you can vote a write-in in the comments section, and if it makes sense and catches on we’ll re-vote for the category.**
Best Moment of the Year
Awarded to the moment when all was well in the world.
2013 winner: When Choi Kang-Hee did not renew his contract with the KNT
– And the first nominee – when Korea won Men’s Asian Games Gold! The U-23’s and 3 overage players (Kim Shin-Wook, Park Joo-Ho and Kim Seung-Gyu) battled through the group stages and swatted away Hong Kong, Japan and Thailand in the knockout stages to meet our Northern neighbours in the Finals. A tense game at the Munhak Stadium came down to the very last minute as a corner evaded the North Korean keeper and bounced off of Lee Yong-Jae’s knee. As he wheeled away celebrating, the North Koreans cleared, but only as far as Daejeon Citizen fullback Im Chang-Woo who blasted it home and sealed military exemption for the South Koreans.
–Lee Keun-Ho’s goal against Russia at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Out of nowhere, the soldier himself struck it dangerously on goal in a 0-0 game and put Korea into the lead after a Russian goalkeeper blunder. Korea went on to draw Fabio Capello’s Russia in their lone point at the FIFA WC. That’s just a detail. Think of how happy you were when it went in!
–The Men’s U-16 Team qualifying for the 2015 U-17 FIFA World Cup. After single-handedly putting the South Koreans into the knockout stages, Lee Seung-Woo made a bold claim that they could handle Japan easily in the AFC U-16 Championship Quarter-Finals, the game Korea needed to win to qualify for the big show next year, and then did just that scoring both goals against the enemy.
–Ji So-Yun moving to Europe. A historic moment for women’s football in Korea as Ji became the first ever female footballer from the country to ply her trade in Europe, and at Chelsea Ladies’, no less.
Worst Moment of the Year
Awarded to the moment where several facepalms were in order
2013 winner: Every Single Moment under Choi Kang-Hee
– First up, the Men’s U-19 Team’s exit of the AFC U-19 Championship. A strong class of players drew China 0-0 after a win over Vietnam and needed to beat a weak Japan side to qualify for the knockout stages. Not to be, and the Koreans headed home early in humiliating fashion, leaving FIFA U-20 spots open for Qatar and Myanmar, yes, Myanmar, to take.
– That 4-0 loss to Ghana. It wasn’t even close. Just weeks before the FIFA World Cup, I was feeling optimistic, we were all feeling hopeful after a victory against Greece on their turf in March. And yet, the Men’s KNT fell apart, being completely outclassed by Ghana and killing any morale we had leading up to the FIFA WC. Speaking of which…
– The FIFA World Cup exit. Nothing else needs to be said. 4 years of passionate support and… whoops. Stumble against Russia. Annihilation by Algeria. Death by Belgium. A group which Korea was supposed to qualify through, maybe a group we could win, left Korea bruised and badly beaten at the bottom of the table.
– The U-16’s loss against North Korea in the AFC finals. Sure it was a fantastic tournament, but a loss to our Northern counterparts was pretty damn painful. Plus, the North Koreans rubbed it in with their team being given a welcome usually reserved to the Dear Leader himself in Pyongyang.
– That yeot toss. After a pathetic World Cup leaving us to think things couldn’t get any worse, the National Team was humiliated internationally upon their arrival at Incheon-Seoul Airport by a herd of angry toffee throwers, essentially an insult to say – F*ck you. Is this the worst moment of 2014?
Bidone d’Oro – Worst Player or Manager of the Year
Awarded to the player or manager had a forgettable year and at times maybe even deserved a good ol’ kick in the teeth
2013: Choi Kang-Hee. Surprise!
– Hong Myung-Bo. The former KNT-manager went from star celebrity status to, well, getting-attacked-by-angry-toffee-throwers status. He was unable to lead Korea to the Knockout Stages and managed the 2014 World Cup disaster.
– Jung Sung-Ryong. The South Korean goalkeeper had another nervous breakdown at the 2014 World Cup against Algeria, and lost the number one job as a result. He wasn’t all that impressive for Suwon in the K-League either. Worst player? You decide.
– Kim Sang-Ho managed the U-19 team and failed to live up to expectations. The team crashed out of the group stage, losing to weak Japan and only drawing China. There was absolutely no chemistry in the side despite a stacked team of players. His often questionable team selections lands him in the nominees for this award.
– Park Chu-Young was the one-top for the KNT at the World Cup… and did pretty much nothing. I don’t even recall him taking a single shot on target. The striker found himself a loan at Watford and got injured. A pathetic World Cup later, he is now in the prestigious Saudi Arabian league. From Arsenal to Al-Shabab. Ouch.
K-League Player of the Year
Awarded to the best player in Korea’s domestic league
2013: Dejan Damjanovic
– Lee Dong-Gook. The Lion King shone for Jeonbuk this season, despite his age, as he scored 13 goals to lead the Green Machine to the K-League title. With these performances, the striker even got himself back on the radar for the national team.
– Santos Junior. The Brazilian import player for Suwon finished top scorer in the league, with 14 tallies to his name, and helped the Bluewings to an unlikely second place finish behind only Jeonbuk. His finishing is exactly what the doctor ordered in a striker-deprived K-League.
– Im Sang-Hyub. The Busan winger carved a name for himself in the K-League and is getting interest from bigger clubs. His 11 goals, rivaling those of other strikers in the league, on a lacklustre I’Park team no less, make him a strong candidate for this award.
– Cha Du-Ri. Seoul didn’t have the best of seasons, and as Tavern writer Jae put it, (paraphrasing here) Seoul got by thanks to individual talent and work ethic. And Cha Du-Ri is the epitome of that. Du-Ri was a dangerous fullback in all the games he played, wreaking havoc in every defensive set-up he faced with his tireless runs and defensive work.
KPA Player of the Year
Awarded to the best Korean player plying his trade outside of the K-League
2013: Son Heung-Min
– Son Heung-Min. Can Son repeat? A rare bright spot in the 2014 WC side, Son had a very good first half of the calendar year with Bayer Leverkusen. But as Roger Schmidt came in, things got even better as he has scored 5 goals in the Bundesliga, 2 in the DFB-Pokal and another 5 in the Champions League, including a brace at St. Petersburg.
– Lee Chung-Yong. Chungy, as he affectionately is nicknamed, is a different player under new manager Neil Lennon. His confidence now growing with every touch, his football IQ is exceptional, and the Blue Dragon has been involved in so many of Bolton’s goals, and, despite his mediocre finishing, has even scored a few.
– Ki Sung-Yueng. After finishing the 2013/14 season at Sunderland, putting in several strong performances, Ki was lured back to South Wales by new manager Garry Monk. An instrumental part of the Swans’ set-up, Ki has been the cool head in the midfield pair, and has even come up the pitch to score a few, including the first goal of the new EPL season against none other than Manchester United. One of the few KPAs who can put in a good shift on a consistent basis.
– Nam Tae-Hee, of Lekhwiya in Qatar, is one of the league’s top scorers. The midfielder/forward scored 16 goals in all competitions last season, the most of which came in this calendar year, and he has tallied 6 more this season. He has been a driving force behind Lekhwiya’s title charges the last two seasons and is even carving himself a spot on the National Team in the 10 role.
– Ji So-Yun, of Chelsea Ladies’ in England. Ji was the first ever footballer from Korea to move to Europe after a strong EAFF and international tournaments which caught the eye of scouts. She settled in quickly, scoring several goals and helping Chelsea qualify for the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Her individual efforts didn’t go unrewarded, as she won the FA WSL Player’s Player of the Year award.
Team of the Year
Awarded to the most outstanding KNT or Korean club team.
2013: The 2013 U-20 Team
– 2014 U-23 Asian Games Team The Asian Games team had a fantastic fall, going undefeated and not conceding a single goal in the entire tournament. As a result, the won the gold medal and military exemption, allowing them to pursue their footballing careers uninterrupted.
– Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors I mean come on. The Green Machine cruised to a K-League crown, with only 5 losses on the entire year, and 24 glorious wins. The team were tough to score on and scored plenty of goals, striking through Lee Dong-Gook, Han Kyo-Won, with assists from Lee Jae-Sung and Leonardo.
– Daejeon Citizen. I remember what I mentioned about bias, but… but… they deserve this nomination. Freshly relegated, Daejeon turned around from a 4-1 loss in the opening game of the season to go undefeated for 14 games, then drop one to the Police and go unbeaten for 9 more afterwards! A dominant season and a well-earned promotion for the Purple Crew.
– 2014 U-16 AFC Championship Team The U-16’s led by Lee Seung-Woo were simply sublime as they slayed their Asian counterparts to qualify for the the FIFA WC in that age class next year. Their sole defeat of the entire tournament was an unlucky one in the finals to North Korea. Is this the team of the year?
Manager of the Year
Awarded to the best K-League/KNT bench boss
2013: Hwang Sun-Hong
– Lee Gwang-Jong is the first nominee on this list. His ultra-conservative tactics sometimes led to some dull games, but got the job done. He was able to resort to a plan B, a team without Kim Shin-Wook, who was injured during the tournament, and also coped with the loss of Yun Il-Lok. Lee, in the end, led the U-23 team to a Gold Medal and military exemption on home soil during the Asian Games.
– Seongnam manager, Kim Hak-Bum, had a difficult task on his hands. Leading the team after a transition from church-owned to city-owned, Seongnam found themselves in a tricky relegation battle. On top of that, they had to juggle the FA Cup. Somehow, Kim Hak-Bum simply got things right, shutting down Jeonbuk in the Semis and Seoul in the Finals of the FA Cup to give Seongnam some unexpected silverware, and then led the Gyeonggi side out of the relegation spots in the final matchdays to safety.
– Choi Kang-Hee, as much as I hate him, has done a simply exceptional job with Jeonbuk. Striking fear into every manager he’s faced this season, he’s put the domestic competition to shame and led the North Jeolla side to a third K-League crown, and in convincing style, too.
– Choi Yong-Soo had a difficult start to the season with Seoul. After losing star striker Dejan Damjanovic, Choi flirted with several systems and settled on a back 3/5. Seoul eventually crept up the K-League table and went the furthest any Korean team went in the ACL. After dropping the KFA Cup disappointingly to Seongnam, Seoul secured an ACL spot on the very last matchday in simply dramatic style.
Breakout Player of the Year
A player who’s gone from a total nobody to a household name in Korean football
2013: Ha Dae-Sung
– Park Joo-Ho has carved himself a spot at Mainz and has earned a lot of fans at the German club. He is being reputed as one of the best in the Bundesliga at his position. His versatility is his biggest asset, as he can play fullback or in a double-six in defensive midfield.
– Kim Jin-Su made a move to Hoffenheim this summer and burst onto the KNT scene. The young, former Albirex Niigata left-back was even selected to Hong Myung-Bo’s World Cup squad after not being called up at all in 2012, but injury forced him out of the team.
– Kim Min-Woo is another player who surprised many with his good performances for the Korean national team. Proving to be a good backup winger to Son Heung-Min, the Sagan Tosu player turned a lot of heads when he scored his first goal for the Stielike-ho against Paraguay this past fall.
– Nam Tae-Hee, of Lekhwiya in Qatar, broke into the national team set up this year, and is making a strong case to nick the number 10 spot from Koo Ja-Cheol. Once just another striker in the Qatari League, Nam is looking like a viable option for the near future for the KNT.
Goal of the Year
The only new award, the strike scored by a Korean that shook
the our world. I’ve narrowed it down to three because I don’t feel like putting 8 nominees.
Lee Seung-Woo vs Japan, AFC U-16 Championship
An incredible cross-pitch run by the La Masia academy star sealed the victory for South Korea and the 2015 U-18 World Cup berth. (Begins at 0:53)
Jeong Seon-Ho vs Gyeongnam, Round 31 K-League Classic
A sublime volley by Jeong Seon-Ho of Seongnam was easily the best goal of the year in the K-League. (Begins at 2:25)
Son Heung-Min vs Zenit St. Petersburg, 2014-15 UEFA Champions League Group Stage Matchday 4
A beautiful set play off of a free kick from Leverkusen and a spine-tingling finish for the ages by Son Heung-Min.
You can vote as many times as you’d like. Voting is open till January 5th at the earliest. I’ll announce the winners shortly after. Until then, wishing every a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holiday Season, whatever applies to you. Here’s to a fantastic 2014 – thank you, our readers, for making this year another very special one for the Tavern of the Taeguk Warriors! Your loyal support is indispensable to us, as we aren’t being paid for any of this. It’s a labour of love and you all make it even more fun. Anyhow, it’s all getting a little cheesy. Keep tuning in and don’t forget to vote!