2015 K League Preview: Seongnam FC

J’ai menti.

I was going to do Ulsan/Pohang but seeing how Seongnam’s AFC CL game is tomorrow morning, I think doing them makes more sense now. I’ll be taking a little break (like a couple days) from this series after Seongnam because of, well, life. But they’ll all be out before the season starts I promise.


Sparrow, right?

City: Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province
Stadium: Tancheon Sports Complex (16,250)
Average 2014 Attendance: 3,755 (9th in the top tier)

Manager: Kim Hak-Bum
Captain: Jeon San-Uk
Ownership: Seongnam City Government

Founded: 1989
K League Championships: 7 (1993, 1994, 1995, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006)
Korean FA Cups: 3 (1999, 2011, 2014)

Founded in 1989 in Seoul as Ilwha Chunma Football Club, the current Seongnam franchise is historically most successful in South Korea. In the capital they won their first three titles (1993, 1994 and 1995) before being evicted by the KFA (their decentralization policy) and relocating to Cheonan in 1996. Mysteriously, their years in that city saw them have an incredible decline, finishing among the bottom 3 teams in every single one of their years there.

Enter the new millennium and Ilwha Chunma Football Club moved to a satellite city of Seoul, Seongnam. Great success met them there again, winning 4 more K-League crowns, 2 KFA Cups and an Asian Champions League.

However, prior to the 2014 Season, Seongnam Ilwha Chunma were re-named to Seongnam FC, and their logo changed from the flying pegasus to a navy blue sparrow. The reason for this was the change in ownership – from the highly controversial Unification Church/creepy cult/whatever you want to call it to the Seongnam City Government.

Fun Fact
Seongnam Ilwha Chunma was among the top 5 Asian Clubs of the 20th century according to the IFFHS.

2014 Season
2014 Season Result: 9th Place (40 pts)

The change in ownership inevitably meant a change in funds. The financial backing of the Unification Church was no more, and the funds came from the city government. So like most citizen teams, their ultimate goal was to avoid relegation, which they did, but only just. However, the high point of their season was their miraculous, flabbergasting and totally unexpected triumph in the KFA Cup. Granted, their first three opponents (Daegu, Gwangju, Yeungnam University) weren’t extremely difficult ones, but holding Jeonbuk (in the SF) and FC Seoul (in the Finals) to 0-0 draws – on the road – and beating both in penalties – it’s still a remarkable feat.

(By the way, Seoul made a really crappy move in the KFA Cup Final by not letting Seongnam use their goalkeeping sub (by holding the ball for the last minute of extra time) after Seoul had used theirs. They got their just desserts by losing in that game…)

Transfer Window
Seongnam have lost a few important players in the transfer window. They were unable to re-sign Uzbek captain Server Djeparov while influential midfielder Kim Tae-Hwan, who made 36 appearances in the league for Seongnam last season, has also left the club. Park Jin-Po has also gone to join a stacked Sangju Sangmu side to do his military service. The notable signing coming in however is the return of Kim Doo-Hyun from Suwon. (He spells it Kim Do-Heon but that’s plain wrong.) The former West Bromwich Albion player has been compared to Paul Scholes for his ability to make cutting passes, as well as having a very high football IQ.

Key Players
Seongnam have a fair amount of solid players in their set-up. Center forward Kim Dong-Sub has been capped by the Korean national team and has been with the club for the last few years, while Hwang Ui-Jo is a promising attacker as well. Up and coming centre-back Im Chae-Min has also graced the pitch in a Korean national team shirt, while Seongnam’s Brazilian imports look like decent shouts as well, with one on loan from Corinthians, another on loan from Athletico-GO from the Brazilian Serie A, and former Nordsjaelland forward Ricardo Bueno completing the Brazilian trio.

However if Seongnam are to go anywhere this season in the Asian Champions League or simply avoid relegation comfortably, it will be because of Kim Doo-Hyun. The playmaker is going to have to link up well with Kim Dong-Sub for Seongnam to stay in greener pastures and avoid the gloomy fiery embers of relegation. (I quite like that last bit. A tad cheesy though.)

The Kim Hak-Bum Effect
Kim Hak-Bum proved he’s worth his salt last year. Seongnam line up in a hard to break down defensive shape, while conceding a bit of the attack, of course. Although in league competitions it isn’t a perfect approach over a long period of time, in knockout games, Seongnam can get results. This could prove to be crucial in tricky away ties in the Asian Champions League.

Kim Hak-Bum

(another) Key to Success
Another key to Seongnam’s season:Depth Players Need to Up Their Game. The question that is key when juggling two important tournaments is depth, depth and depth. The depth question remains for squads like Seoul, so does Seongnam, a citizen club, have the resources necessary at their disposal to survive both competitions? And not just that – are their depth players competitive in the Asian Champions League when rotation is needed?

The obvious answer is no. Their first team is barely competitive in Asia, and simply buying a few Incheon United players hardly improves the overall quality of the squad. Simply put, Seongnam will really need to have an unparalleled resolve. Kim Hak-Bum’s side, starters or depth players, must be disciplined and well-organized to keep Seongnam moving in both the Asian Champions League and the K League Classic.

Their ACL Group
Seongnam were paired with Gamba Osaka, Buriram United and Guangzhou R&F.

Gamba Osaka are the reigning champions of Japan and should win this group handily. Buriram United are the reigning champions of Thailand and are more than capable of pulling of an upset. Guangzhou R&F had to go through the playoffs, but don’t let that deceive you – they finished 3rd in 2014 and beat Guangzhou Evergrande before.

Basically, Seongnam, a citizen club, will find life difficult in the ACL. It’s not the hardest of groups but it’s hard for a club with little funding and quality of players.

Do they have it in them? Can Seongnam advance from the Group Stages of their Asian Champions League? Can they avoid K League relegation? The answer to question 1 is no, as I have said more than once in this article and as you will hear me say in the future they are a citizen club lacking in talent to field two different yet solid XI’s. Their defensive depth is particularly worrying. The answer to question 2 is a confident yes, however, as it is still a decent domestic best XI, and one that should avoid relegation.

K LEAGUE RANK: 8th … Prediction = ¯_(ツ)_/¯ Kaomoji’s are awesome.
ACL EXIT: Group Stage (Yeah.)

All times KST. Does not include R34-R38 of the K League Classic (after the split), promotion/relegation playoffs, Asian Champions League KO stages, KFA Cup games or the FIFA Club World Cup.

About Tim Lee 321 Articles
The maple syrup guzzling kimchijjigae craving Korean-Canadian, eh?


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