Let’s try out a new segment. Every week (or something like that) we’ll look at 3 positive and 3 not-so-great moments or news items. They’ll mostly have to do with Korean football, don’t be fooled by the baseball-ism. Let’s try it out.
Ulsan Hyundai and Jeju United
Thumbs up to Ulsan and Jeju after their impressive showings in the ACL this week. Both sides were expected to be the lightweights among Korea’s ACL delegation. Ulsan weren’t even supposed to be in the tournament, and only Jeonbuk’s banishment brought them into the fold as a last-minute replacement. And yet while defending K League champs FC Seoul are off to a dismal start, both Ulsan and Jeju have netted impressive wins on Matchday 2 of the ACL. The Tigers annihilated a heavy-legged Brisbane Roar side 6-0 at home, while the Islanders humiliated Gamba Osaka 5-1 in Japan. Ulsan’s control of possession and clinical finishing were key to their success, while Jeju showed off their usual pacey, attack-minded abilities. Both sides enter this weekend’s opening fixtures in the K League with abundant confidence.
Luis Enrique and La Masia
Thumbs up at the news that Luis Enrique will be stepping down manager of Barcelona. There’s no denying that the outgoing Barca boss hasn’t been La Masia’s greatest fan. While Pep Guardiola’s success at the Camp Nou can be attributed to his nurturing and promotion of players from the fabled Barca youth ranks, Enrique’s tenure has been a fundamentally different one when it comes to the youth academy. Goal.com entices us to look no further than Enrique’s decision to send away some of the academy’s brightest stars – notably Munir El Haddadi or Sergi Samper – and buy Andre Gomes and Paco Alcacer instead. “These days they look for strong players, not talented ones. Barca B play to win with footballers who aren’t at the age of development.” For the sake of Lee Seungwoo, Paik Seungho and Jang Gyeolhee, we can only hope that Enrique’s successor will champion La Masia and renew Barcelona’s A team from within.
Video Review + Increasing Playing Time
Thumbs up to the K League for being among the first professional football leagues to adopt live, in-game video reviews. Though the pilot program will only be introduced in July, for a league badly needing to revamp its reputation, this is a smart move. The fourth official, a Video Assistant Referee, will be in contact with the head official on all goals, penalties, direct red cards and confirmation of the goal scorer. A second thumbs up for a new directive given to referees (to come into effect immediately) on a tougher stance on time-wasting. The 6-second rule for goal kicks will be strictly enforced, while cards may now be more often issued for slow substitutions, simulation and whining at the officials.
Thumbs down to Yoo Hyun’s embarrassing ACL performance – I mean, what the bloody hell, mate? An average goalkeeper makes the saves he has to make and nothing more; an excellent goalkeeper saves teams points. A shitty goalkeeper doesn’t give you a chance of winning, and that’s what Yoo Hyun did on Tuesday. The veteran custodian is now expected to be between the sticks all season long for Seoul (with fellow GK Yoon Sanghoon off to the Army) but with that kind of performance I’d be thinking again if I were Hwang Sunhong.
Thumbs down to whatever this is. Some promotion tactic with Pokemon Go and the Ulsan mascot. It’s already cringey when Son Heungmin pulls out the dab – it’s even cringier in this video…
Thumbs down to JTBC. If you’re gonna buy the rights to the ACL, show the goddamn games! Korean cable network JTBC disillusioned a lot of passionate FC Seoul and Ulsan fans this weekend by opting to show an international baseball friendly between Korea and Australia on both the cable and the sports channel instead of the Asian Champions League. Unfortunately common practice in a country where football plays second fiddle to yagu. Though maybe this all was a blessing in disguise for Seoul fans.
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