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Can A Korean Team Win This Years Asian Champions League?

(From alarabiya.net)

The simple answer to this would be an easy 'no'. Given last season's poor performance by K League sides in the competition and the Chinese Super League's winter bonanza spending spree, anybody with the aforementioned view would be justified in thinking that Korean teams don't stand a chance. Whilst Chinese teams were signing international superstars like Jackson Martinez, Ramires and Alex Teixiera this winter, K League teams were making a number of low key, internal trades among themselves. It would be very easy to write off the K League when comparing them to their close Chinese neighbors, and that is even before you take into account the oil rich leagues in the Middle East. However, as we have seen across so many leagues, worldwide, this year, spending power and superstars doesn't necessarily guarantee you silverware. So does the K League really stand a chance?

My answer to this question would be that only 2 of our 4 teams have a reasonable chance. Jeonbuk and FC Seoul supporters can harbor dreams of making the final, but any Suwon Bluewings or Pohang supporters should be fearing the worst. Whereas, Jeonbuk and FC Seoul have strengthened their squads, Suwon Bluewings and Pohang seem to have significantly weakened.

Out of the 4 Korean teams being represented in this years competition I would imagine that Jeonbuk will go the furthest. I think Jeonbuk have implemented the most succesful recruitment strategy. They have strengthened in key areas and have also retained the key talents of Leonardo and Lee Dong-gook. But most importantly, they have added the strong and skillful winger Ricardo Lopes. Lopes was one of the better foreign imports on offer in the K League last year and I was very impressed with some of his performances with Jeju. Also, the acquisition of Erik Paartalu from Melbourne City could be key. He is a strong, ball winning midfield with a good eye for a pass and if he can settle quickly he will be key to Jeonbuk's counter attacking game. The green men have also been handed a favourable draw, having been drawn in a group alongside Jiangsu FC, FC Tokyo and Becamex Minh Duong. On paper, Jiangsu should dominate that group, but I believe that Jeonbuk will prove to be much stronger than FC Tokyo and should secure 2nd spot in the group easily. Once they have navigated the group stages anything could happen.

FC Seoul also have a reasonably favourable draw. They are in a group with Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Shandong Luneng FC and Buriam United. While Sanfrecce Hiroshima are the current J League champions, Shandong shouldn't be too much of a worry to FC Seoul. Shandong have an array of South American players, however, none of them are world beating superstars, and they only just scraped passed Adelaide United in the qualifying round. Moreover, Seoul have a very strong looking starting 11. They have all the goals they desire in the form of Adriano and if they can address the defensive issues they suffered from last season then they should be a safe bet to progress into the knockout stages of the competition.

Where Jeonbuk and FC Seoul have been handed reasonable draws, Pohang and Suwon Bluewings have been given nightmare groups. Pohang being drawn with last years champions, Guangzhou Evergrande and a very strong looking Urawa Red Diamonds team. But it is Suwon Bluewings who have been handed the group of death. Suwon Bluewings will be forced to face Gamba Osaka and Shanghai SIPG, two of the strongest teams in the ACL this year, in my opinion. And they also have to face Melbourne Victory who were champions of their own league last year. Furthermore, Suwon Bluewings are still yet to address their lack of striking options. Kim Jong-min has been brought in from Japan but he has not been prolific throughout his career in the J League, and although Kim Jong-woo has had a fine pre-season it would be unfair to place any reliance for goals on his shoulders. Suwon Bluewings are very strong in the full-back positions and have two of the finest players in the K League in Yeom Ki-hun and Kwon Chang-hoon, but the spine of the team is weak and reveals a soft underbelly to a vastly inexperienced team. I hope that I am wrong, but Suwon Bluewings could really struggle in this years competition.

Overall, of course a Korean team could win the ACL this year. Winning a trophy isn't only about spending power and how many superstars you can squeeze into your team. It is also about team unity and cohesiveness, a desire to win, along with a sprinkling of individual brilliance. Jeonbuk and FC Seoul have those attributes. So why can't they conceivably win the competition? China isn't the only country competing.

1 comment

  1. Rumor has it Edu could be on his way to Suwon to help bolster the attack. Likely won't be enough to get them out of that group, but it could help make the games respectable.


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