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East Asia Cup Preview

The K-League season might be over, but there is still some football to watch in December as the South Korean national team head to Japan to play in the East Asian Cup.
(photo via facebook.com/eaff.official)

The East Asian Cup, or EAFF E-1 Football Championship as it is unfortunately officially called, takes place in Tokyo from December 9th to December 15th. South Korea, who won the tournament in China two years ago, take on China, North Korea, and Japan.

K-League United will be covering all the games, and hosting writer's chats before each match, along with a watch party for Korea's match against Japan on December 16th.

The tournament is held every two years, and South Korea, Japan, and China all qualify for the tournament automatically. North Korea had to qualify through a preliminary group which took place in Hong Kong back in November 2016.

All the matches will be played at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo. South Korea play China on December 9th, North Korea on December 12th, and Japan on December 16th.

Here's what to expect from each team in the East Asian Cup:


South Korea

by Steve Price (@kleaguefootball)

South Korea won this tournament last time around, and head to Tokyo on the back of a win against Colombia and draw against Serbia. As the East Asian Cup takes place in the middle of the European season, the Taeguk Warriors will be without their European-based stars like Son Heung-min and Ki Sung-yeung. In my video preview for Naver, I highlighted how Korea's back-line all play their football in Asia so Shin Tae-yong has the chance to work on Korea's defensive structure ahead of the World Cup. Instead of taking the chance to call up some younger players, Shin Tae-yong has called up Lee Geun-ho and Yeom Ki-hun, which suggests he had World Cup preparations in mind when planning for this tournament.

Player to Watch: Lee Jae-Sung

Jeonbuk Motors midfielder Lee Jae-sung won the K-League Player of the Season award this year, and has been in the league's best XI for the last three years. There will certainly be some clubs lining up a bid for him in the winter transfer window.


Japan

by Stuart Smith (@sushi_football)

Japan head into this tournament looking to get a boost from their domestic based players, and those players will be looking to impress coach Vahid Halilhodzic ahead of next year’s World Cup.

This Samurai Blue squad is comprised only of J.League players as the foreign based regulars haven’t been included, nor have Urawa Reds players, as their players are on duty in the Club World Cup. That’s not to say there aren’t any experienced players in the squad, Gamba Osaka midfielder Yasuyuki Konno and Cerezo Osaka’s Hiroshi Kiyotake have bags of it. Kashima centre-back Gen Shoji also has decent experience playing in big games.

Halilhodzic has decided to include some youthful/inexperienced players. Gamba’s 20 year-old attacking full back/midfielder Ryo Hatsuse and Kashima Antlers midfielder Kento Misao will look to press their claims for permanent places in the squad. While still young, midfielder Yosuke Ideguchi is already an important player in the set up of this Japan side.

Player to Watch: Kenyu Sugimoto

The Cerezo Osaka forward has enjoyed an excellent season, finishing up with 22 goals. He isn’t the archetypal Japanese forward, rather he is a big physical specimen, good in the air and pretty accurate when it comes to goalscoring situations. While he comes in to this tournament in very good form, he hasn’t really been given a fair crack of the national team whip yet, but with the regular forwards absent from the squad, many expect Sugimoto to be given a decent chance to show what he can do.

China

by Steve Price

While South Korea got some decent results in the last round of international friendlies, the same can't be said for China, who lost two-nil to Serbia and four-nil to Colombia. The good news for Chinese fans is that Marcelo Lippi is set to stay in charge of the national team until at least the end of the Asian Cup in 2019. China football expert Richard Whiddington says that Lippi relied with his trusted veterans for the World Cup qualifying campaign, but has promised to blood some youngsters in this tournament, so expectations are rather modest.

Player to Watch: Zhang Linpeng

Most of China's old guard have been dropped for this tournament, making Zhang Linpeng one of the more experienced faces in the side. The 28 year-old Guangzhou Evergrande defender has been linked with big European sides in the past and still has lots to offer this new-look Chinese side.

North Korea

by Matt Binns (@Matt_Binns)

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea come into this tournament on the back of two convincing 4-1 victories to Malaysia in the Asian Cup qualifiers, yet their form prior had been somewhat troubling with three losses in their last four and thirteen conceded. Managed by Norwegian Jørn Anderson, North Korea have been known to commit men forward, often leading to high scoring affairs, but not always in their favour. The 5-0 drubbing recently received from Lebanon highlighted a defensive frailty, which you would expect teams like Japan and South Korea to exploit. Having not played out a goalless draw in over two years, and with little expected of them, their matches could be the most entertaining to watch for neutrals in this competition.

Player to Watch: Kim Yu-song

April 25 SC attacker Kim Yu-song is the man in-form who will be looking to continue his recent scoring antics into this tournament. The 22 year old has only collected eleven international caps, but has also scored seven times in the process, with nearly all of them being of importance to the final result.

The East Asian Cup kicks off on December 9th in Tokyo. K-League United will be publishing a writer's chat before each of Korea's matches. We are also hosting a watch party at the Upper Deck in Seoul for Korea's match against Japan on December 16th.

1 comment

  1. There's a good chance that both Sugimoto and Zhang Linpeng will not be at the EAFF. They are both suffering from injuries right now.

    ReplyDelete

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