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Preview: Gyeongnam FC vs Gangwon FC

With the World Cup just around the corner, and with this also being the last game for a while in the K League 1 season, both Gyeongnam FC and Gangwon FC will want to go into the break on a high. Both sides have had no problem in finding the net this season, with 41 goals scored by them both, so it would seem this match has all the ingredients to be an entertaining clash.  With both Marcão (Gyeongnam) and Đerić (Gangwon) also top of the pile in the goal scoring charts with ten goals each, Saturday afternoon should see goals in Changwon.

Game:  Gyeongnam FC v Gangwon FC
Kick off: Saturday, May 19th, 14:00 KST
Venue: Changwon Football Center.  Changwon.

Last Time Out

The Reds go into the game this Saturday unbeaten in four and are playing some nice football to boot.  A 1-1 draw away against Ulsan was a creditable result last Sunday afternoon.  Ulsan admittedly had slightly more bigger fish to fry during the week with their AFC Champions League 2nd leg clash against Suwon Samsung being a slightly more higher priority for them.  Therefore, Ulsan duly rotated their squad and left some of their big guns on the bench.  The home side came out of the blocks well and had Gyeongnam on the back foot from the opening whistle. Hwang Il-soo, the attack minded winger, especially caused the away side all sorts of problems, finding pockets of space and hurting The Reds' defence. A rare attack however did give Gyeongnam the best opening chance of the game. Kim Hyo-gi, who found himself free in the six yard box with the goal gaping, was denied by an instinctive reaction save by veteran shot stopper Kim Yong-dae, who stuck out a right leg to deny the away sides striker.  Ulsan continued to dominate though and their pressure finally paid dividends when they took the lead ten minutes before the break.  It came from the spot after Gyeongnam's central defender Park Ji-soo was penalized for a hand ball in the box.   Hwang Il-soo made no mistake from the penalty spot, sending Son Jung-hyun the wrong way and calmly slotting it home for the lead.

The game changed for the home side 10 seconds into the 2nd half when Ulsan center back Jung Jae-yong was given his marching orders for an elbow to the face on half time substitute Marcão.  The decision was delayed for an age by VAR, but after deliberating the referee stuck to his original decision and Jung Jae-yong had to watch the rest of the game from the changing room.  This prompted Gyeongnam to pile on the pressure and get firmly on the front foot.  They levelled matters on the hour mark through Brazilian striker Marcão.  It was a glorious strike, hit first first time from the edge of the box and and it flew past Kim Yong-dae before he could react down to his left.  The game was played out mainly in the Ulsan half with Gyeongnam just lacking that cutting edge to make the man advantage count and take home all the three points.

Gangwon also drew 1-1 with powerhouses FC Seoul in Chuncheon.  It was an entertaining match in the pouring rain.  At the final whistle, both sides would be happy with a point a both are not in the best of form and are still finding their feet in the league.  FC Seoul took the lead through experienced center back Kwak Tae-hwi after only 16 minutes, rising highest to power home a header from a lovely in swinging free kick from Shin Jin-ho.  Gangwon continued to press for the equalizer and were denied by the outstanding Yang Han-bin on numerous occasions.  He really is playing well and must be pushing for the national team soon.  However the away side just could not hold out for a very earned three points on the road when leading goalscorer Đerić popped up in the final minute to smash the ball past the aforementioned Yang from just outside the six yard box.

Previous Meetings

The sides have met a total of 24 times since Gyeongnam formed in 2006.  The Reds certainly have the upper hand in matches.  Gyeongnam have won 11 of them with Gangwon winning just four times with nine games ending in draws.  They met earlier this season when Gyeongnam travelled north, with the visitors coming away with all three points after a 3-1 victory.  A Marcão brace and a Kim Hyo-gi strike did the damage with Đerić finding the net for Gangwon. 

Team News

The home side go into the game with a bill of full health.  Defensive midfielder Ha Sung-min may return to the starting line up after missing the last two games through a niggling injury.  He has been missed mopping up things in front of the back four.  Marcão has been deployed coming off the bench in Gyeongnam's last two games against Daegu and Ulsan. Both times he entered play at half time and scored three goals. Negueba was back against Ulsan after his two game suspension and was played up top.  It will be interesting to see if Kim Jong Boo opts for the same tactic this Saturday.

Gangwon go into the game also with a full strength side at their disposal.  Their attacking players in national team forward Lee Keun-ho and Brazilian winger Diego Mauricio will look to run at the home sides defence at every opportunity.  They have an extremely talented squad, with their league position of 8th looking a rather false one when you consider their team on paper.

The Adversary

The World Cup break cannot come soon enough for Gangwon FC. Like Gyeongnam, they started the season well but then had a blip. Gangwon’s results have improved in recent weeks but two wins and two draws from the last six games is nothing special. More worrying is that teams seem to have figured out how to snuff out Gangwon’s previously lethal attacking threat; Gangwon only scored one goal in the 4 of those 6 games that they did not win. Gangwon still have not sorted out their defensive issues either, and are about as good at dealing with crosses as Count Dracula. Marcão’s opening goal against Gangwon last time these two teams met is a typical example of the types of goals they have been conceding-- a cross from about 20 to 25 yards out, headed in by a target-man striker or big defender, with the goalkeeper rooted to his line or letting the striker get to the ball before he can punch it away. Kwak Tae-hwi’s goal for FC Seoul last weekend was similar, and Gangwon had to rely on some tidy link-up play between Diego and Đerić to rescue a point. Gangwon’s squad has all the necessary ingredients to do well in this league, but they are an unfinished product who throw away too many games through poor defending. A month on the training ground sorting themselves out could do them wonders and lead to a successful second half of the season. As for this match, I expect Marcão will once again cause the Gangwon defense problems, and I do not see them leaving Changwon with a clean sheet.

By Steve Price

Who To Watch

The unsung hero of the promotion campaign last year, Gyeongnam captain Choi Young-jun has really hit the ground running this season and has been an ever present in the middle of the park for The Reds.  A combative midfielder who is not afraid to mix it up when it when the going gets tough, he is a real fans' favourite who is key in the dressing room as his relationship with all the squad is really strong.  He is always there or thereabouts for when the second ball drops in the midfield area.  He is a strong leader on the pitch and can pop up with very important goals on occasions.  Choi is also vocal captain who is not shy when it comes to pulling players into their correct positions.


I think this game could be a goal fest,  a game that will have both leading goalscorers in the K League 1 going head to head and with plenty of other attacking players on show as well.  Gyeongnam are always very solid at home and are very hard to beat but Gangwon on their day can destroy anyone in this league.  However, as Gangwon columnist Steve Price mentioned above, being consistent has been their achilles heal this season.  I think the home side might just take all the spoils.

Predicted Score: Gyeongnam 3-2 Gangwon

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