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Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs Gangwon FC

Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs Gangwon FC

After an opening day thrashing on the road, military side Sangju Sangmu will be hoping to kickstart their campaign at home this Saturday. Their visitors are Gangwon FC, who will be attempting to build on their encouraging start and maintain a 100% record. Todd Wilde previews this K League 1 clash.

via Soccerway

Last Time Out

Sangju Sangmu got off to a disappointing start to their season, opening with a one sided 4-0 loss at Ulsan Hyundai. The Tigers scored twice either side of the interval, led by a brilliant performance from clinical Brazilian Júnior Negrão. Júnior scored both goals before the break, coolly slotting past the keeper from an acute angle in the 7th minute before tucking away a penalty just before half time. Júnior turned provided next, his weighted through ball finding Lee Sang-heon to easily tap in from five yards out, whilst Yoon Bitgaram capped an impressive debut performance with a powerful shot that found the bottom right corner from 25 yards out.

Match Highlights:

Gangwon FC impressed as they came from behind to defeat last season's AFC Champions League qualifiers FC Seoul in Chuncheon. The two sides were well matched in the first half, with the Bears creating a decent chance through Lee Young-jae from ten yeards out, before Uzbek international Ikram Alibaev shot just over for FC Seoul. Park Dong-jin broke the deadlock for the away side with a speculative shot from the edge of the box, that took a slight deflection past the stranded Lee Bum-soo.

Gangwon FC put on a passing masterclass after the interval, as they created chance after chance in the opposition half, humbling their more storied opponents. The equaliser came from Kim Ji-hyun, his close range volley creeping under the keeper after an excellent cross from Shin Kwang-hoon, before Gangwon broke to score an early contender for Goal of the Season when Seoul were pushing to take the lead. Kim Seung-dae's deft touch brought down a long ball on the left wing, and he found the on-rushing Cho Jae-wan in acres of space to outrageously back heel the ball into the bottom right corner from ten yards out. Kim made sure of the win a minute later, carrying the ball the length of the opposition half, before cutting inside and placing into the same spot as his teammate from 20 yards out.

Match Highlights:

Previous Meetings

The two sides have met 28 times competitively since April 2009, with Sangju victorious in half of their matches (14). Gangwon have 12 wins, and 2 games were tied. All encounters between the sides were won by the home team in 2019, Sangju recording 2-1 and 2-0 victories, whilst Gangwon strolled to a 4-0 win in Chuncheon.

Team News

Several players of the Sangju Sangmu squad were missing from the defeat against Ulsan, having been involved in a car accident on their way to a routine COVID-19 test. Though a Sangju Sangmu team bus was involved in a collision with a one tonne truck, all players escaped serious injury as they were wearing a seatbelt. Those currently out injured include Korean youth international Jeon Se-jin, Incheon loanee Kim Bo-seop (who both are reportedly suffering muscle pain), and star of Korea's winning AFC U-23 Championship side Oh Se-hun (who has not trained due to back pain). Coach Kim Tae-wan reportedly said after the Ulsan game that the players could be out for more than six weeks.

This presents a problem for coach Kim, who will be restricted to naming five substitutes and using just two since no players meet the requirements of the U22 rule. To make matters worse, the side was comprehensively outplayed against Ulsan yet there are limited options on the bench that can come into the side. Ulsan Hyundai loanee Park Yong-woo could start in central midfield after coming on against his parent club when 3-0 down on Saturday. The defensive minded enforcer provided more stability to the side, and should offer better protection to the back four than the substituted Kim Sun-woo.

Gangwon's winter signing from Jeonbuk, Ko Mu-yeol, remains unavailable for selection through injury. Striker Kim Ji-hyun could start up front after his effective half-time introduction against Seoul, with Jung Seok-hwa moving into a deeper role. Otherwise, expect Gangwon to stick with the same starting line-up as their win over Seoul.

What To Watch

Sangju were outclassed throughout by an Ulsan side that controlled the midfield with progressive, quick and short passing, often waiting for an opportunity to cut through the back line, utilising the pace and poise of Júnior Negrão in wide positions. Sangju's defensive positioning left much to be desired - the Soldiers were easily exposed for the third goal trying to play a high defensive line, whilst the full backs were consistently pulled out of position by the speed of the opponent's passing.

The signs are not promising for Sangju this Saturday, given that Gangwon FC led the league with 614 passes in their victory against FC Seoul. The Bears' systematic build-up play has become known as 'Byung-soo ball', a footballing philosophy that has gained a reputation for short, accurate passing, but which relies equally on those off the ball giving the player in possession multiple options to keep the attack moving. This was well demostrated in Gangwon's first goal against Seoul (see GIF below). Three players made runs into space close to Shin Kwang-hoon - all legitimate passing options - before the right back in possession elected to cross the ball directly to Kim Ji-hyun, a fourth option within the six yard box. Such intelligent movement makes it very difficult for the defending team to cover their own final third, knowing that the opposition has so many options and possible methods to work the ball into dangerous positions.

Sangju must be much more patient within their own half if they are to weather Gangwon's passing threat, whilst also taking advantage of opportunities to press when losing possession deep into the opposition's half. They had some success hurrying Ulsan in the opposition 18 yard box on Saturday, forcing Korean international goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo into mistakes with their high press, but were wasteful in the final third as Song Seung-Min and Moon Seon-min couldn't find the target from decent positions. 

Who To Watch

Kwon Kyung-won

One of the best defenders in the country and an integral part of Jeonbuk's title winning side in the closing stages of last season, Kwon appears to have a true test ahead of him at Sangju given the lower calibre of his teammates. The Korean international suffered a torrid time against Ulsan, akin to a firefighter that would put out one fire only to then have to deal with three more. His fullbacks were all over the place against Ulsan, and it will come down to the experienced Kwon to ensure the defence are organised against a well drilled Gangwon outfit.

Kwon Kyung-won
Kwon Kyung-won closes down Ulsan Hyundai forward Júnior Negrão

Kim Seung-dae

After netting only once for Jeonbuk in a 2019 campaign deprived of opportunities, Kim Seung-dae looks to have been an inspired signing for the provincial side, after a brilliant attacking performance on Saturday capped by a goal. Cool in possession and lively without, Kim was a constant menace for the opposition, making smart passes when the team was in control of possession, whilst facilitating rapid counter attacks with his movement into the channels. This was best illustrated by the team's second goal, where his run created the space for teammate Cho Jae-wan to creep into the box unmarked.

Kim Seung-dae, Gangwon FC
Kim Seung-dae thanks frontline health workers with his goal celebration vs. FC Seoul



Gangwon should have more than enough talent to pass their way through their injury ravaged opponents, and an away win is more than likely in Sangju this Saturday.

Sangju Sangmu 0-2 Gangwon FC

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