After six long and sometimes less than entertaining matches all four Korean teams emerged from the ACL group stages to live to fight another day. Unfortunately neither team was able to win their group and so all four play at home first over Tuesday and Wednesday this week. The only benefit from all four finishing second is that we avoided any all-Korean matches and so we might still see an all-Korean semi-final and ultimately a Korean team representing in the final come October.
Jeonbuk v Beijing
Jeonbuk may be flying high in the K-League this season but they made heavy weather of their qualification for the last 16. After a good start, notching up 7 points from 9, they then huffed and puffed and eventually finished second behind Kashiwa Reysol. Finishing second earned them a match against Beijing and of course another chance for ex-Seoul hero Dejan to put a Korean team to the sword. He will once again be the main threat from Beijing and if Jeonbuk can keep him quiet they have a chance of pulling off the result they need. Dejan aside, if Jeonbuk are to progress to the next round they will need to shake of the inconsistency of the group stage and show the form that has them sitting atop the K-League.
Prediction : Beijing to edge it over two legs.
Suwon v Kashiwa Reysol
Suwon were probably the best Korean team in the group stages and would have topped their group easily if they had been in any other group. Great results at home to Urawa Reds and Brisbane Roar were cemented by good away results against both teams too. It really was their failure to beat Beijing that thwarted them. Against Reysol they find themselves up against a team that look tough to beat without perhaps possessing the flair players that Suwon do. If players such as Cheong Tae Se and Yum Ki Hyun play to their best then you would think Suwon would have too much for their Japanese counterparts.
Prediction : Suwon to progress to the next round.
FC Seoul v Gamba Osaka
Much has been made of Seoul’s poor form in the K-League this season with some calling for Choi’s head but in the ACL they have shown just enough to suggest that they aren’t going to go out of this tournament meekly. A tactic of keeping it tight at home wasn’t exactly pleasant for the fans to watch with only the single goal scored and zero conceded. They did produce two good results away in Sydney and Tokyo to progress and few can forget the scenes of Cha and Molina celebrating as they clinched a dramatic last 16 spot with the last kick of the ball in Japan. Having watched Gamaba both home and away against Seongnam I think they are definitely beatable. A lot hinges on the home result in Seoul, if they can take a narrow lead to Osaka they should find themselves in the next round.
Prediction : Seoul to just edge this one, might even go to penalties.
Seongnam FC v Guangzhou Evergrande
The citizens take on the millionaires in what should be a real battle of wits between Kim Hak Bum and Fabio Cannavaro. Few outside of the Seongnam support thought they would get this far especially after losing in Thailand in the opening group match but Kim has proven to be a tactical match for whoever he has come up against. Home victories over Gamba and Buriram sandwiched a goalless draw against Guangzhou’s poor cousins R&F. They could and probably should have won their group but for a lapse in concentration in Japan with 5 minutes left on the clock. Evergrande though will prove to be the toughest test yet for the wily old fox and he will need to rely on all his experience if he is to guide them into the last 8. Kim Do Heon and Hwang Uijo will be vital to his plans and if they can get a decent result at Fortress Tancheon you never know what might happen in China.
Prediction : A tight one that might also need penalties to decide it. Heart says Seongnam, head says Evergrande.