Only two weeks ago we were brimming with hope and dreaming of all-Korean quarter-finals, but with one flash of a 15M Brazilian’s head it was all over. In truth the writing was on the wall way before Ricardo Goulart evaded his Seongnam marker and nodded a corner beyond the flailing Park Jun Hyuk to send the millionaires through and the citizens out. For Suwon and especially Seoul their fates had been sealed after two quite shocking first leg defeats last week. So where did it all go wrong you have to ask.
For Seongnam they will rue the missed chances both home and away with Kim Do Heon uncharacteristically snatching at a chance in China that had he shown composure would have taken it to extra time. They will obviously point fingers at a pretty shocking referee who couldn’t have favoured Evergrande more if he had been wearing their mascot’s costume. In fairness though, Seongnam may be out but they have gone further than many expected and have recorded some great results along the way no more so than defeating Evergrande with a 96th minute penalty in the 1st leg. For them it has been a success and keeping that amazing home record of theirs intact has been another highlight for them.
For Suwon they were always going to struggle to overturn that 3-2 home defeat but they did give it their best shot and had their fans in dreamland for just over 10 minutes as they managed to get themselves into the ‘two goals ahead’ position they needed to secure progress. Chong Tae Se and Yeom Ki Hun have been inspirational for them this tournament as has the team’s impressive goal scoring exploits, failing to score on only one occasion in the tournament and that was away in Beijing. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Jung in goals who has looked as stable as the chair I made in Tech class in high school. Quite why he has been brought straight back into the team after Noh Dong Geon had got them this far is a mystery. The away goals rule is always a tough way to crash out of a tournament and really makes you wonder what the rule actually brings to the modern game.
Seoul probably can’t take a single positive from the tournament, sure they made it to the last 16 but year on year now they are exiting the tournament earlier and earlier. Their performance against Gamba Osaka was poor to say the least, a 3-1 defeat at home followed by a 3-2 defeat in Japan really highlights just how far they have fallen since they made the final back in 2013. In a pre-match interview last week Choi had claimed he wanted to keep it tight at home and win/draw in Japan, he achieved neither and there surely must be tough questions being asked of him today. A lack of firepower up front has tended to be backed up by some schoolboy defending at the back and Choi really looks devoid of any ideas as to how to turn it around. In fact watching on from the sidelines last night he looked either disinterested or like he had been on the Soju, actually Cha Du Ri looked like he had joined him for a few bottles round the back of the stadium.
And so it all falls down to Jeonbuk to represent Korea for the rest of the tournament although they too will have to raise their game a little if they are to indeed bring the trophy home. But with some luck and the extra man their support brings to the table you never know.