ACL dossier: FC Seoul


Who are the opposition for Western Sydney Wanderers FC in the ACL on Wednesday night? Our Asian football expert John Duerden gives you the inside word on this K-League club, which features one of South Korea’s Asian Cup Final stars.

Guangzhou Evergrande had a bone to pick with Western Sydney Wanderers when the two teams met two weeks ago at Wanderland. The quarter-final elimination in 2014 was still painfully raw in the Chinese memory.

Revenge came hard fought and was all the sweeter for that. Now it is the turn of the team the Wanderers defeated in the semi-final – but for FC Seoul, revenge is not really an issue.

Marcello Lippi and his men felt they were hard done by, but in Korea, the disappointment was focused on the K-League team and coach Choi Yong-soo.

The feeling was that the finalist from the year before had tamely bowed out of the competition at the hands of the Australians and deserved no more than what it got.

Not revenge, then, but perhaps some redemption for Choi.

His relationship with the fans is up and down. They have at times been frustrated in the four years he has been in charge by what they see as over-cautious football, inflexible tactics and a reliance on a small number of players, usually foreigners.

Yet, when things start to look serious, he pulls something out of the hat: in 2013, it was almost the Asian Champions League, in 2014 it was qualifying for the 2015 edition in the very last minute of the season, the first time they moved into third place.

There is sense however that Seoul is drifting a little. In the close season, the team lost more of its stars. At the end of 2013, goal machine Dejan Damjanovic moved to China while captain Ha Dae-sung moved to Beijing Guoan.

In recent weeks, central defender Kim Ju-young left for Shanghai SIPG while Sergio Escudero headed to Jiangsu Sainty. And when Colombian star Mauricio Molina, still the highest paid player in the K-League, is a shadow of his former self, then it is not surprising that the team is not the force it once was.

Last season, it was clear that Seoul’s replacements for Damjanovic and Ha were not of the required standard. This season, it remains to be seen how the new additions fare.

The latest, too late in fact to register for the group stage of the Champions League, is Park Chu-young, returning to his former club after a successful three years in France and AS Monaco and a rather less happy four years mainly at Arsenal.

The former Korea international has much to do and prove after little to no football in recent times.

That leaves goal-scoring mainly on the familiar shoulders of Jung Jo-guk. ‘The Patriot’ (his given name means ‘motherland’) and a workhorse at the front.

Brazilian striker Everton Santos has not yet really impressed.

One figure that Australian fans will remember is Cha Du-ri. The bald-headed phenomenon of a right-back was the best in his position at the AFC Asian Cup and while the ‘Chaminator’ has played his last game for the Taeguk Warriors, he can still be seen charging up and down stadiums in the K-League.


Cha Du-Ri

Yun Il Lok buzzes around the frontlines but is frustrating more often that fantastic but Koh Myung-jin has grown into the main man in the middle, one of the best passers in the K-League.

Seoul wants the Asian Champions League, six K-League teams have been continental winners but the club from the capital has not as its fans are reminded on a regular basis.

Two defeats in the opening two games of the season, albeit against strong opposition, has supporters worried again. Seoul is a team that has a habit of starting seasons slowly.

A win at home to the Wanderers put the Koreans top of the group and give fans something to smile about. Defeat though would leave this powerhouse looking forward to 2015 with more than a little trepidation.

See Brisbane Roar’s ACL opposition dossier here