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A Big Showdown Between Two Big Coaches

Posted November. 21, 2004 23:27,   


"The real match starts from now…”

The 2004 Samsung Hauzen of the latter period K-League concluded its tournament with a Suwon Samsung victory and the Jeonnam Dragons joining the playoffs.

According to this, on the fifth of next month, upper-first season champion Pohang Stealers and total point first place team Ulsan Hyundai (41 points) will square off in Pohang football stadium. Suwon will face Jeonnam in Suwon World Cup stadium en route to the finals. The winners in each match meet on December 8 and 12 for home and away games to sort out the true champion.

Showdown between Star Coaches-

Suwon coach Cha Bum-geun is a soccer hero who made himself his name in the Bundesliga. Lee Jang-soo, the Jeonnam coach, is the "Star of Chongqing" who put the underdog Loong Shin, Chongqing and Ching Dao teams to the top.

Coach Cha, who left the pros in 1994, wandered about after a miserable defeat in the 1998 France World Cup, but returned to the league after 10 years. Coach Cha also faced the humiliation of taking his team to the bottom in the opening part of the bottom half league, but backed himself up in the last minute and led his team to first place to make to the playoffs.

Coach Lee, led by his strong team, once was mentioned to be the winning candidate, but because an unreasonable incident occurred with foreign players, he suffered mentally. But because coach Lee survived with his mighty sinews in a place called "The burial of coaches," he trained his players to display a nine-game winning streak in the bottom-half league and took his team to the playoffs. His head-to-head record for this season is one win, one loss and one draw (including Cup competition), and it is expected to be a slugfest.

Master versus Apprentice-

The first acquaintance between Ulsan coach Kim Jung-nam and Pohang coach Choi Soon-ho took place in the 1986 Mexico World Cup as a coach and a player. Coach Choi deferred to his master for Pohang’s regular season championships over 12 years. But after taking command of Ulsan in 2000, even Coach Kim, who always remained the "runner-up" couldn`t make concessions with his student.

Pohang, which stood on top in the upper-half league, fell in a slump in the latter half with a winless record of three draws and seven losses in 10 matches and wrapped up the season in last place. But the team made a turning point on November 20 after defeating Gwangju Sangmu 3-2. Pohang`s strength comes from frontline striker goal-scoring abilities with Woo Sung-Yong (10 goals) and Tabarez (five goals).

Ulsan ended up in third place in both the upper and bottom league, but in total winning points, outpassed Suwon in the sum of goals scored and given up to take pride in their strategy. In this season, coach Choi leads two to one (including cup competitions) in neck and neck match ups.

Jong-Koo Yang yjongk@donga.com