2015 East Asian Cup Preview
By Steve Price
This year’s East Asian Cup kicks-off on August 2nd in Wuhan, China. This article looks at each of the four teams competing and outlines their chances in the tournament.
Winners of the 2013 East Asian Cup, Japan will be without star players such as Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda as their clubs are not obliged to release players for the tournament. As a result, Japan’s entire squad comes from the J-League. However, head coach Vahid Halihodzic will still feel as if they can win this tournament. His success in the 2014 World Cup, where he took unfancied Algeria into the last sixteen, bodes well for Japan.
Key Player: Takashi Usami
The twenty-three year old Gamba Osaka striker has scored sixteen league goals already this season and has played in Germany for Bayern Munich and Hoffenheim already in his short career. Although he didn’t make enough of an impact at Bayern to make his loan there permanent, he has scored frequently over the last few seasons in the J-League and looks to add to his four national team caps during the tournament.
The hosts will be looking to make an impact in this tournament and take advantage of South Korea and Japan’s weakened squads. They won all three of their group games in the Asian cup back in January, only to face hosts Australia in the knockout stage where they bowed out. As the Chinese Super League grows stronger year by year, could this tournament on home turf be China’s chance to make an impression on Asian football?
Key Player: Gao Lin
Despite playing for star-studded Guangzhou Evergrande, Gao Lin has still had an impact and is the only Chinese player in the top scorers list this season. He has won the Asian Champions’ League with Guangzhou, is tall, and has good technical skills.
Reaching the final of the Asian Cup earlier this year helped South Korea regain some positivity that was missing after a poor showing in the last East Asian Cup and a dismal exit in the 2014 World Cup. Despite missing several key players, South Korea will be expecting a much better performance in this tournament than they gave on home soil two seasons ago. Manager Uli Stielike has controversially only brought two recognised strikers with him to China. Kim Shin Wook is likely to start on his own up front and will be hoping that he can prove to European scouts that he is back on form after missing much of last season through injury.
Key Player: Kim Seung-Gyu
Cerezo Osaka goalkeeper Kim Jin-Hyeon was forced to pull out of the tournament through injury, so Ulsan’s Kim Seung-Gyu will be hoping that he can cement his place as Korea’s first choice ‘keeper with an impressive tournament.
North Korea missed out on the 2013 tournament on goal difference, having scored ‘only’ sixteen goals in four games in the preliminary round. This year, Australia’s absence from the tournament made qualification more straightforward, although North Korea did manage to draw with Chinese Taipei during qualifying, and they failed to pick up a single point in the Asian Cup in January so won’t be many people’s favourites to win the East Asian Cup this time around. They did reach the final of the Asian Games in 2014 however, and were a minute away from taking hosts South Korea to a penalty shootout. They have selected a young squad for this tournament with their oldest player being 29 year-old goalkeeper Ri Myong-Guk. Shimizu S-Pulse striker Chong Tese, known as 'the people's Rooney' was not included in the squad.
Key Player: Pak Kwang-Ryong
22 year-old Pak Kwang-Ryong plays his football in Switzerland. He played alongside South Korean Park Joo Ho at F.C. Basel but spent the last two seasons at Liechtenstein’s only professional football team F.C. Vaduz. In his first season at Vaduz he scored nine goals and helped them win promotion to the Swiss Super League. He also played for F.C. Vaduz in the Europa League but moved to Swiss Challenger League team F.C. Biel-Bienne over the summer.
The 2015 East Asian Cup kicks-off on August 2nd with North Korea taking on Japan followed by South Korea against China. Those in Korea can watch the games on naver while those outside of Asia can watch the games on our homepage or on eversport.tv