Incheon makes first-ever ACL appearance, continues K-League ‘PO undefeated’ record

Can Incheon United continue its unbeaten and all-conquering record in the K League Playoffs (PO) as it heads to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League 바카라사이트(ACL) for the first time since its inception in 2003?

Incheon, coached by Cho Sung-hwan, finished fourth in the K League 1 last season to qualify for the 2023-24 ACL PO, and will look to complete the group stage of the ACL when they host Hai Phong FC (Vietnam) at the Incheon Football Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 22.

The ACL PO stage has been available to K League teams since 2015, with no team advancing past the PO until 2022.

It started with FC Seoul’s 7-0 win over Hanoi (Vietnam) in 2015, followed by Pohang Steelers’ 3-0 win over Hanoi in 2016, Suwon Samsung’s 5-1 win over Tan Hoa (Vietnam) in 2018, Ulsan’s 5-1 win over Perak (Malaysia) in 2019, and Seoul’s 4-1 win over Kedah (Malaysia) in 2020.

Most of the wins have been lopsided, but there have been some close calls. In 2017, Ulsan narrowly qualified after a 1-1 draw against Kitchee (Hong Kong), who were thought to have the objective power advantage, winning 4TK3 on penalties.

In 2021 and 2022, two teams were assigned 2+2 quarters and went through the PO, and in 2022, Ulsan Hyundai swept Port FC (Thailand) 3-0, but Daegu FC narrowly missed out 3TK2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw with Buriram United (Thailand).

In 2021, Pohang and Daegu were supposed to play the PO, but due to teams withdrawing in the wake of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), they immediately joined the group stage.

Incheon United head coach Cho Sung-hwan and Oh Ban-seok pose for a photo before the Hana OneQ K League 2023 media day at The K Hotel in Yangjae-dong, Seoul, on Feb. 20. 2023.2.20/News1 ⓒ News1 Staff Writers

For Incheon, it’s a history to be proud of, but it’s also a burden.

Incheon head coach Cho Sung-hwan said, “We want to continue the good momentum that K League teams have never been eliminated, and instead of the stigma of being the first team to be eliminated, we will show that we can advance to the main round in our first appearance in the ACL.”

Objectively, Incheon should be favored, but with the recent surge in quality of Southeast Asian clubs, it’s hard to think of the PO as a rite of passage to the group stage.

“We’re not letting our guard down at all. We will work hard to prepare for the main draw and bring results,” he said. To analyze the strength of his PO opponents, Cho took time out of his busy season to watch the second qualifier between Hai Phong and Rangers (Hong Kong).

Hai Phong were runners-up in the Vietnamese V-League last season and feature Vietnam international midfielder Truong, who previously played for Incheon, as a key player. They have a fast attack led by Ugandan striker Joseph Mpende.

If Incheon defeats Hai Phong and qualifies, the 2023-24 ACL will feature four K League teams – Ulsan Hyundai, Jeonbuk Hyundai, Pohang Steelers and Incheon.
Article courtesy of News1

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