Gangwon vs. Daejeon in the battle for a place in the best football league

One club will try to stay in the top flight of South Korean football, while another will look to join the greats after a six-year absence.

It will be K League 1’s Gangwon FC against K League 2’s Daejeon Hana Citizen in this year’s two-set promotion-relegation qualifying. The opening match kicks off at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday at Daejeon’s home at Hanbat Stadium in Daejeon, some 160 kilometers south of Seoul. The second leg will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Gangneung Stadium in Gangneung, about 230 kilometers east of the capital.

The winner, who will be determined on the total score, will compete in K League 1 next year. The loser will end up in K League 2.

Gangwon finished in the playoffs after finishing in 11th place, penultimate, in the Premier League. They had spent three seasons, from 2014 to 2016, in the second division before being promoted to K League 1.

But they had a tumultuous 2021 season, which included a COVID-19 outbreak and the mid-season sacking of head coach Kim Byung-soo, who was also accused of assaulting an assistant coach.

Former FC Seoul boss Choi Yong-soo was hired in mid-November, with two games remaining in the season, but failed to get Gangwon FC out of the league. relegation zone. They ended up in 11th place with a scoreless draw against FC Seoul on November 28 and beat Seongnam FC 2-1 in the season final on Sunday.

Forward Kim Dae-won scored both of Gangwon’s goals in Sunday’s victory and ended the season with nine goals, a high for the team.

Coached by Lee Min-sung, Choi’s 2022 FIFA World Cup teammate, Daejeon Hana Citizen last played in K League 1 in 2015. They finished the K League 2 season in third place. this year, then survived two rounds of the playoffs to reach the promotion-relegation showdown.

Japanese midfielder Masatoshi Ishida, under contract with Gangwon FC but loaned to Daejeon in June, led the club in K League 2 with nine goals in just 15 appearances. He was also named in the K League 2 Best XI squad for the season.

Ishida hasn’t scored any goals or assists in his first nine games for Gangwon this year before switching clubs.

There have been seven promotion-relegation qualifiers so far, and K League 2 teams have secured promotions in five of them.

Only Sangju Sangmu in 2017 and FC Seoul in 2018 successfully defended their territory. Choi, the current Gangwon FC head coach, headed FC Seoul in 2018. (Yonhap)

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