The Hana OneQ K League 2023 36th Round match between Incheon United and Bukbuk Hyundai took place at the Incheon Football Stadium at 2:00 pm on the 12th. Both teams were happy to share a point after a hard-fought 1-1 draw. Incheon took the lead through Kim Do-hyuk in the 15th minute of the second half, but couldn’t hold on to the lead as Park Jae-yong equalized with a header six minutes later.
Incheon has a lot of injuries. They have already lost key players like Lee Myung-joo, Shin Jin-ho, and Delbridge to injury. With so many players out for the season, it’s hard to get a boost in the remaining games.
Kim Do-hyuk is the centerpiece of Incheon’s defense in this situation. He leads the team on the field and takes care of the younger players. Against Jeonbuk, he even scored the opening goal. When we spoke after the game, he said, “We had a lot of injuries, and people around me said I was missing teeth, but I think you have to have gums to have teeth. My brothers prepared well and I thought we could beat Jeonbuk at home, and the fans would have expected that, but unfortunately we conceded the equalizer.”
At the beginning of the season, Kim Do-hyuk spent the preseason training as a wingback instead of his usual position as a central midfielder or flanker after discussions with coach Cho Sung-hwan. As the season progressed and injuries mounted, Kim moved back to the center midfield. And he performed as he always does.
“I talked to the coach and told him I would play in that position (wingback),” he says, “but there were better players than me, so I boldly chose midfield again. “I didn’t play well at wingback, but I was always in good shape. I was confident that I could do well enough, so I was able to overcome it.”
Incheon qualified for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League for the first time this season and are in the group stage. They are third in the group with two wins, two losses, and six points. They need to finish second to qualify for the round of 16. The two games against Shandong Taishan were particularly painful. Incheon lost both home and away.
“It’s an excuse, but I really resented the injured brothers. We weren’t a bad team and we could have won, but football is a team sport, and when one person is missing, it takes time to organize. I think we could have beaten Shandong if my brothers were there.”레모나토토
His first ACL this season was a thrill for him. “I learned about other countries’ soccer styles. I could see why other players wanted to play for the team that went to the ACL. The most positive thing is that young players from Incheon can have bigger goals and dreams. It’s going to be hard, but I want them to play in the UEFA Champions League, not the ACL.”
Incheon currently sits fifth in the K League 1 standings (53 points) and needs to finish fourth, one point ahead of Jeonbuk, to qualify for next season’s ACL2. Realistically, the direct ACL Elite (ACLE) tickets for first and second place and the ACLE playoff tickets for third place are hard to come by. With two games remaining, there is a five-point gap to third place.
“I really want to compete in ACL2,” said Kim, “I’ve already finished my image training. ACL2 also has a lot of prize money, so I want to win it.”
In particular, he said he has a lot to learn from ACL. “The environment is really good because all the opposing teams are top teams. Our environment has improved a lot, but there are things we can learn from China and Japan,” he said.
The most important thing to learn is the grass. He was surprised by the quality of the turf of the teams he faced in the ACL. “The first thing is the grass. It’s not just us, it’s the whole of the K League. From what I’ve heard, it’s a budget issue. Other leagues seem to have a lot of money invested in their turf. In Japan, it was hotter than ours in the summer, and the grass was really good. I had never seen grass before. So I was more excited than nervous. Gradually, Korea will get better.”