Posté le 9 novembre
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ACL: K-League struggles against China and Southeast Asia

Ulsan, Jeonbuk, Incheon in the round of 16 without Pohang

The K League clubs competing in the 2023-2024 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL), Asia's top professional soccer competition, have not been able to sustain their early momentum. Back-to-back defeats on the road in China and Southeast Asia have left them with no guarantee of advancing to the round of 16 tournament.

The ACL group stage has reached the fourth game of six matches, and only the Pohang Steelers, the top team in Group J, have qualified for the round of 16. Pohang has won all four games, including a 2-1 home win over Urawa Reds (Japan) on Aug. 8.

However, the other three teams in the group are not guaranteed a spot in the round of 16.

The start of the tournament hasn't been bad for K League teams. Ulsan Hyundai, Jeonbuk Hyundai, and Incheon United, as well as Pohang, all won their first round matches in September.

While Pohang continued to build on their momentum, the rest of the teams began to falter, falling to Chinese and Southeast Asian teams in quick succession, clouding their Round of 16 prospects.

Ulsan lost on the road against Kawasaki Frontale (Japan) in the second round, then defeated Johor Darul Taqzim (Malaysia) 3-1 at home in the third round, but lost 1-2 to Johor in Malaysia on July 7.

Jeonbuk lost 2-3 to Bangkok United (Thailand) on the road in the second leg, beat Ryan City (Singapore) 3-0 at home in the third leg, but fell to Ryan City 0-2 on the road in the fourth leg.

Incheon United defeated Kaya Iloilo (Philippines) 4-0 in Game 2, but lost 0-2 at home to Shandong Taishan (China) in Game 3 and fell 1-3 to Shandong on the road in Game 4.

This leaves Ulsan, Jeonbuk and Incheon in the position of needing to qualify for the round of 16, which is reserved for the top three teams from each of the five groups in Asia East.

Shandong, with nine points, and Melbourne City (Australia), with seven points, are the top two teams in their respective groups, with Ulsan a close third with six points. Jeonbuk, with six points, is in fourth place, one point behind on goal difference.

Incheon is also on six points alongside Ulsan and Jeonbuk, but has slipped to third place behind Shandong, the second-place team in the group.

The fifth and sixth games, which will determine who advances to the round of 16, will be held later this month and on March 12 and 13, respectively.

It will be interesting to see how many K League teams can advance to the round of 16. In the last edition, Ulsan and Jeonnam Dragons were eliminated in the group stage, and Jeonbuk and Daegu met in the round of 16. Jeonbuk beat Daegu and advanced to the quarterfinals, where they defeated Bissell Kobe (Japan), but fell to the eventual champions Urawa Reds. slotplayground

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