The Pohang Steelers are in the midst of their first league championship in a decade, and things are looking up.
Led by head coach Kim Ki-dong, the Pohang Steelers have been dominating the league this season. As of the end of Round 32, they have 15 wins, 13 draws, and four losses, earning 58 points, leaving them in sole possession of second place behind Ulsan Hyundai, which leads the league with 66 points, and they are the team with the fewest losses among the 12 teams in the league, proving to be a formidable opponent for the leaders.
Pohang ‘AGAIN 2013’ hits the right note at the end of the season
Kim’s Pohang had a clear goal at the start of the season. It was to join the league championship race between Ulsan and Jeonbuk. After the start of the season, it was cruise control. After opening the season with two consecutive league wins, Pohang got off to a great start, winning five games, drawing four and going undefeated until the ninth round.
They suffered back-to-back defeats in rounds 10 and 11, but bounced back with two wins and two draws by round 15, and while a 4-2 loss to Gwangju FC in round 16 seemed to dampen their spirits, they bounced back with three wins and a draw by round 20.
A 1-0 loss to east coast rivals Ulsan Hyundai in the 21st round was a blow to their pride, but they have since come full circle, going 11 games unbeaten in the league. Including their Asian Champions League schedule, they have seven wins and six draws in 13 official matches. The team has overtaken Gwangju, Daegu, Seoul, Incheon, and Jeonbuk, who have been battling it out in the middle of the table, to take sole possession of second place, eight points behind leaders Ulsan.
Pohang, who are challenging for the league title with one of the league’s most prominent coaches, Kim Ki-dong, will naturally be reminded of the 2013 season when they last won the league title. Under Hwang Sun-hong, who is currently coaching the Asian Games men’s soccer team, Pohang won their fifth league title in 2013, beating Ulsan to win the league title, and they did the “double” in the FA Cup, beating then-powerhouse Jeonbuk Hyundai to win the title.
With the potential to win the FA Cup and the league in 2023, and a dramatic title in 2013 and a dramatic league title in 2024, Pohang will be looking to bring home the title with the foreign striker at the center.
‘Zeca’ is an all-rounder among the league’s top strikers
Zeca is a Brazilian specialist who joined the team in the winter transfer market. Zeca stepped onto the Korean stage last season when he left Mirasou FC (Brazil) and moved to Daegu FC on loan, and he showed irreplaceable performances in Daegu, becoming one of the league’s top strikers in his first season in Korea.
With seven goals and seven assists in 28 league appearances for a relegation-threatened Daegu side last year, Zeca continued his challenge in the K League, opting for a full transfer to the Pohang Steelers after being approached by head coach Kim Ki-dong upon the expiration of his loan deal with Daegu. In Pohang, where the team’s tactics and colors are 180 degrees different from Daegu’s, Zeca proved that last year’s performance wasn’t just a “flash in the pan” by performing flawlessly without any adjustment period.
After starting the season in the No. 9 role, Zeca began to produce offensive points in earnest, assisting Jung Jae-hee’s equalizer in the opening match. He continued to produce offensive points against Gangwon, Jeonbuk, Gwangju, Ulsan, and Daejeon, leading Pohang’s upward trend. He served as the perfect foil to coach Kim Ki-dong’s offensive tactics, and he also played in perfect harmony with the league’s strongest second line, including Kim Seung-dae, Go Young-joon, and Kim In-sung.
He finished the season with 10 goals and seven assists in 32 appearances, ranking fifth on the team in goals and second in assists. His ability to play the role of creator and helper makes him an integral part of Kim Ki-dong’s offense. Not just a frontline striker, but also a flanker and an attacking midfielder, Zeca is a hexagonal attacker with the ability to win aerial balls and decent speed from his 6-foot-2 frame.스포츠토토
What’s even more remarkable about Zeca this season is that he hasn’t had any ups and downs. After a steady start to the season, where he was able to come through for Pohang in crunch time, Zeca has become more resilient in the second half of the season. With five goals in his last six league games, Zeca was on fire with an assisted hat-trick against Hanoi FC in the first leg of the Asian Champions League, followed by a multi-goal performance in the second leg at home against Wuhan Sanjin on April 4, giving him seven goals and three assists in his last eight league games.
Pohang, who were unable to utilize ace Ko Young-jun in their crucial September league schedule due to his call-up to the Hangzhou Asian Games, have been able to hold on to second place in the league thanks to Zeca’s insane performance. With six games remaining, including the final round, they have increased their chances of making a dramatic league title run. In the final match of the regular round, Pohang will travel to Suwon Big Bird to take on the last-place Suwon Samseong and try to pick up a point.
Pohang now has just six league games remaining. Can Zeca’s toes keep the fire burning until the end of the season as the Pohang Steelers look to win their first league title in 10 years since the 2013 season?