Incheon United will take on the challenge of Asia. Their first opponent is Vietnamese club Hai Phong FC.
Incheon and Hai Phong will kick off the 2023-2024 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL) playoffs at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 22 at the Incheon Football Stadium.
Incheon had a season that exceeded expectations last year. Unlike previous seasons where they were constantly under the threat of relegation, they consistently competed at the top of the standings. Eventually, they made it to Final A for the first time in nine years and finished the season in fourth place.
The fruit was also sweet. With Jeonbuk Hyundai having already qualified for the ACL through the league standings, the FA Cup was won by fourth-place Incheon. It was the first time in the club’s history that Incheon had qualified for the ACL.
Incheon is preparing to take on the Asian stage with the unveiling of its first ACL jersey, “TAKE-OFF,” but it’s not a done deal yet. They will have to go through the playoffs before they can truly enjoy the joy of playing in the ACL. Hai Phong was announced as Incheon’s opponent on the 15th. Hai Phong defeated the Rangers of Hong Kong 4-1 in extra time in the ACL East Asia Regional Qualifier to advance to the playoffs.
It’s a meaningful matchup. Incheon and Hai Phong have a lot in common. Located in northern Vietnam, Hai Phong is a port city by the sea. It serves as a gateway to the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, and is considered one of Vietnam’s three largest cities, along with Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. There are also direct connections between the cities. The two cities have been twinned since 1997.
There are also soccer similarities between the two clubs. Hai Phong was also in the bottom half of the table not long ago. They narrowly avoided relegation in the 2019 season, finishing 12th out of 14 teams. The 2020 and 2021 seasons, which were not fully underway due to the COVID-19 pandemic, were also 12th in the final standings. 안전놀이터
Just as Incheon climbed up the standings under Cho Sung-hwan, Hai Phong has surged under Judin Ngheem, finishing second in the league last season and qualifying for the ACL. It’s not their first time in Asia, but it’s been a while. They played in the 1996-1997 Asia Cup Winners’ Cup. This season is similar in that the team has dropped a few spots in the standings compared to last season. Incheon is ranked 6th and Hai Phong is ranked 5th.
Hai Phong has a player who used to play for Incheon. The main player is Vietnamese midfielder Le Xuan Trung. He was the first Vietnamese player to play in the K League, joining Incheon on a season-long loan in 2016 and making four appearances. He left the league in 2017 on loan to Gangwon FC, and this year he joined Hai Phong, returning to Korean soil as an opponent of Incheon. Kim Do-hyuk and Kim Dae-jung, who were with the club seven years ago, remain with Incheon.