ACL dossier: Suwon Samsung Bluewings

Who are the opposition for Brisbane Roar in the ACL on Wednesday night? Our Asian football expert John Duerden gives you the inside word on this K-League outfit, including why their brilliant wing-backs and a Brazilian playmaker will be a danger.

Success in Asia runs in the blood of Seo Jung-won, the coach of Suwon Samsung Bluewings. One of the best players to ever hail from the east, the black-mac wearing tactician was part of the all-conquering Suwon side that won back to back Asian Club Championships in 2001 and 2002, popping up with crucial goals en route to both titles.

Few clubs have as much reason to lament the advent of the AFC Champions League as this Gyeonggi-Do giant. Two titles in two years before the new tournament came into being in 2003 and none since. 

That was also the year when Kim Ho, the wise old man of Korean football, left his position as head coach of the club.

Suwon is a city just to the south of Seoul and is in constant danger of being swallowed by the massive metropolis but maintains its own identity thanks to its wonderful fortress (and some of the best public toilets in the world and football).

Members of the Grand Bleu and other supporters groups claim that their home is the football capital of South Korea. It can be argued that Suwon, founded in 1995 and four-time champion of the K-League, is the biggest club in the country, though this, would be disputed by Seoul and these days Jeonbuk Motors.

When it comes to passion though, Bluewings fans probably have the edge. On match-days - admittedly less so in midweek games - the Big Bird Stadium rocks more than any other 2002 arena.

Coach Seo - scorer of a famous goal against Spain in a 2-2 draw at the 1994 World Cup also under Kim Ho when Korea weren't far away from making it out of a very tough group - made the step from assistant to become only the club's fourth ever manager at the end of the 2012 season.

The team and the coach are looking to restore some of the reputation damaged due to a dismal showing in the 2013 Asian Champions league when it finished bottom of its group. 

This should be a more solid showing for last year's K-League runner-up (even if it was a long way off the pace) though there are questions whether Suwon has the strength in depth to mount a serious challenge both at home and abroad.

The first eleven looks solid if lacking a little of something different. At the back, Jung Sung-ryeong started out as Korea's goalkeeper at the 2014 World Cup but had lost his place by the time it all finished. At the Asian Cup, he was third choice. Still recovering from injury however, he may not return for Brisbane.

Suwon's strength is two of the best wing-backs in the league. Oh Beom-seok on the right and Hong Chul on the left get forward at every opportunity and love nothing more than to cross into the box for North Korean goalgetter Jong Tae Se and new Brazilian strikers Leo, who scored the winning goal in the opening group game against Urawa Reds, and targetman Kaio who looked decent for Jeonbuk last season though has yet to get off the mark for his new team.

A third Samba star is the most important. Santos, the little giant as he is known in Korea, tends to work behind the strikers to pull the strings, create chances and score a few himself. The former Jeju United man can be hard to stop when he is at the top of his game but when he is not on song, Suwon can look a little flat. 

The other inspiration can come from Yeom Ki-hun, scorer of 94th minute winner on Saturday against Incheon United. If the winger was a better finisher, he would have been a major star.

As it is, he can still make things happen and likes this tournament and starred in Jeonbuk Motors' run to the 2006 title.

If he, or anyone else for that matter, can lead Suwon to a third Asian title then they would go down in Bluewings folklore but for the moment, getting to the knockout stage would be good enough.

See Wanderers' ACL opposition dossier here