On the 22nd of last month, Incheon United made history. They qualified for the 2023-2024 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League for the first time. Incheon defeated Hai Phong FC (Vietnam) in extra-time in the Asian Champions League playoffs.

The club’s first ACL appearance in 20 years. It was a big step. But coach Cho Sung-hwan never smiled. Judging from his comments on the field, he was probably thinking, “We won, but it was too hard.

‘We won, but it was too hard, because we conceded the first goal, scored the equalizer the hard way, and won in extra time. The score was 3-1, which looks easy, but it was actually too hard. I’m already worried about the group stage, where we will face stronger teams. And what about the K League, which follows immediately after.

“We should have finished in 90 minutes,” Cho continued, sighing deeply.

Three days later, Incheon played Suwon FC in the K League. They were fresh off a close win over Hai Phong FC with all their starters. It wasn’t going to be easy for Incheon to win. However, Incheon won the game with a dramatic goal from Oh Ban-seok just before the end of the game and went from 6th to 4th place. After that, Incheon lost 0-2 to Pohang, but beat Jeju 2-1.

Incheon is currently in seventh place. With 11 wins, 10 draws, and 9 losses, they have 43 points. Fourth-place Daegu has 44 points. “We will accumulate as many points as possible in the K League and then go all-in on the Asian Champions League,” Cho said. Incheon has games against Gangwon, Suwon, and Ulsan remaining. Incheon hopes to finish in sixth place, which is the minimum to qualify for Final A. If they finish in the top six, they will at least secure a mid-table position in the league and avoid relegation.

Incheon has made a number of high-priced signings in preparation for this season. The budget for the squad has increased significantly. Last year’s player salary was 8.9 billion won, but this year, the team reportedly invested more than 20 billion won, including transfer fees. While the team’s performance has been uneven due to the blunt strategy of paying for players and counterattacking, the midterm evaluation is not bad as the team has reached the mid-tier of the K League and qualified for the Asian Champions League. 바카라

Incheon will compete in Group G of the Champions League alongside last year’s J-League champions Yokohama (Japan), Shandong (China), and Caya (Philippines). They will play a total of six matches, home and away, and must finish in the top two to advance to the round of 16. For Incheon, Yokohama is out of the question, but Shandong and Kaya must be taken care of, especially at home.

Coach Cho rarely smiles. Even when he wins, his expression remains the same. Of course, it’s because of stress and worry. Even his players say they would love to see him smile.

Smiling is a sign of joy, accomplishment, and (at least) momentary satisfaction. The days of being criticized for smiling are long gone. No one accuses a smiling person of not working hard enough. Laughing and crying with coworkers and comrades is a sign of shared emotions and a strong sense of belonging. Laughter is not a sign of laziness, and crying is not a sign of weakness. Laughing and crying is a sign of honesty.