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FA Cup: Quarter-Final Preview - Jeju United vs Incheon United

This post is a preview of a FA Cup Quarter-Final tie that will be held on July 22nd. A preview for The other two matches will be covered in a Writer's Chat that will be posted shortly!

And then there was 8. The Korean FA Cup is a mere three rounds away from crowning a champion, and undoubtedly all of the remaining teams are licking their lips at the prospects of hoisting the Korean FA Cup and a berth to the Asian Champions League. But with the all-conquering Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors eliminated from the competition, it's hard to pick out which team will exit this competition as champions. Let's take a look at four of the remaining contenders and their quarter-final match-ups.

Jeju United vs Incheon United
@Seogwipo World Cup Stadium, Jeju Province

Although they were runners-up in this competition in 2004, the Jeju Island has never tasted FA Cup glory. As Bucheon SK, the incarnation of Jeju before their relocation, the franchise went all the way to the finals of the Korean FA Cup in 2004. However, there they fell to the Busan I'cons (later becoming the Busan IPark) on penalty kicks. Since making the move down south to the island, Jeju has progressed to the Semi-Final stage four times, but never gone through to the finals. Jeju will hope to take a step to reversing their final four misfortunes with a home win over Incheon in this year's Quarter-Finals.

Jeju were beaten soundly by Jeonbuk in the last K League matchday. In a very wet and very windy Seogwipo Stadium, the hosts could not cope with the loss of their two regular centrebacks to suspension. They featured an unusual 3-4-3 formation, with playmaker Song Jin-hyung finding himself on the left wing. Normally we would talk about team rotation and the like, but with 11 days separating that miserable loss to Jeonbuk and this crucial Quarter Final, I think we can expect a first team Jeju XI to take the pitch in Seogwipo, in their usual 4-3-3 formation.

Twice semi-finalists in 2007 and 2008, Incheon United could make a long awaited return to the final four with a win over Jeju. The citizen club has never hoisted the FA Cup since its founding in 2004, and has historically been relatively poor in this tournament, probably unable to cope with the depth this tournament asks of teams. Last season, they were knocked out in the Round of 32 against FC Seoul in Extra Time.

Incheon have been having one of their better seasons in recent history. The Korean Nerazzuri find themselves in 7th place just after the halfway point of the season, in the thick of this year's tight mid-table. They also enter the game in relatively good form, with only 1 loss in their last 6 matches. However, they lost at home 1-0 to Seongnam in the last K League round. Incheon rely on long balls to their target man and lone striker Kevin Oris, and it would be surprising to see him dropped for a squad without much of a Plan B. Expect them to lineup in their 4-1-4-1 direct formation and system, and aerially challenge centrebacks Oh Ban-seok and Yang Jun-ah.

Both Jeju and Incheon play somewhat different styles, with the Islanders keeping the ball on the ground and running at defenders through winger Lopez, but, as this is the K League, they can also punt it long, to center forward Kim Hyun. Incheon, on the other hand, have found success in staying relatively monotone, aiming for the head of their tall Belgian striker. Be wary of them on the counter as well, with former CSKA Moscow winger Kim In-seong able to turn on the jets on either wing at any time.

An even bigger contrast between these two teams lies in the Goals Scored/Goals Against statistics. Jeju United games historically see lots of goals - indeed, Jeju have scored the 3rd most goals in the K League Classic (33) and have conceded the second most (33). Incheon, on the other hand, love the one goal game, with only 22 goals scored this season (3rd worst) but have allowed the lowest amount with only 18 goals getting past keeper Yoo Hyun.

But in this ground vs air, goalfest vs binary scoreline battle, there is one major parallel to be drawn. Despite both these teams sitting only 4-5 points out of an Asian Champions League spot, due to the peculiarly extremely competitive mid-table, neither side really seems to have the goods to bring 3rd place home. Therefore, if both teams want to be able to qualify for Asia at the end of this season, it will be through this tournament that it will most probably happen. The question is - which teams will continue its pursuit of the Korean FA Cup in the Semi-Finals, and which team will be going home?

Prediction: Jeju were once thought to be unbeatable at home, but that has been proven false with recent results. Solid, sound defending by Incheon and their repeated long ball tactic will eventually exhaust the Jeju defence. It might not finish after 90 minutes (the two teams drew 0-0 on July 5th in the K League despite many chances), but it will finish eventually, and Incheon will prove victorious. 1-0 Incheon (AET).

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