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FA Cup Semi-Final Preview: FC Seoul v Bucheon 1995

Back in the early seasons following SK’s decision to relocate their football team to Jeju Island, fans of the former Bucheon SK would often make their presence known at Seoul World Cup Stadium whenever FC Seoul hosted Jeju United. It’s a testament to what they’ve achieved in the decade since, re-forming the team and then slogging through the wilderness of K3 for years until becoming founder members of the Challenge in 2013 that those same fans – and almost all of them have stayed – will be back at Sangam on Wednesday night to see their team face defending champions FC Seoul in an FA Cup Semi-Final (kick-off 7:30pm).

It could have been even better for Bucheon supporters as a few short weeks ago, it looked as though the Cup run could have been the icing on a promotion season with things seemingly set fair for Bucheon to capitalize on Ansan’s implosion and come through to claim the Challenge Championship. It’s gone wrong and while it’s desperately tight, they currently find themselves in 5th place with one game to go. They’re not alone in inconsistency as with the exception of Busan, who’ve stormed up the league in recent weeks, all the top contenders have been beating each other but it’s Bucheon who perhaps have more cause for regret than most.

A worrying tendency to give away late goals has cost them on a number of occasions, most recently on Sunday when having got themselves back in the game at Busan, they conceded an 89th minute winner giving their opponents an advantage in the play-off race. Were it not for a number of seemingly certain home wins turn into defeats in the dying minutes, Bucheon could well be celebrating promotion by now. As it is they host Goyang this coming Sunday needing a victory for a chance of a play-off spot.

Goyang are bottom of the league and have been dreadful all season but anything can happen. That’s what Bucheon themselves demonstrated when defying the odds to knock out Jeonbuk in the quarter finals with a remarkable 3-2 win away in Jeonju. That made them the only team to beat Jeonbuk in domestic competition this year until (who else?) Jeju United beat them in the league. Can Bucheon pull off a remarkable Classic top two knock-out?

They’ll need to be on their game to do so and take the opportunities that Seoul have tended to generously present opponents with this season. The dangerous Lukian has been Bucheon's main man this term with 15 goals and continues to make a case for a Classic team to take a chance on him. His fellow Brazilian strike partner Waguininho has found the net 9 times while ex-Seoul man Moon Ki Han and Jin Chang Soo, a perennial lower-leaguer who was signed from Goyang in the close season, have weighed in with a few from midfield. Both those two came off the bench at Busan at Sunday with Jin getting Bucheon’s goal. However, only the three bottom teams have scored fewer in 2016. At the back, they have the joint-meanest defence in the Challenge with Han Hee Hoon, Kang Ji Yong and Lee Hak Min virtual ever-presents. They are going to be tested at both ends of the field on Wednesday.

Seoul have faced opposition from the Challenge already this year as they overcame Ansan 2-1 in Choi Yong Soo’s final match back in June. Seoul and Jeonnam then huffed and puffed for 120 minutes before settling their goalless quarter-final tie on penalties. In the months since, Seoul have seen their title hopes surprisingly rekindled after Jeonbuk’s points deduction and dip in form but following the Champions League exit last week, retaining the FA Cup still remains the best chance for silverware in the capital so expect a full strength line-up from the home team.

Adriano has rediscovered his shooting boots with four goals in his past three games (two from penalties) and it will be interesting to see if Hwang Sun Hong sticks with starting both he and Dejan Damjanovic with Park Chu Young behind them or if say, Yun Il Rok, gets a chance from the start. Seoul invariably give chances away but they make them too and you have to fancy that they will have just a little bit too much for the Challenge club this time.

Bucheon fans have served their time watching semi-professional fare at park venues such as Gangbuk and Nowon. Now they are back at Korea's principle football stadium and in theory just three games away from the Asia Champions League. They may have to wait just a little longer though.

Prediction: FC Seoul 3-1 Bucheon 1995

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