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FA Cup Quarter-Final Preview: Jeonnam Dragons vs Asan Mugungwha

FA Cup Quarter Final Preview: Jeonnam Dragons vs Asan Mugunghwa KEB Hana Bank Korean FA Cup
K League 1's second-bottom side Jeonnam Dragons take on K League 2's top side Asan Mugungwha this Wednesday afternoon in Gwangyang in the quarter-final of the FA Cup. Can the home side return to winning ways after their recent slump and secure a place in the last four? Or will the visitors quest for a remarkable double gather pace? Aodan Halligan and Branko Belan preview this Wednesday's game - the first ever meeting between the sides.
(image via K League)

Game: Jeonnam Dragons vs Asan Mugungwha
Venue: Gwangyang Football Stadium
Kickoff: 2PM

Last Time Out

What is it about football teams and certain venues? For Jeonnam Dragons that seems to be the case at one of South Korea's most popular tourist attractions - Jeju Island. Jeonnam, who haven't won a game at Jeju World Cup Stadium since 2011, suffered yet more heartbreak there last Saturday. But, the Dragons must be bitterly disappointed with the latest loss as Jeju came into the game on the back of a nine-game winless streak and were surely there for the taking. And to make matters worse, the Dragons missed several good chances and now have bottom side Incheon United breathing down their necks once again.  Dragons' Brazilian attacker Wanderson - so often their best player this season -  was particularly wasteful in front of goal and will probably not want to watch replays of some of his misses.

Jeju United's Samba contingent were not so profligate, however, and combined in the 24th minute to devastating effect. After picking the ball up near the centre of the field, Jeju's Brazilian number 10, Magna Cruz, flicked a bouncing ball past Jeonnam centre back Ga Sol-hyun before sprinting 30 yards down the left wing and sending a low left-foot cross into his fellow countryman, Tiago. And the 30-year-old striker side-footed the ball into the bottom left corner of the net. It proved to be the only goal of the game, too, as VAR cancelled two others (one each per team). So, even though tourists flock to the volcanic island every year, the Dragons couldn't wait to get out of there once again. It's been seven years now. Seven...

Full Time: Jeju United 1 Jeonnam Dragons 0

Highlights: here

Meanwhile, Asan Mugungwha defeated Suwon FC 2-1 to record their third consecutive victory and preserve their two-point lead at the top of K League 2. Kim Hyun gave the home side the lead in the 21st minute and Lee Myung-ju doubled their advantage midway though the second half. Lee Jae-an got one back for the visitors in the 75th minute, but the home side held on and extended their unbeaten streak to four games.

Full Time Asan Mugungwha 2 Suwon FC 1

Team News

Kim In-wan has rotated his squad heavily for the past two games and is expected to do so again on Wednesday. The Dragons' manager made nine changes to his lineup in the 1-0  defeat to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors last Wednesday and another nine in the 1-0 loss to Jeju United last Saturday. The former Daejeon boss will surely have to shuffle his pack once more with the hugely important home game against FC Seoul on the horizon this Saturday.  Lee Sang-yeon and Kim Kyung-min should both feature up front after being used sparingly in the last week, while veteran wing-back, Choi Hyo-jin, will most likely miss out in defence after playing the full 90 minutes against Jeju. Australian centre back James Donachie should return to the heart of the defence after being left out of the squad altogether last Saturday, while Park Joon-tae may slot back into midfield. Unfortunately, Ha Tae-goon's still not match fit so he'll most likely miss out once more.

The Adversary

FA Cup Quarter Final Preview: Jeonnam Dragons vs Asan MugunghwaAsan come into the quarter-final stage of the competition on the heels of a shock 2-1 victory over current runaway K League 1 leaders Jeonbuk Hyundai.  When they met, Son Jun-ho put the visitors ahead on 41 minutes, only for Lee Han-saem to notch a second half double, scoring his first ten minutes into the second half, and then striking again three minutes from time.

The team will look a bit different compared to last time out, both Hwang In-beom has since returned to his parent club, Daejeon Citizen, and now Park Ju-won who is also due to return to Citizen, having made his final home appearance for the club in their K League 2 fixture at the weekend, a 2-1 win over Suwon FC. Speaking to the club's official website, Asan manager Park Dong-hyuk stated that Yang Hyeong-mo was due to get the nod due to how the on-loan Suwon Bluewings goalkeeper performed against Jeonbuk.

Kim Hyun and Kim Jong-gook picked up yellow cards in the match against Jeonbuk, but should be available for selection.  Should they not be in the starting eleven, Asan can still count on the likes of Ko Mu-yeol, Park Se-jik, and Kim Do-hyuk to carry the load.

The club finds itself in a precarious position with questions looming over its future, but manager Park Dong-hik insists that the players are more focused now than at any point this season.

“It’s a difficult situation, but the players are strong in their willingness to unite,” he said recently.

The police side faces the possibility of being disbanded by the end of the season, but still remains atop the K League 2 standings, two points ahead of Seongnam.  They have shown mettle in recent weeks to maintain their focus amidst the difficulties facing the club, but they continue to play on.  Jeonnam will be a good opponent for them, and they have nothing to lose going into the match.  If they play the brand of football that has made them one of the more attractive teams to watch in K2 this season, they may have a chance to progress.

by Branko Belan

Who To Watch

Jeonnam Dragons will have to stay close to Asan Mugungwha midfielder Ahn Hyun-beom on Wednesday. The 2016 KFA Young Player of the Year is lightning quick and a brilliant dribbler. What's more, he always seems to play well against the Dragons. In fact, Ahn scored two goals against Jeonnam in a 5-3 win for Jeju United in October 2016 and ran many Dragons' defenders ragged in 2-2 draw between Jeju and Jeonnam at Gwangyang Football Stadium in July 2017. The midfielder's scored four goals for his new club, Asan, this season and on form is worth Wednesday's entrance fee alone.   


This one's tough to call and it really boils down to Jeonnam head coach Kim In-wan's rotation policy. He has to get the balance right because the Dragons' good form evaporated last week once he started making so many changes. But, if Kim doesn't rest some of his players with the FC Seoul game on Saturday in mind, the Dragons could end up rooted to the bottom of the table. However, if he decides to rest too many, Jeonnam could blow their only chance of silverware this season. It's a tough juggling act, yet he'll have learned from last week and, since Jeonnam are undefeated at home under his tutelage (and they've faced some pretty tough opponents in all four of those games),  they should win this one. But Asan are flying at the moment - so it'll be tight.

Jeonnam Dragons 3 Asan Mugungwha 2

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