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FA Cup Final Preview: Suwon Samsung Bluewings vs Daejeon Korail

It's the fairy tale every lower league team dreams of: third division side Daejeon Korail have earned a spot in the FA Cup Final and will face K League heavyweights Suwon Samsung Bluewings over two legs to determine the domestic champion. Korea Away Days Scott Whitelock and Daejeon Korail FC blogger David Speirs preview this David vs Goliath match up. 

Scott Asks, David Answers

Scott Whitelock: Daejeon’s form dropped a little after their semi-final victory against Sangju Sangmu. How are Korail looking coming into the first leg?

David Speirs: I don’t think Korail’s form has dropped off to be honest, they are looking as good as ever! There was a defeat to Busan where the players looked exhausted after their battling first leg against Sangju, and then a heavy defeat against Gimhae when a lot of players were rested. But there have been a couple of good wins against Gyeongju and Gangneung recently. Korail finished mid-table in the league with a fairly average record. It’s been all about the cup this season.

SW: With the 2nd leg being played in Suwon how important is it for Daejeon to avoid defeat in this game?

DS: I’m really happy the first leg is at home for Korail. The longer they can keep it close over the two ties, the better. Especially as all the pressure is on Suwon. I’d be more than happy with a draw in the first leg.

SW: A number of players have caught the eye for Daejeon Korail this year. Do you think it’s possible we’ll see the likes of Lee Gwan-pyo and Kim Jung-ju playing at a higher level next year?

DS: Lee Gwan-pyo definitely. The only reason I can think he isn’t already at a higher level is that he looked a little weak defensively and prone to the odd mistake in the early part of the season. He’s looked much more consistent lately. He’s a threat from the dead ball, skillful, and a great passer. At 25, I’d think any K2 team would want him, and maybe a couple of K1 teams too.

At 28, Kim Jung-ju has been around a lot longer. He’s been great for Korail this season, and he could play at a higher level, but maybe he’s happy just now at Korail playing week in week out. It’s the same for a lot of Korail players, who are in their late twenties, early thirties. Kim Tae-eun is another I like at right back. Good, solid defender, as good as most in the K2, and played a lot of his career there, but K League teams will be looking at younger players to add to their squad.

SW: What do you think Daejeon need to do if they are to pull off an unlikely win in the final?

DS: Keep it tight and make Suwon nervous. Punish them at set pieces. Rainfall of biblical proportions like the second leg of the semi-finals wouldn’t go amiss either.


We discuss what to expect from the Final and what it means to each club with Suwon and Socceroos striker Adam Taggart

David Asks, Scott Answers

David Speirs: Suwon seem to take the Cup more seriously than any other K League team. Is this true? And if so, is it driven by the fans who want to see a trophy?

Scott Whitelock: Suwon's recent performances in the FA Cup would definitely suggest that it's a competition that they target and are always keen to win. They have reached the semi-final in their previous two campaigns and famously won in 2016. A win in this final would see them become the most successful team in the history of the competition overtaking Pohang's four wins.

Suwon are a club with a rich history and still rank as one of Asia's most successful teams, but most of that success is now a thing of the past and their supporters have had a difficult time adjusting to the situation the club now find themselves in. For the fans, winning a trophy is paramount and manager Lee Limsaeng has stated he will resign if he fails to win the FA Cup this year. However, for the higher ups at the club, an FA Cup win would probably be more important for qualification to the ACL and the monetary benefits that that provides.

DS: A glance at the K League top scorers chart suggests that Adam Taggart is the man to watch out for. How would Korail best stop him?

SW: The best way to stop Adam Taggart is to stop the service to him. Taggart is a natural and predatory finisher who has consistently proven lethal in and around the penalty area. However, for all his many attributes, Taggart is not the type of player who can unlock a defence all by himself. The key to stopping him scoring would be to nullify the creative players in the team such as Yeom Ki-hun, Jeon Se-jin and Kim Min-woo. If Korail are able to flood the midfield and keep crosses from reaching the Australian then they might have some success in stopping the K League 1's top scorer.

DS: How are Suwon fans feeling about this game? Confident? Nervous? How do they view Daejeon Korail?

SW: It would be an understatement to say that Suwon fans are feeling some trepidation going into the Final. It's been a tough campaign for the Bluewings and there is a general feeling of discontent hanging over the supporters. On paper, Suwon should easily win this game over two legs but everyone has already seen what Daejeon have done to Sangju Sangmu, Gangwon FC, and Ulsan Hyundai.

If Suwon don't bring a first leg lead back to Suwon World Cup Stadium, then that trepidation will grow even greater given Suwon's abysmal home form. Suwon have only won five of their 18 home games in the league this year. They've had more joy at home in the FA Cup winning all of their matches, but required extra-time against fourth tier Hwaseong FC, and a penalty shoot-out against third tier Gyeongju KHNP on the way to this final. If Daejeon keep things tight in the first leg, then they should fancy themselves on their travels to Suwon.

DS: Korail’s average crowd this season was 132, although we should do a bit better than that for a cup final.  How many Suwon fans do you think will attend the away leg?  

SW: In my biased opinion, Suwon have the best fans in the country and will probably have a good away support for the first leg. The game being played on a Wednesday night wont help the attendance, but there should be more than 300 hundred fans traveling to Daejeon.

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