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Korean Cup Last 16 Preview

The Korean Cup returns this Wednesday at the Last 16 stage. Every club below K League 2 has now been eliminated. Four teams will take part for the first time, including holders Pohang Steelers, who host Suwon Samsung in the stand-out fixture. These are the matches, the form, a prediction, and who the winners could face in the following round.

The matches are scheduled to take place on Wednesday, June 19th. 

Match 45: Pohang Steelers (1) vs. Suwon Samsung (2)
Pohang Steelyard, 19:00. Tickets.

Byun Seong-hwan will take the struggling Bluewings to Pohang.
How they got this far:
Defending champions Pohang Steelers are making their first appearance in the Korean Cup this season, due to AFC commitments. Legendary manager Kim Gi-dong delivered a memorable parting gift after their late comeback win over rivals Jeonbuk Motors in the decider. That victory put Pohang level on 5 Cup victories with Suwon. The Bluewings required a late winner to avoid penalties against K3's Chuncheon Citizen in the second round, before knocking out Ansan Greeners at the same stage in consecutive seasons. The carrot of welcoming Seoul to Big Bird dangles in front of the Bluewings.

Form guide: 
Since last winter's bitter relegation, Suwon make their first visit to a K League 1 stadium in 2024. They do so from a position of weakness. After topping K League 2 in April, the club embarked on a brutal run of five straight losses, resulting in the resignation of manager Yeom Ki-hun. New man Byun Seong-hwan has only been in the door a fortnight, leading the Bluewings to a pair of draws on the road. Pohang rebounded from an opening-day defeat to charge into first spot but have since fallen into a chasing pack that includes Ulsan HD, Gimcheon Sangmu, and Gangwon FC. The Steelers haven't won at home since May 4th, and currently sit 3rd in the table.

Prediction: 
Pohang Steelers 2-0 Suwon Samsung.

The winners of this clash will host FC Seoul or Gangwon FC


Match 46: FC Seoul (1) vs. Gangwon FC (1)
Seoul World Cup Stadium, 19:30. Tickets.

He might have changed clubs, but this is the man who led the Steelers to Korean Cup success last season.
How they got this far:
FC Seoul avoided a potential banana skin in Mokdong, beating Seoul E-Land 1-0. The result guaranteed their passage to the next round and earned Kim Gi-dong's side a home tie against this season's surprise package, Gangwon FC. Should Seoul advance, an intriguing away tie awaits; Manager Kim's former club, who he led to the Cup last season, or bitter rivals Suwon. Gangwon were made to work hard for their place in the Last 16. K3's Hwaseong forced extra time in Gangneung before eventually slipping to a 3-1 defeat. The Bears will be looking to better their semi-final appearance in 2021.

Form guide: 
Kim Gi-dong has yet to make the start he hoped for with FC Seoul. On Sunday night they showed real guts to come back from 2-0 at halftime to claim a point in Munsu, but after 17 games, Seoul are far from safe. Relegation remains an unlikely possibility. Gangwon, on the other hand, are having a fairytale season. Saturday's 3-1 win over Suwon FC temporarily propelled Gangwon to first spot on the back of a 5-game winning streak. Interestingly, Gangwon will be back in Seoul seven days after this tie when they return for a league match. If you offered Seoul a win in one of these games, which one would they pick?


Prediction: 
FC Seoul 2-1 Gangwon FC (aet)

The winners will travel to Pohang or Suwon.


Match 47: Gimpo FC (2) vs. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (1)
Solteo Stadium, 19:00. Tickets.

Gimpo FC will be looking to add Jeonbuk Motors to their list of notable scalps.
How they got this far:
A rare home tie for K League 2 Gimpo FC following months of redevelopment work at their stadium. Gimpo won the right to host Gyeonggi rivals FC Anyang in the 3rd round but lost that privilege due to the construction. At the time, Anyang were flying and Gimpo struggling near the foot. But Ko Jeong-woon's side stole the game deep into extra time. 12 months ago Gimpo shocked FC Seoul on penalties so they have some cup pedigree. In the previous round, Gimpo eliminated K5's Byuksan in the unfamiliar surroundings of Hanam Sports Complex. Losing finalists Jeonbuk Motors are making their seasonal bow in the Cup. Winning outright might be the only way to rescue another disappointing season.

Form guide: 
After a difficult start that saw Gimpo travel to every stadium apart from Bucheon, they've settled into 4th with a clutch of home games upcoming. Spending so much time on the road must have been emotionally and physically exhausting, so Gimpo deserve credit for staying in the playoff picture. They closed out the weekend with a 1-0 win over Ansan. Gimpo welcome a Jeonbuk side that's under new management in recent weeks. Dan Petescru's appointment never felt right but there has not been a noticeable upturn in performances or results since the Romanian left. On Sunday they blew a two-goal at home to Incheon United, to extend an unimpressive run to one win in nine games. Relegation fight!

Prediction: 
Gimpo 1-2 Jeonbuk.

The victors of this tie will host Daejeon Hana Citizen or Jeju United.


Match 48: Daejeon Hana Citizen (1) vs. Jeju United (1)
Daejeon World Cup Stadium, 19:30. Tickets.

Jeju made it to the semis in 2023. A repeat this season would be a remarkable achievement.
How they got this far:
Daejeon Hana entered in the third round, avoiding a potential banana skin in Jinju, to win 2-0. The K4 side had dumped out Chungnam Asan so Daejeon understandably arrived with some trepidation. Midtable Jeju United needed penalties to advance beyond Cheonan City FC in the last round. The 90 minutes ended 2-2 but Kim Hak-beom's men advanced 4-3 on penalty kicks. The K League 1 rivals met at the same stage last year, with Jeju claiming a thrilling 4-3 win. That victory propelled the Islanders on a proper Cup run all the way to a typhoon-delayed semi-final, where they were dismissed by eventual champions, Pohang Steelers.

Form guide: 
Daejeon Hana warmed up for this Cup tie with a masterful defensive display during a 1-1 draw in Pohang on Saturday evening. After 3 straight losses, Daejeon have picked up 4 points from 6 and are in the process of strengthening their squad. They're still in the relegation zone but positive signs at last. Jeju are only three points clear of the relegation zone following Sunday's miserable loss to bottom club Daegu FC. The performance was so poor that manager Kim Hak-beom felt compelled to apologize to supporters after the game. Jeju won the league match between these clubs just three weeks ago.

Prediction: 
Daejeon Hana 1-2 Jeju United.

The winners will make the trip to Jeonju or Gimpo in July.



Match 49: Bucheon FC 1995 (2) vs. Gwangju FC (1)
Bucheon Stadium, 19:00. Tickets.

Bucheon will fancy their chances of progressing when they welcome Gwangju FC.
How they got this far:
Bucheon FC 1995 knocked out 2 second-tier sides, 2-1, at home and on the road. Both matches represented potential banana skins for the play-off challengers and their reward for progression is a midweek fixture against resurgent K League 1 underdogs Gwangju FC. Bucheon's third-round win in Mokpo robbed us of a Jeollanam-do derby between Gwangju and FC Mokpo. Due to their Asian commitments, Gwangju are the third team to join at this stage. They have met in the round of 16 recently. Two years ago, Bucheon eliminated Gwangju 2-1 in this stadium, when both clubs were based in the second tier.

Form guide: 
Bucheon blew a rare opportunity to pick up three points on the road when they let slip a 1-0 lead in the 92nd minute to championship outsiders Jeonnam Dragons. Lee Young-min's side aren't winning enough games but they have suffered just one defeat in eight league games. Gwangju briefly climbed into the top half of the table following Saturday's surprise victory over Gimcheon Sangmu. They have now won two straight as their wildly inconsistent form continues. 

Prediction: 
Bucheon FC 1995 1-0 Gwangju FC.

K League 2 clubs Seongnam or Cheongju await the winners.

Match 50: Seongnam FC (2) vs. Chungbuk Cheongju FC (2)
Tancheon Stadium, 19:00. Tickets.

Cheongju took all three points when they played Seongnam earlier this season.
The only all-K2 clash remaining in the Korean Cup takes place in Yatap on Wednesday night. Both Seongnam and Cheongju dumped out K League 1 opposition to set up this mighty second-tier clash. Before beating Suwon FC in the last minute, Seongnam got their Cup run off to a cozy start away to K3's Pocheon FC. The 3-0 win came only a few days after they parted ways with manager Lee Ki-hyung. Cheongju coasted past K4 Gimhae in the second round, to set up a glamorous tie with K League 1 strugglers Daegu FC. After taking Daegu to extra time, Cheongju sealed their place in the next round with a 117th-minute winner.

Form guide: 
Arguably the biggest winners and best performers over the weekend in K League 2, Seongnam FC inflicted a comprehensive 3-1 defeat on leaders FC Anyang. After a truly disastrous run of form in May, Seongnam have picked up back-to-back wins and will enter the Cup with renewed confidence. Chungbuk Cheongju missed the opportunity to climb into 5th spot following Sunday's draw with Cheonan City. Bruno Motta rescued a point in the 82nd minute, condemning Cheongju to their 9th draw in 16 games. 

Prediction: 
Seongnam FC (p) 0-0 Chungbuk Cheongju.

A trip to Bucheon or Gwangju awaits the victors.

Match 51: Ulsan HD (1) vs. Gyeongnam (2)
Munsu Stadium, 19:00. Tickets.

Can Park Dong-hyuk mastermind a giant killing?
And finally, we welcome the fourth amigo to the Korean Cup. Ulsan HD, back-to-back K League 1 champions were desperately unlucky not to advance to the final of the AFC Champions League but that could increase their motivation to lift this trophy. This being their opener means we've no relevant form to discuss. The fixture is a tasty one for their provincial rivals and one-time K League 1 heavyweight, Gyeongnam FC. Gyeongnam's form has been so poor this season that only the Cup has brought some joy. A couple of 1-0 wins, first in Paju and most recently at home to Jeonnam Dragons, has seen Park Dong-hyeok's side advance to this stage.

Form guide: 
It took Ulsan HD barely a minute to open the scoring against FC Seoul on Sunday night and that lead was doubled going into the break. It was going so well for Hong Myung-bo's side before their cup bow but Big Stan netted twice in the second half to hand Seoul an unlikely point. Ulsan are top but remain unconvincing. Nearly 7,000 fans paid in to watch struggling Gyeongnam FC use all of their seven lives to keep a clean sheet against Suwon Samsung on Saturday. Gyeongnam's season has never gotten off the ground, with half of their four wins coming against the only team below them in the table.

Prediction: 
Ulsan HD 3-0 Gyeongnam FC.

Incheon United or Gimcheon Sangmu will visit the winners.

Match 52: Incheon United (1) vs. Gimcheon Sangmu (1)
Incheon Football Stadium, 19:00. 
Can last season's semi-finalists go one further this time?
Two teams with credible claims to a Final A league finish and a long run in the Cup meet at Sungui Arena in one of the round's more intriguing ties. Incheon labored past Gimhae in the third round, having originally been selected to play away. Gimcheon's victory was more significant and hilarious. After snatching automatic promotion from Busan IPark on the last day, Gimcheon presumably expected a reaction when Park Jin-sub brought his Busan side to Gimcheon. Busan led 2-1 going into the 90th minute, then did what they always do - gave up a late goal - before eventually bowing out in extra time. Busan must hate the sight of Gimcheon, even more so since they're riding high in K League 1.

Form guide: 
With 15 minutes to play, it was looking like Incheon United were headed for the midweek cup tie on the back of a damaging defeat to relegation-threatened Jeonbuk Motors. However, like Seoul over in Ulsan, Cho Sung-hwan's troops staged a late comeback from 2-0 down and boarded the bus home with a point. Gimcheon Sangmu suffered a rare defeat on Saturday - just their fourth of the season - in Gwangju. Admittedly, Sangmu weren't helped by a nonsense first-half red card, keeping Gwangju out until very late before falling to a 2-0 loss. It ended Gimcheon's run of 11 games without defeat. These two sides met last month in the league when Incheon came from 2 down to snatch a late point. 

Prediction: 
Incheon United 1-2 Gimcheon Sangmu.

The winner will travel to the victor of Ulsan HD or Gyeongnam.

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