I decided to wait until the last minute to write my final Seongnam preview of the 2020 season as it seemed fitting that I should give my preview as much thought and attention as Kim Nam-il seems to have given his team selections and tactics at times this season. While that may seem unfair from the moment he tried to outsmart the dumbest manager in the league by starting with no strikers at home to Bluewings he lost pretty much all the positive credits he had earned beforehand. And so in the words of Vito Corleone, “How did things ever get so far”, as just how Seongnam FC find themselves battling for their very K-League One survival on the last weekend of the season remains a mystery to many among The Magpie faithful.
Seongnam go into Saturday’s near sell-out clash with Busan knowing that victory will see them survive in the K1 and will see either Busan or Incheon relegated to the K2. As the full-time whistle sounded in The Big Bird last Friday night and Kim Young-gwan sank to his knees in relief and prayer it looked like Seongnam had secured the victory that would ensure their survival. But this is 2020, and 2020 is no ordinary year on and off the pitch and so it was that the very next day Incheon would come from 1-0 down to defeat Busan 2-1 at home and guarantee a final weekend of meaningful games at both ends of the table.
That victory against Busan has surely given the Incheon squad a confidence boost akin to Jason Statham’s ‘Epinephrene’ shot in the movie Crank as they, quite incredibly, never gave up despite a VAR decision that would’ve dented even Cristiano Ronaldo’s confidence. The VAR decision in question was an overturned penalty award that saw Mugosa with the ball on the spot before it was cruelly, but correctly, overturned. Their perceived injustice seemed to spur them on and it wasn’t long before they had Busan on the ropes and then the canvas as two goals in just over a minute took the relegation battle to the final day.
And so here we are, a massive 90 minutes for Seongnam, Busan and Incheon as yet again the K-League serves us up a final weekend that the fans of most leagues in the world would dream to have. There are a couple of scenarios that could play out if Seongnam fail to win as ‘goals scored’ may also come into play although not in Seongnam’s favour. To simplify things, a Seongnam victory sees Incheon relegated, anything else will almost certainly see them relegated as Incheon should have enough about them to secure a win at Seoul World Cup Stadium.
And, just like 2016, Seongnam find themselves locked in a last day battle with Incheon and a Southern coast team and just like 2016 optimism is not high among the Seongnam fans. And so tomorrow they will pull on their lucky socks, slip their strip over their heads, grab their black scarf, put their ticket in it’s blessed spot in their wallet, walk up those punishing stairs of Yatap Exit 3, meander past a GS they won’t buy beers from (COVID), cross the Tancheon stream and gaze towards, what they hope is, Fortress Tancheon all the while hoping and praying that today is the day that Tomi finds his shooting boots, Iskanderov passes like a genius, Glory is unbeatable, Park Tae-jun is unplayable and more than anything else that Na Sang-ho is quite simply NA SANG-HO. Tomorrow is huge, tomorrow is massive, tomorrow is the last chance saloon for Kim Nam-il, tomorrow Seongnam sink or swim……