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Go counting on home strength to power FC Seoul's challenge

Seoul: FC Seoul’s Go Yo-han has vowed his team will look to go undefeated at their Seoul World Cup Stadium home when the 2020 AFC Champions League resumes as the former finalists seek to return to the pinnacle of the Asian club scene.

The K-League club won their opening Group E encounter with Melbourne Victory last month before proceedings were halted due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but Go is confident FC Seoul can make their home form count as they attempt to seal a place in the knockout rounds.

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“All the teams we face in the group stage are good teams,” Go told “Beijing FC, Melbourne Victory and Chiangrai United are all tough teams to face. They have their characteristics and their strong points respectively.

“In the AFC Champions League the participating teams have to go through a lot of difficulties in their away games. I think our chances of advancing to the Round of 16 depend on how we do in our away games."

“We will prepare the Beijing game and Chiangrai game thinking that we will make it to the next stage. In our home games, we must get points.

“We’ve had one game so far and all the other games have been delayed, but it’s the same for all teams on the AFC Champions League. It’s important to maintain our condition and rhythm. We have confidence, and we are getting more and more ready. We will never lose at home. Just watch!”

Park Chu-young’s early goal earned FC Seoul all three points against Melbourne last month despite the absence of Go, who was sidelined due to injury, and the veteran midfielder saw enough from his colleagues to be confident of another strong showing by the 2013 finalists.

“As I watched my teammates, who prepared so hard during our winter training camp, win the game at home, I wanted to play so much,” he said. “I think it was a good start to claim the three points.

“We weren’t perfect, but I think we partially showed what we had prepared. We found that there are some improvements to be made, but we also acquired confidence.”

Group E - MD2: FC Seoul 1-0 Melbourne Victory

The 32-year-old has been a part of the club through their various ups and downs in recent seasons, featuring for FC Seoul when they reached the AFC Champions League final seven years ago – when they lost on away goals to China’s Guangzhou Evergrande – while also claiming three K-League titles.

Central to the team’s success was head coach Choi Yong-soo, who steered FC Seoul to the 2012 K-League title and the Korean FA Cup three years later during his first stint before moving to China to take over at Jiangsu Suning in 2016.

The separation did not work out well for either party, with Choi’s stint in the Chinese Super League lasting less than a year while FC Seoul slipped from their position at the summit of Korean football.

That all changed, however, with the former Korea Republic striker’s return in 2018, with Choi leading the club back into the AFC Champions League with a third place finish in the league last season.

“When Choi Yong-soo was the head coach of FC Seoul, we were strong in all championships and tournaments,” said Go. “The role of a head coach is especially important in big and important games."

“The team went through some hard times while he was gone, and he brought the team straight to the top of the league table right away. He is a capable head coach who has the full trust from the players.

“Choi is excellent in dealing with the players. He knows when to push hard and pull softly. He always keeps the team tense. Players always have to compete with other players in the same position and play as a team. Also, as a coach he’s tactically flexible. He knows how to respond in certain games, and that’s why we always get a result.”

With Choi back at the helm and FC Seoul restored to the AFC Champions League, can the club from the Korean capital make a significant impact on this year’s competition? Go is confident they have the tools to succeed.

“Our current squad is made up of good and young players,” he said. “That’s why we have better teamwork, and I’m sure we will achieve a good result if we stick together.

“Yes, we had a lot of good players in 2013, but the current squad is also good enough. The result of a championship is not related to the sum of individual player’s ability. It’s more related to how everyone plays as one team, how tactically ready the players are, and also how mentally prepared they are.

“We will try to get a good result this season too.”

Photos: FC Seoul

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