Around the world, there are tons of thrilling, historic rivalries in club and international football, often fueled by motives other than the simple red vs blue or a mere geographical battle. Brazil vs Argentina, or Scotland vs England, some of the Middle East rivalries come to mind. Of course, for us as Korean national team fans, there are few other matches we look forward to than a full out Haniljeon. Korea vs Japan.
Despite this, quite obviously in this tournament the best players are not present – so it’s not quite a full out Haniljeon. But the players wearing their national team’s shirts this time around have had to be patient for their call-ups – but certainly won’t be low on passion.
I don’t know if I need to bring previous Korea vs Japan matches to light – many of you will remember that glorious afternoon in London, or that forgettable evening in Doha. But let’s do it anyways – to provoke the nostalgia or, well, remind ourselves of our despair after previous haniljeons.
2010: Korea 2:0 Japan
A sweet day in Saitama. A game remembered of course for being our farewell match ahead of the successful 2010 World Cup, and perhaps even more for Park Jisung’s long stare at the Japanese supporters after an unstoppable run and goal in the 6th minute.
2011 Asian Cup SF: Korea 2:2 Japan (Japan wins on PKs)
This one still stings. Park Jisung and Lee Youngpyo’s final real match in a KNT shirt. Sure, there was that 3rd place game we won after, but this is really what the exit of possibly the last two most influential players in the Korean national team shirt is. A crushing defeat to the Old Enemy despite a crazy last minute equalizer.
2012 Olympics: Korea U23 2:0 Japan (Third place game, Korea wins medal and secures military exemption)
Ok, so I’m sort of cheating by putting this one here since our A-Team wasn’t involved in this one, but a lot of the players on our current first string KNT lineup did indeed win military exemption in this crucial Bronze Medal match. Also remembered for Hong Myungbo’s first (and only) managerial success, giving us false hope/angst about his pitiful situation at Arsenal about Park Chuyoung, and in so doing, creating the Tavern of the Taeguk Warriors.
2013 East Asian Cup: Korea 1:2 Japan
The last East Asian Cup match between these two teams, and the most recent Haniljeon. Remembered for Yun Illok’s memorable strike, one of the better KNT goals in recent memory, if not the best, but also for handing Japan the EAFF Cup in Seoul.
This time around…
Korea and Japan are coming into this tournament on similar terms, without their Europe based players, but have experienced fairly different results in the first round of matches at this year’s East Asian Cup. The Koreans saw their CSL based central defense (Kim Younggwon/Kim Juyoung/Jang Hyunsoo) and their Korea based attack (Lee Jongho/Kim Seungdae/Lee Jaesung/Lee Junghyub) mesh very well against a Chinese team who at a certain point just stopped trying. As wonderful as that result was, against China’s first team, remember that the Chinese have a tendency to quickly lose shape. Basically, don’t drink too much of the kool-aid. It was fun, there were many bright spots, but it was only one game.
The Japanese created lots of chances in their all J.League lineup against North Korea, but despite a 2nd minute goal by Muto – no, not the one that just moved to Mainz – they crumbled because of their inexperience and lack of height in defense. A substitution by the North Koreans saw Pak Hyonil come into the game, and his height exposed Japan’s defensive achilles heel, assisting one goal and scoring the winner.
So, what are the teams?
Stielike threw a curveball last time by starting a lineup that most of the blogging community was satisfied with – Lee Jaesung starting, Kim Seungdae and Lee Jongho getting debuts, Kwon Changhoon starting in midfield. This time around, no one really seems to know what Stielike is going to do. Ilgan Sports is predicting that we are going to starting a completely new starting XI against the Japanese… here’s how it looks.
It doesn’t look very good lol. I hope this isn’t what we play, because we’re hoping for a win, but you can’t really blame Stielike if he wants to give all 23 players a run out on the pitch. In terms of ensuring total experimentation, this meets that criteria quite resoundingly, but in the hopes of securing a victory against Japan, I hope this isn’t what we play.
The only shred of tactical logic in that lineup would be playing Kim Shinwook up top. The Japanese were exploited by the height of a North Korean sub in the last match, and this is something that we can also take advantage of as well. However, that lineup would lack the kind of running or creativity in midfield offered by Kwon Changhoon/Lee Jaesung, and seems to be like one destined for failure. Kim Minwoo doesn’t offer much, and playing Joo Sejong in the number 10 role is sort of odd, seeing how Busan have been playing up further down the pitch all season. For the fan, this lineup would be shockingly disappointing, but in the sake of experimentation, because that is what this tournament essentially offers, I won’t complain too loudly.
I don’t know anything about this Japanese side – I don’t follow the J.League. The Korean media also seems at a loss to predict a starting XI – MK Sports seems to think that Japan will do what Ilgan Sports is predicting Korea will do – swap the entire starting lineup. I could try to give you a starting lineup, but it would be a stab in the dark, so I’ll spare us all from speculation and just report on what Vahid Halilidhozic (whatever his name is, don’t really care imo he coaches Japan so fuck him) puts out in a few hours time.
Prediction: If we play the predicted lineup, I’m not too optimistic, but I’m hoping that Stielike keeps his senses and doesn’t mess too much with the core of the team that beat China a few days ago. I understand the need for experimenting, but we can swap the fullbacks, the striker, the second CB (leave Kim Younggwon in, he’s the captain), the defensive mid, and do both – experiment while trying to further develop chemistry with our K League midfielders. But I still quietly believe that Stielike doesn’t rate the K League as much as Lee Yongjae/Jung Wooyoung/Kim Minhyeok etc., so whatever. I’ll predict a 0-0 draw with the predicted lineup, but LJS/LJH/KSD are in the side, we should take this one against a leaky Japanese defense.