After a 2-0 win on Wednesday sealed a spot at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, it’s now time for the Taegeuk Warriors to play for the title. In the three previous AFC U23 Championships, we’ve finished 4th twice and lost a heartbreaking title to Japan in 2016 (a 3-2 loss after being 2-0 ahead). Tomorrow morning, Saudi Arabia will be the opponent in Bangkok.
Let’s first take a look back at Wednesday and how we sealed our historic ninth consecutive spot at the Summer Olympics.
Once again, Kim Hak-bum shuffled his lineup and the results were again positive. For this match, the overlapping runs from fullbacks and wingers was especially strong, as Kang Yoonsung and Lee Youhyeon were willing runners all match. The buildup play was fluid, with lots of quick passes into spaces where teammates would be arriving.
Oh Sehun had a lively first half, forcing a save from distance and also hitting the post after maneuvering away from a crowd of defenders. Coming out of the second half, Kim Daewon looked to find his shooting boots with two shots just missing the corners. In the 51st minute, Kim Daewon got the return pass on a short corner and crossed for Jeong Taewook, whose header unfortunately struck the post.
The first goal came from quick buildup play that spread the Australian defense out. Kim Daewon brings the ball infield and passes back to Won Dujae in space. Won plays the ball out to substitute Lee Dongjun, who releases Lee Youhyeon at pace towards the net. Lee clangs a shot off the post and Kim Daewon is happy to clean up the rebound. 1-0 Korea.
Won Dujae would also have an influence on the second goal, as it was his tenacity to win a 50-50 header that would set off super sub Lee Dong-gyeong. From there, Lee Dong-gyeong does the work of selling his defender on one direction, switching to his other foot and then taking the shot near post.
This squad has been rotated every match, but the play continues to improve. There’s only one thing left to do: lift a trophy.
Who will make the Starting XI?
This is the hardest question to answer. In the end, Kim Hak-bum has a lot of depth at his disposal and he is also building towards the Olympics where he’ll have to trim his squad down to 18 and add in 3 overage wildcards.
The most positive way to look at his constant shuffling of players is he’s making sure to have a clear picture of who will be going to Tokyo and who will be left off the roster. In fact, other than goalkeeper, he’s actually tried out every single one of his outfield options! Seeing as the Olympics offer a stiffer challenge to win a medal than the Asian Games, Kim Hak-bum is right to test every single player as much as possible before making a final decision.
I’m prepared to guess wrong, but here’s my guess of how he’ll send us out in the final tomorrow:
The back four from Wednesday should probably stay the same but it might make sense to bring in the tenacity and passing of Maeng Seongung into the midfield. Also, Lee Dongjun and Lee Donggyeong have been far too dangerous lately to have them on the bench in a final. If there’s a super sub in this match, I would think it’s time for Jeong Wooyeong to finally score a goal.
Korea Republic v. Saudi Arabia
Time: 7:30 AM EST, 9:30 PM KST
Where: Rajamangala Stadium, Bangkok, Thailand
It’s trophy time: 2-1 Korea. DAEHANMINGUK HWAITING.