There are players on every national team that MUST be included in friendlies as well as serious, non experimental starting XI’s.
Here are some players that MUST start every national team match once the qualifying phase ends barring injuries and losses in form, to gel as a team and further develop the chemistry they gained under Hong Myung Bo’s leadership.
Hong Jeong Ho and Kim Young Kwon:
Barring loss of form or injuries, these two MUST start every national team match once the upcoming three matches are over and we have secured qualification. Unfortunately, if CKH stays as our NT boss this is never ever going to happen. Kwak Tae Hwi and Lee Jung Soo don’t make the cut. As failed strikers they can score but they just can’t defend; they’re both slow as molasses and get burned by the likes of Shinji Kagawa. That should not be allowed on our national team. There was a time when our players said “If we lose to Japan once more we will quit playing football.” Hong Myung Bo had the right Tuhon (fighting spirit) mindset, but nobody these days do on the Senior NT squad. Hong Jeong Ho and Kim Young Kwon have great synergy, have played together very often under Hong Myung Bo’s U23 squad to great success, and defense is actually their natural position. Why are players like Jung In Whan, who has horrendous aerial ability, and Kwak Tae Hwi, who constantly messes up even in the Qatar Stars League and is slow as molasses, playing over these two? I have no clue.
Also, I don’t know where our two previous managers got the idea of putting CB’s as fullbacks, but IT DOESN’T WORK. Just putting that out there.
Still our weakest position, and you know what I really don’t know what to say for this one. Kim Chang Soo doesn’t play full 90 every game, and is somewhat out of form; Shin Kwang Hoon is very good going forward but doesn’t offer too much in the defending side of things; Park Joo Ho is solid but also is prone to errors; Lee Ki Je and Kim Jin Su were great in the 2011 U20 WC, play full 90’s for their clubs, and get praised as very reliable defenders, but they have no senior NT or U23 experience. Japan is blessed to have not just two amazing fullbacks in Nagatomo and Uchida who offer a LOT of depth to their offense, but two more solid fullbacks in the two Sakai’s.
Ki Sung Yong, Koo Ja Cheol, and Lee Chung Yong.
In our national team, Ki’s CM position and Lee’s right wing position is locked down barring dips in form, and this is one thing CKH has gotten right. Koo Ja Cheol’s CAM position should also be locked, but I truly believe Kim Bo Kyung is just as good as KJC in that position. KBK, while he may be more of a true #10, offers a lot on the left flank as well, more so than KJC anyway. KJC as a winger doesn’t really work out on the national team, as the humiliating loss against Japan in 2011 demonstrated. Meanwhile, KBK has shined on the left (and all over the pitch for Cardiff).
I hesitate to place Kim Bo Kyung in a “must start” position. When all our players are in top condition, a KBK – KJC – LCY is undeniably our strongest attacking midfield setup.
Right now he’s our most in form midfielder and he’s really on fire at Cardiff right now (he BETTER start our upcoming three matches), but 1). Lee Keun Ho and Lee Chung Yong have put in better performances for the NT and 2). KBK can play ANYWHERE in the three attacking midfielders. It’s a matter of circumstance and our opponent really. Sometimes, SHM or LKH may be more useful than KBK. I say KBK, not KBK and LCY, because LCY has always been our top performer recently, and he’s genuinely needed in just about any situation.
The striker dilemma:
Park Chu Young, who would be our undisputed one-top, is horrendously out of form and needs to find a team where he can find plenty of playing time. Arsene Wenger, with his mysterious, completely illogical policy of not playing PCY despite a MotM performance in his FA cup debut, destroyed his form to the point where he could not perform at even Celta Vigo.
Meanwhile, let’s turn to Ji Dong Won. My verdict is that Ji Dong Won isn’t particularly good at anything aside from finishing and some aerial ability, but he’s still a solid option (far from a polished player, but solid nonetheless). He’s better off as a starter since he doesn’t quite fit the super sub role. But is he our BEST starter? Not quite.
Son Heung Min, on the other hand, fits the super sub role perfectly. Explosive and with crazy finishing, he can burn tired defenders very easily. He can burn not-tired defenders as well (we’ve all seen him do it), but he is not yet consistent enough. And he isn’t very useful against the Asian minnow teams that pack the box with like 6 defenders. Which is why LDG is probably the best option as of now in the absence of PArk Chu Young.
And herein lies the dilemma. If Park Chu Young doesn’t get back to his best in a year, what do we do? Start Son? or start Ji? Both have shortcomings and it’s hard to tell which is a better idea. This does make Jae’s proposition of a false 9 really interesting, giving SHM the space to cut in (his specialty) and giving KJC and KSY room to move forward and orchestrate a la Iniesta and Xavi. KJC and KSY, now that I think about it, are really similar to Iniesta and Xavi, respectively. And Han Kook Young is really similar to Busquets… hmm..
Remember that Asian minnows are completely different from World Cup level teams. A team’s XI should be different if the level of opponents are drastically different. Also, there are K League players who I think equal the powers of some of our NT players, and the upcoming three matches are a great way to experiment and let our K Leaguers prove themselves (one thing Cho Kwang Rae did NOT do).
I personally think the smartest lineup for the upcoming qualifiers would be:
Jung Sung Ryong; Park Joo Ho, Kim Young Kwon, Jang Hyun Soo, Kim Chang Soo; Lee Myung Joo, Kim Nam Il or Han Kook Young; Lee Keun Ho or Lee Seung Ki, Kim Bo Kyung, Lee Chung Yong; Lee Dong Gook
But with CKH I’m positive Kwak Tae Hwi will start, and most likely Jung In Hwan as well.