After an unconvincing 1-0 victory against Oman, thanks to a slightly lucky goal by Cho Young-Cheol, South Korea are at it again tonight in their month-long quest to bring back the elusive Asian Cup. This time, hopefully a more impressive performance is on the cards as the Koreans take on lowly Kuwait for what potentially could be a spot in the knockout stages.
(More after the jump.)
Flashback to the 2011 Asian Cup. The South Koreans, then managed by Cho Kwang-Rae, beat Bahrain 2-1, in a performance that got the three points but still left something to be desired. But the Taeguk Warriors made up for it in a resounding 4-1 win against uber-defensive India, ensuring their presence in the knockout stages of the Asian Cup for a 5th consecutive year. That sublime victory was thanks to a brace from Ji Dong-Won, as well as goals from Koo Ja-Cheol and then-19 year old Son Heung-Min.
The stakes are similar once again today. Stielike has to know the balance between rotating his players and giving them a chance to win safely against a Kuwaiti side, which, despite its many flaws, cannot be underestimated if South Korea wants to avoid major humiliation on the continental stage.
In GK, expect Stielike to turn once more to Kim Jin-Hyeon. He said earlier this week in an interview that he had no reason to change goalkeepers, and I agree. Kim has made some sensational saves heading into this Asian Cup and we need Kim to be at his best if Kuwait counter well.
In DF, Kim Chang-Soo is struggling to be fit, and Kwak Tae-Hwi I also read is battling fitness. As a result, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the same backline as against Oman. (Cha Du-Ri on right side, of course.) Alternatively, Kim Young-Gwon could play more of a stopper role if Jang Hyun-Soo is dropped.
In DM, Ki Sung-Yueng should and must be starting. He was our best player vs Oman and we cannot initiate any dangerous attack whatsoever without him. His partner is up in the air – Park Joo-Ho would be useful for Kuwaiti counters, while Lee Myung-Joo deserves a shout, it’s now or never for him in this tournament.
In AM, Lee Chung-Yong looks to be out for 3 weeks, a colossal blow for Chungy in a tournament which he needed to impress in to attract the scouts. Son has also come down with the flu, unfortunately. Despite that, I don’t think Stielike is going to go with a total-rotation kind of thing and we should see Son on the right over Kim Min-Woo. In the hole, I hope to see Nam Tae-Hee, as his creativity and dribbling is essential against a tough Kuwaiti team, who will defend deep, and especially because of the absence of Lee Chung-Yong.
The right wing position might go to Han Kyo-Won. The Jeonbuk player is more of an out-an-out winger but he should do the trick. Alternatively, Koo could go on the right or, perhaps more likely, we see Cho Young-Cheol on the right, as he played there against Saudi Arabia in the first half and Stielike seems to be keen on him for whatever reason.
The CF is expected to be Lee Keun-Ho.
Just give me a picture.
Fine. Here’s a POSSIBLE XI, but my gut says Koo will start and Nam might go out wide. I don’t really know. A lot of players possible. Stielike himself said he didn’t know until today.
Kuwait are a team marred by corruption and controversy in their FA. The president of their FA happens to be a big Qadsia fan, a local Kuwaiti team. And when that the Kuwaiti national team features more than 50% of players from Qadsia? A mere example of the corruption their national team goes through.
Tactically though, Kuwait are another one of the classic Middle East park the bus kind of teams. 21 of their 23 players are based in Kuwait, much like Oman, with the other two in other Middle Eastern leagues, likely because of their defensive ability.
Kuwait are also rather itchy on the trigger when it comes to changing managers. After a poor Gulf Cup which saw them thrashed by Oman 5-0, the Kuwaitis went to Nabil Maaloul to take charge. The Tunisian has had only one month with the (Kuwaiti) Blues and said publicly before this tournament that “he cannot fix the problems in this team with a magic wand.”
Against Australia (a game that they lost 4-1), Kuwait lived up to expectations and sat very deep. They played a 4-5-1. The Aussie center backs could move all the way up to the opposition half unmarked, and Maaloul opted to drop Kuwait’s best goal-scoring threat, exciting striker Bader Al-Mutawa. Instead, he put playmaker Aziz Mashaan as a striker.
Kuwait look a tad uncomfortable in attack in the sense that they have no particular pattern. They are built for counter attacking quickly. Against Australia, a few opportune well-placed passes up the middle was enough to get into the Australia box, and make no mistake, Kuwait are capable of finishing.
Finally, Kuwait’s fullbacks, Al Hajeri and Al Qahtani were ripped apart by clever overloads by Australia. On the Kuwaiti left side, Al Qahtani was completely destroyed by an Australian team keen to create overloads and whip it in for Cahill. With Robbie Kruse, the right winger, playing more narrow, Massimo Luongo (a RCM) and Ivan Franjic (the RB) provided width and worked well together to get past a sometimes helpless Al Qahtani.
Perhaps Korea will have more luck exploiting Kuwait’s lack of talent on the wide side than focusing their attack on a rather loaded midfield from Kuwait. Korea must also be wary of counter-attacks, like against Oman. That being said, Kuwait has much less talent than Oman and less chemistry.
Last time Korea played Kuwait was a 2-0 win for the Koreans in World Cup qualifying, thanks to goals from Lee Keun-Ho and Park Chu-Young. That was Choi Kang-Hee’s first game in charge of the Korean national team as Cho Kwang-Rae was fired for fear of a third round exit in qualifying.
Kuwait won the 1980 Asian Cup and has not qualified for the knockout round in the last three Asian Cups.
The last time Korea played Kuwait in an Asian Cup, the Taeguk Warriors triumphed 4-0 in the final game of the 2007 Group Stage. Cha Du-Ri scored, as did Ahn Jung-Hwan and a Lee Dong-Gook brace.
South Korea: Lee Chung-Yong (lower body, 3 weeks), Son Heung-Min (flu), Kim Chang-Soo and Kwak Tae-Hwi (fitness)
Kuwait: Hussain Fadhel (CB, ankle, unlikely)
Gametime: 2am EST, 4pm KST, Tuesday the 13th of January 2015
Location: Canberra Stadium, Canberra, Australia
Referee: Alireza Faghani (Iran)
Korean TV: SBS Sports
American TV: One World Sports
No official other broadcast. Tavern twitter accounts can come in handy. Wink wink nudge nudge.
COME ON KOREA! Discuss the game below and on the match report(s), or over at our twitter handles where we will be discussing the game, live or afterwards. You can check out our twitter feeds over on the “Who’s Who” page in the menubar above. Good night for now from the TSC!