The final match of the 2013 East Asian Cup will be at 8PM, Sunday night in Seoul (at Jamsil if you’re curious). Current leaders Japan will play . . . us. In a renewal of the biggest rivalry in east Asia. The teams haven’t met since the 2-0 bronze medal Olympic win, and both will be looking to get one over each other.
First off, apologies that this preview is coming up quite early, and will be short on information. I will likely be traveling/not near a computer tomorrow, and wanted to make sure I get something up. I will hopefully be able to update it on Sunday morning with any new information.
The team will likely be much changed again, with most of the Australia starters coming back into the team. It doesn’t seem like many of the players who played against China really made a strong enough case to push out any of the other players. The only questions would seem to be at striker (Kim Dong-Seob vs Kim Shin-Wook) and at right back (Kim Chang-Soo vs Lee Yong). I suspect that Kim Chang-Soo will get the nod at right back given his familiarity with J-League players and his slightly higher experience. Striker is a bit of a toss up for me. Kim Shin-Wook hasn’t been terribly impressive in his two substitute appearances, but he’s done what’s generally been expected of him (win aerial balls). Kim Dong-Seob linked up well with the midfielders against Australia, but was a poor finisher. Jinseok thinks that Hong Myeong-Bo will call for more long balls, which would be for Kim Shin-Wook, and I agree that it’s certainly possible. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kim Dong-Seob started again either.
*Update – Reports are out that Go Mu-Yeol may start at left wing ahead of Yoon Il-Rok, and that Kim Shin-Wook will get the starting nod.
Japan too has a much changed look to their squad list. None of the players involved in Japan’s poor Confederation’s Cup campaign are a part of this group, with all 23 coming from the J-League. Head coach Alberto Zaccheroni seems very much content to look at some of the fringe and new faces that may be available and useful come next summer. Only three players in the squad have reached double-digit caps (all three are defenders) with Komano Yuichi the highest (75). The other two are Kurihara Yuzo (17) and Makino Tomoaki (11). Kuirhara is also the highest scorer on the team with 3 international goals to his name. But, the lack of names and stats doesn’t mean Korea can relax in this one. It’s still shown to be a dangerous team (scored 3 goals in each game).
Zaccheroni changed his entire line-up between the China and Australia matches, and will likely shift a good few around. Forwards Saito Manabu and Osako Yuya may hold onto their spots with well-taken goals against Australia (with Osako picking up a brace).
Despite having an Italian at the helm, Japan has been leaking goals like crazy, conceding 14 goals in the last 6 matches (although admittedly Zaccheroni is known more as an offensive coach). Something that must be concerning for Japanese officials and fans. If Korea can take their chances, this could be a high scoring affair.
Even though the squad is much changed, Zaccheroni still has this group playing much like his A team squad does. Which means funneling a lot of the play through the midfield. If you didn’t, you can check out my more detailed analysis of the Japanese team here. Korea would be wise to take a page out of the Brazil playbook and look to stretch Japan from side-to-side. Fully utilizing the more attack-minded fullbacks of Kim Jin-Su and Kim Chang-Soo will likely bring more success and defensive relief than trying to pass through the middle.
While it’s worked in the past, I’m not fully convinced the long ball route is the way to go, mainly due to the difference in striker. Japan tends to play a fairly high line defensively, which leaves space for attackers to run into, something that Park Chu-Young and Koo Ja-Cheol do very well. But, it’s not something that Kim Shin-Wook does. The only way to utilize that kind of long ball would be for Kim to head the ball on (rather than down), and hope that one of the attacking midfielders can “get on their horse” and run onto it. Something that, I think won’t work quite as well as the midfielders will likely need to drop deeper to help defend (and therefore won’t have the time to get back up into dangerous positions). But, of course, it may work, so who knows.
My strategy would be a potentially risky one. It would be to have the two wide attackers (likely Go Yo-Han and Yoon Il-Rok) to pinch in like they did against Australia, and have the fullbacks make overlapping runs. Press the Japanese defenders and midfielders deep in their own half to try and force early and long passes to the forwards, and not them let settle into a passing rhythm in their midfield. This strategy could be risky as it does leave a fair bit of ground for the two holders (likely Ha Dae-Sung and Lee Myeong-Joo) to cover as well as the two center backs. Japan has been playing a 4-3-3 this tournament, so they will have forwards who are naturally wide, and will likely look to stretch the defense that way.
Hong has admitted that the end results are not terribly important to him, with his eyes clearly on next summer. But, one feels that he will certainly want to win this one. A victory over our hated archrivals, a tournament title (however meaningless), and some good vibes to build from. Sunday’s match will certainly be tricky, but it should also be the only real meaningful test of this tournament for this group. Things should be exciting, and hopefully it will be a good clean match.
TV listings are the same as they’ve been. JTB in Korea and One World Sports in North America (Sunday 7 AM EST).