It was just over a year ago when South Korea fell backwards into the World Cup. At the helm, was Choi Kang-Hee, and he accomplished, ultimately, what he set out to do – qualify for the 2014 FIFA World cup. And yet, there was nothing satisfying about the qualification campaign, very little to merit a pat on the back. It was a qualification campaign of slips, slides and stumbles, and yet, we scraped through, by a mere goal, to the big show.
Hong Myung-Bo was the man to take us to Brazil. He had to build a team from scratch, and the results didn’t come. A lacklustre EAFF. Draws to Peru, some encouraging results few and far between, a sense of panic settling in, losses to Tunisia and romps to Ghana, and off they were to Brazil.
We know what happened next – a World Cup to forget, our lowest point haul in the 21st century, and… it was over. 4 years of anticipation, excitement, a roller-coaster ride, (rare) moments of euphoria and (many) moments of frustration, it all ended with a big bang. Or was it a whimper? Korea had gone, without making an impression on anyone, not sending a team home or putting their opponents to shame (minus a certain Akinfeev)… it was suddenly over.
The Venezuela friendly marked a new beginning. Well, not under a new manager, but of a new cycle, of a blank canvas. Korean soccer is not dead. Tomorrow, Uruguay are in town, minus a certain cannibal, under the watchful eye of a man determined to take the KNT to Russia.
But it won’t be Uli Stielike’s (how do you say that? German names*…) tactics, team selection or formation out there, it will be Shin Tae-Yong (and the committee)’s. And as some had discussed on the comment boards here at the Tavern, the managerial committee have elected to go for the back three. Or so it seems. But it’s a surprising name at centreback that’s got everyone talking.
*Yes, I’m a hypocrite, complaining about other countries’ names when ours are hardly easier.
Up top, earning his 101st cap, Lee Dong-Gook will play as the centre forward, with the ever-dangerous Son Heung-Min on his left, and a struggling Lee Chung-Yong on his right. In midfield, Park Jong-Woo and Lee Myung-Joo, both players who have left the peninsula, and who are now in other clubs in the continent, will pull the strings. I’m glad Lee gets another start. Despite that, (and I’m not tactical mastermind by any means), why can’t we slot Kwak Tae-Hwi at CB, and put Ki alongside either Lee Myung-Joo or Han Kook-Young? I know that means a slower defender, but then we can play Ki in a more threatening position, other than CB.
That raises the question – Is Ki able to play centre-back?
The answer for me is yes. I recall that Ki played in that position under Laudrup at the Liberty Stadium for Swansea. He’s shown to be quite comfortable and calm in defense, and able to pull the strings on a game with smart passing. I fully expect that he is apt enough to play that position well. However, it sort of feels like we lose one of our best players in attack by slotting Ki in the backline.
Kim Chang-Soo and Cha Du-Ri could be the wingbacks – the Chaminator’s still got it, showing his pace and experience on the pitch. I really wish we brought him to Brazil…
This lineup also expects that Lee Bum-Young will finally get his first cap as a KNT player. One of our best goalkeeping prospects, the Busan I’Park keeper went to the 2014 World Cup, but didn’t get any action. Expected to be in the hunt for the number one job, alongside Kim Seung-Gyu, hopefully Lee will make an impression in this friendly.
Now, that’s the report coming out of Paju, that we’ll see a back three, but there’s no guarantee. We could see a 4-1-4-1 like we thought at the start of the break, or yet another 4-1-2-3 (or however you want to describe the Venezuela game formation).
I’m also interested in what Shin does with his subs. Personally I would love to see Nam Tae-Hee in the second half. He’s such a promising player who is tearing up the Qatar Stars League, and yet, he doesn’t wear the KNT kit very often. I like what he offers to the attack and hope he plays.
Also, if Uruguay start kicking Son late in the second half, just take the kid off, ship him back to Leverkusen in one piece so they don’t hate us. We don’t need/want a hurt Son.
Anyhow, that’s my stab at a (short) preview. The game goes in Goyang, September 8th, 7am ET, 8pm KST. KBS2TV is slated to broadcast the Chuseok fixture, and there is no official broadcast (not even BeIn Sport, aw come on) for America/Canada. But the Internet will be the Internet, and software will be software, so there’s always a way. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
Be sure to follow @taeguk_warrior and myself, @korfan12 on twitter for live updates during the game. @ArmchairRegista (Jae) will be at the game, somehow weaving his way through Chuseok traffic and Chuseok ceremonies. He might have a post up later on that.
>>Meanwhile, quick update from the Asian U-16 Championship, Korea beat Oman 3-1 in their first game. Lee Seung-Woo is available for the match tomorrow morning against Malaysia. The game is at 5am ET, 6pm KST, and will be shown on SBS Sports in Korea, no official broadcast otherwise. Monday is an off-day for baseball so the game will be live, no tape delay.
On that note I’m leaving the Tavern early tonight – got to set the alarm for tomorrow’s double header. From 5am ET, it’s Korea-Malaysia from the AFC U-16 Ch’ship, and as that one ends, at 7am ET, it’s Korea-Uruguay, live from Goyang, a Men’s Senior International friendly. There’s no better way to celebrate Chuseok than that.
Wishing a Happy Chuseok to everyone, whether you celebrate it or not, and Jalgayo for now!