June 9th World Cup tuneup in Miami. For both Ghana and Korea that evening will be the last time they get to fine tune different ideas in real time, work out the kinks, get some kind of indicator that they are on track for the difficult and nerve wracking World Cup group stages ahead. No matter the end scoreline, both teams need to match potential that on paper lists them as dangerous in their respective groups. It’s final test before the final test -what can we expect from this evening at the Sun Life Stadium in hot humid Miami?
KOREA vs GHANA match details [be aware the Tavern headline banner pic has the Korea game date and time].
In the US: MONDAY JUNE 9 at 7 pm EST TV: BeInSport
In Korea: TUESDAY JUNE 10 at 8 am Korea Time Korea TV: KBS
Both teams lost their previous tune up matches, Ghana to RVP’s Netherlands 1-0 while Korea had a not so pleasant 0-1 loss to Tunisia to send them off at Seoul’s World Cup Stadium last week. While a win would be preferable for morale, the coaches on opposite sides aren’t concerning themselves with that so much as ensuring their key target metrics reached. For Korea, it’s reduced to 4 things:
1. Can the offensive unit creatively find their rhythm to get past a physical backline and find the back of the net?
2. As Ki Sung-Yeung regains his footing again after a month recovery from injury, the rust was very visible in the Tunisia match. Will he get his mojo back and return to his usual talent of unlocking the midfield?
3. Is the backline able to absorb the multiple pressures created by the pairing of Asamoah Gyan and Kevin Prince-Boateng?
4. No Korean players sustaining a major injury. Unlike certain high profile teams entering Brazil who are stacked deep in every possible position -Coach Hong has to deal with the cards he’s dealt. They aren’t bad cards mind you, but it’s fair to say Korea lacks depth. That scary picture emerged from the Tunisia match with Hong Jeong-Ho stretchered out, fortunately while he only sustained a minor injury – just imagine if Ki, Son or Lee Chung-Yong leaving the tournament in the middle OR in Miami before the World Cup even begins. Freddie Kruger got nothing on that kind of nightmare.
The question is will Hong go through with the 4-2-3-1 as his preferred formation that he’s settled with -like an old steady marriage? It didn’t quite work in Tunisia -but the reality was there were several players with long layoffs due to injury recovery. That excuse only goes so far however. Still, it’s worth mentioning that this formation did work -at least in terms of the final scoreline of a 0-2 away win at Greece in March. At that time, none of the players were recovering from injuries and were in form for their respective clubs generally speaking.
Jae Chee had mused about a possible 4-4-2 formation that Hong could experiment with. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Hong has toyed with it in practice. Against Switzerland in a fall ’13 friendly, Korea won on a 4-4-2 formation, score 2-1 (goals by Hong and Lee Chung-Yong).
Ready for a bit of a twist… I’ll venture on a limb here that a 4-1-4-1 could be something Hong can utilize on Monday night.
It comes with risks. For one, there’s no Han Kook-Young – a player that Yonhap news described as Korea’s new “vacuum cleaner” for his neatly timed tackles (the Yonhap link included a decent interview with the midfielder). In previous matches which saw Hong fine tuning his 4-2-3-1, Han Kook-Young’s pairing with Ki allowed Ki to venture adventurously in more advanced positions. Incidentally, Gus Poyet started to play Ki similarly at Sunderland this past season. It’s true that Ki lacks some defensive finesse, but he did perform admirably on a few occasions when Swansea were short on centerbacks in the 2012-2013 season. A crash course later and Ki became (provisionally) the first Korean centerback in the Premiership, a role he took surprisingly in the League Cup final (which they won).
But the benefit of having Ki play this all important role offers some additional offensive firepower and flexibility. Kim Bo-Kyung had some success as a center mid for Cardiff (when both he and the team were on form). Jurgen Klopp maneuvered for some time to bring Ji Dong-Won to Borussia Dortmund -in his words, he was a flexible player who could play multiple positions. Ji scored an ironic goal against BVB in his first game back as a Augsburg player this past spring – a bittersweet and yet reassuring moment for Klopp that he choose wisely in a raw but talented player. Either Ji or Kimbo could be a missing ingredient to give another gear -but I do acknowledge this is an unconventional formation.
But I digress, I’m not a tactician. I’m a mere bartender here at the Tavern…
Let’s take a look at Ghana:
The 2014 edition of the Black Stars happens to be the most youthful team coming to Brazil (in comparison – Korea’s average age is 25.9 to Ghana’s 24.7). Coached by ex-Black Star Kwesi Appiah, you can see their 23 man roster here. We’ll likely see their starting XI: Asamoah Gyan, Kevin Prince Boateng, Sulley Muntari, Michael Essien, Andre Ayew, Atsu, John Mensah, Mohammed Rabiu, Inkoom, John Boye, and (GK) Kwarasey.
Other than the offensive double threat of Gyan and Boateng, keep an eye for the young talented Mohammed Rabiu (Kuban Krasnodar). The 24 year old is set to be the designated destroyer on the team.
Their last 3 international appearances has been less than inspiring: a draw to Libya in January followed by a 1-0 loss to Montenegro preceded their latest drop to the Netherlands by the same score. Appiah is under pressure as Ghana’s backline looked particularly exposed and disorganized in both losses. Despite the problems in defense, during World Cup qualifying, their strategy had been simple: outscore the bejezus out of their opponents and hope their back don’t concede as much. It worked. Their 6-1 beat down of Egypt last October practically knocked the Pharaohs out of the running in just that first leg.
Overall, the Black Stars are immensely talented, pacey and can potentially score quickly on the counter. Worthy opponents, both Ghana and Korea have their work cut out for them on June 9th.
For what it’s worth: Korea played an international friendly with Ghana, beating them 2-1 in 2011. A number of players on both squads will be facing each other again on Monday. Back to 2011, Ji Dong-Won scored first, Asamoah Gyan missed a PK, later made up for it by equalizing, followed by a Park Chu-Young curler bouncing off the crossbar, and finally a late game winner – Ji’s header to Koo Ja-Cheol, Koo knocking in the game winner. This short video summary gives a hint of just how entertaining that game was:
Things I’m looking out for:
- “Captain” Koo Ja-Cheol back in form. He didn’t bring his A game to the Tunisia match and it showed.
- For that matter, how about Son, Park Chu-Young and Ki – all these players have to be on for Korea to get out of Group H alive and kicking. Ghana will be a test and bellwether.
- Will Park Joo-Ho make an appearance in the 2nd half? Seems like the thing to do to test out his surgically repaired foot…
- Hold your breath, hope Hong Jeong-Ho really is fully recovered. If so, let’s see if the defense can gel, not concede set pieces -and for Buddha’s sake, not concede right down the middle again (hello, Tunisia)?!?
Late update: Ki Sung-Yeung and Lee Bum-Young came down with the cold as they arrived in Miami (as reported by Korean media on June 4th). I haven’t heard otherwise on their recovery, but in this case I’ll say no news is good news. In the good news category: Hong Jeong-Ho reportedly took back up with training again with the team. His ankle injury and subsequent removal by stretcher was one of the scariest moments of the May 28th 0-1 loss to Tunisia, with doctors immediately ruling it a minor injury.
Other updates: Kim Jin-Su, the left back left out of the World Cup due to a late injury is reportedly sought after by Hoffenheim – that interest has now been confirmed.
— that or he has already joined the club. I can confirm the interest, but can’t confirm yet if he truly is with Hoffenheim. Can anyone help with the translation of this Naver article?
Kim Young-Kwon news: Guangzhou Evergrande’s Marcello Lippi apparently was quoted by a Evergrande twitter news site as saying this:
Lippi said he would resign if Evergrande allow Kim Young Gwon to leave after WC.
— GZ Evergrande News (@cantonfcnews) June 4, 2014
Meanwhile a bit more controversy from the Blue Samurais, not only have they been on the cusp of total embarrassment twice in a week with their World Cup tuneups (a surprise 4-3 come from behind win against Zambia earlier today), their new World Cup kit has a not so subtle hint of their inglorious past:
The JFA and Adidas denies any reference to the imperial Rising Sun flag in designing the home jersey, which many find difficult to believe. Nevertheless the kit is good enough to win ESPN’s worst jersey design of the World Cup distinction. Congratulations, or something like that. Not to stir up ill feeling towards the Japanese as I’d imagine most would disown this as crazy right wing tomfoolery by their own Abe administration, but come on, this is fucking ridiculous. First some revisionist history textbook meddling by their government and now this. I’m setting my watch and counting down the days until Japan elects a more sensible, rational and fact-centric government.
Speaking of the Japanese, well a Japanese American to be precise, this one in particular has my complete respect: Sister Yuri, otherwise known as Yuri Kochiyama died last week at age 93 in Berkley California. Based on her experiences in internment camps during World War II and afterward in her time raising a family in Harlem, she joined with her Africian American and Puerto Rican neighbors to fight against injustice and discrimination. Her apartment was the center of radical community activism at the time. She was thrust into the annals of history after befriending Malcolm X -she was first on the scene cradling his head as he lay dying in a New York ballroom after assassins had gunned him down in 1965. She continued to work on several different activist campaigns in the years since. Sister Yuri: rest in peace.
Ok back to football, quick request that I’ll be asking again soon: there are public viewing parties to celebrate and watch Korea in the World Cup. I am asking everyone please send me information you know of in your area (or beyond) on viewing parties to watch – including location/address. For example: I’m getting confirmation that Dupont Circle in Washington DC will have an official World Cup viewing party free and open to the public to watch all Group G and H games that day, including Korea vs Belgium at 4pm. We’ll post that information handy for everyone to access.
Less than 4 days before the World Cup starts and 9 days until Korea vs Russia – we will be updating as we get closer to that first Korea World Cup appearance on Jun 17th. There’s been a number of media appearances by both Jae and myself -but seeing as it’s 3AM here at the Tavern, I’m going to be closing shop and returning to update and link you up with all that very soon. Stay tuned and Dae Han Min Guk!!!!