Hopefully, you checked out the wonderful interview with Namu Yoon for the Canada perspective of this match. But, let’s briefly chat about what’s going on from the Korea side. Really this match is a bit of a sideshow on the way to the much more important qualifier against Uzbekistan next week. So we should see a fair bit of rotation and subbing as Stielike seeks to get his side back on track after last month’s debacle.
The main point is that several key players are nursing knocks and minor injuries and are likely to sit this one out. That includes players like Son Heungmin, Ki Sungyueng, Lee Jaesung, Lee Chungyong, and Hong Chul. The priority is clearly the Uzbekistan match so, it’s possible that many – if not all – of those players will see limited or no playing time against Canada. That means players like Ji Dongwon and Hwang Heechan will be expected to pick up those spots.
Media reports say that Stielike is focusing on three areas for this match: ‘Plan B’, ‘Pass Completion Rate’, and ‘Using the Flanks’. While we have typically discussed Stielike’s ‘Plan B’ as using long passes to Kim Shinwook, this time it refers more to the above mentioned injury problems. The squad’s role players and new faces will need to step up their game and fill in for Stielike’s regulars. Against Iran, Korea completed 77% of their passes, an unacceptable rate for Stielike who would like the team to be above 85%. Against a much weaker (sorry Canada) team and playing in Korea, one would expect that this will not be too much of a problem. However, if Ki Sungyueng does miss this match then it will be a touch trickier. ‘Using the Flanks’ has (to me) a double meaning in that it refers to the ‘Plan B’ players as well as the many fullbacks that Stielike has called up. If memory serves Stielike said he plans to give both Park Jooho and Yoon Sukyoung a half of action against Canada on the left side. I’d imagine he will do something similar on the right with Choi Chulsoon and Kim Changsoo.
From reports (and Stielike’s history) it seems like Stielike originally wanted to field Lee Junghyeob and Hwang Heechan in attack with play coming down the flanks before combining in the final third. The injuries to Lee Jaesung and Lee Chungyong seem to have complicated this idea as it now seems like he will shift Hwang Heechan to the wing.
I would expect Stielike to field a more attacking side against Canada and stick with the 4-1-4-1 that has become his go to look. Lee Junghyeob seems likely to start as Stielike described him as a player that fits the characteristics of what he is looking for in his center forward. I think Hwang Heechan and Ji Dongwon will likely find themselves on the two wide midfield positions. Koo Jacheol and Kim Bokyung will probably be fielded in the two more forward center midfield positions, but we could also see Nam Taehee there as well. Either Han Kookyoung or Jung Wooyoung will be used as the holding midfielder. Defense will likely be a fairly makeshift look to an extent with plenty of subbing happening. Perhaps something to the effect of Choi Chulsoon, Kim Keehee, Hong Jeongho, Park Jooho.
Does This One Matter?
To be honest it’s a bit difficult to really get excited for this one. Canada shouldn’t present too much of a problem for Korea – even a B-side – and as such it’s likely difficult to really pull anything from it in terms of progress. In fact, the only way we really pull anything significant is if Korea really struggles against Canada (who themselves will likely field a less-than-full-strength side). Really this match is simply a time for some of the players to get a little more time to recover from knocks and for Stielike to take a look at some of the reserve/fringe players.
What To Watch For
- Hwang Heechan – Hwang has been playing very well for RB Salzburg recently, and hopefully he will carry that form over to the national team. Hwang certainly has a ton of potential, but as with many players, it remains to be seen how well he can be slotted into the senior national team set up.
- Lee Junghyeob – Stielike’s “gamble” call this time. Lee hasn’t exactly lit things up down in Ulsan, and his recall had a lot of people scratching their heads. A Stielike favorite, Lee will need to put on a good display to repay the manager’s faith.
- Fullbacks – Do we have any? Park Jooho and Yoon Sukyoung are struggling at their clubs. Kim Jinsu has been left out. Choi Chulsoon and Kim Changsoo are solid K Leaguers, but have yet to show they have what it takes to be successful at the international level.
- Tactics – Stielike has come in for quite a bit of criticism lately for his lack of tactical nous. Will the team look like a solid, cohesive unit this time or remain a relative mess?
Who: South Korea vs Canada
When: Friday, November 11, 8pm KST
Where: Cheonan Sports Complex
Why: International Friendly
TV: KBS2 (Korea)