Is it that time already? How time flies! Another international break is here, which means another round of friendlies. First up is Haiti.
The Haiti match could prove to be an interesting one, simply because it represents the first time that the European players will be there since Hong Myeong-Bo took over. Additionally, while Haiti shouldn’t be underestimated, this should also serve as another opportunity to experiment a bit with the side before the more testing match against Croatia next week.
If you missed the call-ups, they are available here. In terms of player availability there is only one note. It was reported that Hong Jeong-Ho would miss these friendlies due to his recent transfer to Augsburg, but Hong has since returned to Korea and is expected to take part.
Of course, the big question remains who will be the striker. I have advocated for a Ji Dong-Won to attempt the role (again) as he had done fairly well there in the past. And, if Yonhap news is to be believed, I may get my wish, as they are reporting that Hong is leaning towards an XI of: Jung Sung-Ryong, Kim Chang-Soo, Hong Jeong-Ho, Kim Young-Kwon, Park Joo-Ho, Lee Myeong-Joo, Ha Dae-Sung, Lee Chung-Yong, Lee Keun-Ho, Son Heung-Min, and Ji Dong-Won.
I think this XI would please most fans, and indeed it’s pretty close to what I would expect. The only surprise is the inclusion of Lee Keun-Ho ahead of Koo Ja-Cheol (and indeed Yonhap does list Koo Ja-Cheol as a possible starter there). Why Hong is going the Keun-Ho route, would probably be because of Lee’s bright showing in the Peru friendly, and also due to Koo’s role change at Wolfsburg. Hong seems to want to stick with Ha Dae-Sung as Lee Myeong-Joo’s partner deeper in midfield for now, so that doesn’t appear to be an option. Other possible changes Yonhap is reporting is that Kwak Tae-Hwi may start ahead of Kim Young-Kwon, and surprisingly, Go Yo-Han may start ahead of Lee Chung-Yong. While there are tactical reasons for these changes, they may simply be that Hong is keeping the Croatia game in mind, and looking to keep some of the players fresher for that one.
Yonhap’s reported starting XI
Our lesser know opposition this Friday is Haiti. I could list the players called up by Haiti, but (and I say this with all due respect) I don’t think anyone would recognize them unless they were a follower of MLS or some of the smaller European league (Ligue 2, Portuguese Primera, etc.) Haiti had a poor Gold Cup, finishing bottom of their group that included Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago, and El Salvador. Haiti lost to Honduras and El Salvador, but managed to beat Trinidad and Tobago.
However, prior to that, Haiti did manage to record to impressive end results against Spain and Italy. Haiti lost 2-1 to Spain, but that’s not a bad result considering the Spanish side boasted the likes of Iker Casillas, Juan Mata, Sergio Ramos, Cesc Fabregas, Jesus Navas, and more. Against Italy, Haiti mustered a 2-2 draw against the four-time World Cup winners, even after suffering a goal after just 30 seconds. While this Italian was not it’s strongest XI, it was still a side that should have easily swatted aside the Haitians.
So, which side will come out tomorrow? I suspect something more like the former (and hope it’s not the latter). The latter side earned the results they did due to hard work and effort. They were not technically or tactically brilliant, but they hustled and worked, and made life very difficult for the Spanish and Italians. The reason that I suspect, however, that Haiti will not look the same side, is that Korea is not Spain or Italy. While we don’t know much of anything about them, I’d hazard a guess that most of the Haiti players don’t know much about us. And as such, they won’t feel that buzz or feeling that they really need to come out and compete. I don’t know if that’ll make sense to people, but it’s what I feel.
That being said, I expect a difficult game. I expect a physical Haitian side that will defend in numbers and make Korea do something to break them down. I expect Haiti to look to counter and use set pieces to their advantage.
How Can We Beat Them?
Well, I’m not an expert on Haiti, but like I wrote in the previous paragraph, it is highly likely that Haiti will be on the defensive. So, Korea will need to be a little patient, but also very threatening. The latter part of that sentence is what I feel Korea has consistently struggled with. Taking the possession that we have, and turning it into an uncomfortable nightmare for the opposition. Too often the players become to patient. Passing the ball from side to side, backwards, and so on. Long balls aren’t the likely answer, but Korea needs to make the Haitian defense feel some pressure.
Long-range shots are one option, so a player with good shooting ability like Son Heung-Min and maybe Lee Myeong-Joo will be important. If Koo Ja-Cheol starts he could help in this area also. The other option is a direct player, someone who can dribble at defenses (successfully), draw defenders to him, and open up space for others to exploit. Son Heung-Min will be important here as well, as should Lee Chung-Yong, Kim Bo-Kyung, and Koo Ja-Cheol.
Key Player to Watch
I think it’s Son Heung-Min. His rising stardom aside, a player like Son is what the side has been desperately missing as of late. A player who can create danger and havoc on his own. Outside of set pieces and defensive slip ups, I feel that Son is the best threat that Korea has. The questions will be, has Son learned how to operate in the Korean set-up, can he move off the ball and put himself in dangerous positions, and can he be as effective against a compact defense as he is when allowed space to run into?
While many are predicting this match to a bit of a forgone conclusion, I hesitate to say it is. Korea has struggled mightily on offense, and just because Haiti has a very low-profile on the world stage doesn’t mean they’ll be a pushover. This match, while not much on paper, is of vital importance, and honestly to me it’s more important than the Croatia match. If we lose to Croatia, even if it’s by a 4-0 margin again (although I hope it’s not), it’s kind of a “well, they’re much better than we are” and to an extent it will be accepted. A poor showing against Haiti will not be tolerated as much, and while Hong is perfectly patient to build and grow and accumulate draws and clean sheets, the public is not, and I feel that the team is in desperate need a good showing just for their own confidence.
I think Korea will win, but it won’t be a demonstrative demolition. I hate predicting scores, cause they always come back to bite you in the ass when you’re wrong, but I’ll say 2-0 Korea. Son gets on the scoresheet as well as Hong Jeong-Ho.
Follow us on Twitter as always (or almost always), @TaegukWarrior (Roy) and @SKSBlog (me). The match kicks off at 8PM Korean Standard Time (that would be . . . 7AM Eastern DST). The match will be broadcast on SBS in Korea. I’m unaware of any US broadcast, so checking out your stream sites may be your best bet.