Preview: South Korea vs Mali

So, the team is back in action tonight against Mali in Cheonan. The team is recovering from a mixed performance against Brazil in Seoul, and hopefully the team can build off it rather than come down from the buzz surrounding the match. This preview will be a bit short as I’ve been ridiculously busy lately and haven’t read any news about this match, so I’m a bit short of info.

South Korea

Compared to the Brazil match, there has been very little build up to the Mali game, which I suppose isn’t too surprising. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see what kind of team Hong puts out. Normally I would expect Hong to change several players, maybe half the team, but given the poor record that the team has under his stewardship (1-3-3) and the lack of goals (just six, with four coming against Haiti) Hong may be tempted to put out a stronger side just to keep the pressure and press off him and the team.

Some players will certainly be changed, with some reports speculating that Kwak Tae-Hwi will come in for Hong Jeong-Ho and Lee Keun-Ho coming in for Ji Dong-Won. Both may be good choices, and ones that I would personally have no problem with. Kim Chang-Soo is another tipped to possibly start. Son Heung-Min may start according to Yonhap News, but other reports say he’ll still be on the bench. I may be mistaken, but I don’t believe Son has an injury problem. I wonder if Hong is being careful about Son’s fatigue levels. Son is certainly racking up more air miles lately, and with Leverkusen competing on three fronts, he will likely play more minutes this season than in any prior season.

With that in mind, the general starting XI that seems to be being put forward is this:
football formations

Mali

Mali is certainly a lesser known team to most (myself included). Head coach Amadou Diallo has called up 18 players for the match.

Goalkeepers:  Germain Berthé (Onze-Créateurs), Abdoulaye Samaké (COB)

Defenders: Ousmane Coulibaly (Brest, France), Adama Tamboura ( FC Randers, Denmark) Idrissa Coulibaly ( Raja de Casablanca, Morocco), Mahamadou N’Diaye (Troyes, France), Boubacar Sylla ( RC Lens, France)

Midfield: Seydou Keita (Dalian Aerbin FC, China), Tongo Hamed Doumbia (Valenciennes FC, France), Ismael Keita (SCO Angers, France) Samba Sow (Karabükspor, Turkey), Abdou Traoré (Bordeaux, France), Yacouba Sylla (Aston Villa, England), Sambou Yatabaré (Olympiakos, Greece)

Forwards: Kalifa Coulibaly (PSG, France), Mana Dembélé (Clermont Foot, France), Mahamadou Samassa (Chievo Verona, Italy), Modibo Maiga (West Ham United FC, England)

Few of the names will be familiar save one, that would be team captain Seydou Keita who currently plays at Dalian Aerbin in China, but made his name as a player for Barcelona during their all-conquering campaigns under Pep Guardiola.
Mali did not qualify for the 2014 World Cup, and haven’t qualified for a World Cup since 1998. They did however, finish 3rd in this year’s African Cup of Nations. They finished second in their group behind Ghana, which secured passage to the knock-out rounds. There they eliminated hosts South Africa on penalties before falling to Nigeria in the semifinals. In the third place match they got their revenge on group winners Ghana, winning 3-1.
I can’t say that I’ve watched Mali at all recently, so I can’t give much info on how they’ll line up or what to expect from them. But African teams, if you’ll permit me a stereotype, tend to be fairly physical teams. The technical aspect of African teams is certainly improving, but I can’t say that Mali will be strong in terms of technique. Rather I imagine that Mali will play with lots of energy, be a bit more direct, and look to impose their will on the game through their athleticism rather than technical play.
Final Thoughts
I think that overall, the public and press have been generally quite patient with Hong Myeong-Bo and his development of the national team. And certainly the team does look more cohesive than they did under Choi Kang-Hee. But Hong needs to realize, and to his credit I think he does, that the results need to start improving. People are only willing to accept “good efforts” for so long. It’s a cliche, but in football, ultimately the only thing that matters is the result. A result is needed tonight in Cheonan.
That being said, I don’t expect a result to an easy thing to get. While I don’t put a whole lot of stock in the FIFA rankings, it is worth noting that Mali is significantly higher ranked than we are. A whole 20 spots higher (38 vs 58). So, there might not be many big name players in their Malian side, but there is quality.
The Match
When: Tonight (Tuesday), 8pm KST/7am EDT
Where: Cheonan Sports Complex, Cheonan, South Korea
TV: SBS (Korea) No US TV (that I can see)
Streams: SBS (if in Korea)
Should be doing the live tweet thing again (@SKSBlog and @taeguk_warrior). Join us for the match.
About Jae Chee 310 Articles
A football fan with who got bit by the writing bug.