Before taking on Myanmar for the first round of the 2018 WCQ’s we will face the 2015 AFC Asian Cup bronze medal winners UAE. Now, UAE isn’t an easy opponent by any means, and frankly, with the form we’re in, I wouldn’t be surprised to see us draw or lose to them. Without Ki SY and Park JH, key players out due to injury, we’re probably not going to look that good considering that the ONLY non-DM CM called up is Lee Jae Sung who Stielike apparently doesn’t want to try out in KSY’s position (more on this later).
Korea: Team Preview / Current Form:
First, I will discuss each of the positions (FW, MF, DF/GK) individually, then I will discuss what Korea needs to work on / do right against a dangerous team like UAE. However, I’m certain that the majority of you will know EXACTLY what I will talk about in that latter part.
Before going into anything, I want to share the media’s projected starting XI. How’d they get this XI? A pic was taken with these 11 players standing around Stielike, making the media assume this was to be a starting XI. And given Stielike’s love for Lee JH, Nam TH, and Jang HS as a DM, I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened:
You guys have probably all seen the callups. We raged together about the inclusion of Lee YJ, though to be honest, I can see why LYJ was called up because he’s actually in pretty good form. Problem is, a lot of potentially good FW’s like Joo Min Kyu (he has 11 or 12 goals in the K League Challenge and has scored in 7 consecutive games) and Suk Hyun Jun of CD Nacional weren’t.
I’m almost positive that Lee Jung Hyup will start vs. UAE, and most likely, Lee Yong Jae will be tested vs. Malaysia. I personally would’ve liked to see Suk HJ, Joo MK, Hwang EJ, and Kim SD called up, the former two to see how they play and the latter to confirm my prediction that he’d link up very nicely with players like Son HM and Lee CY.
Takeuchi said in the comments section where I posted about the starting XI that “Hwang EJ wasn’t that in form til he scored against Jeonbuk. He’s a battler who misses as often as Lee Yong-Jae.” Actually, I did some research, looking into every single one of Seongnam’s highlights, and this is actually true. He does sky quite a few shots but he did score a SICK goal vs. Jeju just last week in addition to his double vs. Jeonbuk.
But while looking into a countless number of spotv highlights (I had a lot of time to kill during vacation in Atlanta/Duluth, which, btw, was literally Korean heaven, Duluth is the greatest place ever!), I became convinced that with the current lineup we should try testing Kang Soo Il as our 1 top. He often played RW for Pohang last year and still sometimes does for Jeju but more often than not he starts as the CF in Jeju’s 4-3-3. Though he hasn’t scored in his last two matches, the man’s got skill. Since we’ve gotten a pretty good idea of Lee Jung Hyup’s skillsets and limitations, and we know that he’s decent but not ideal, DOESN’T IT MAKE SENSE TO TRY OUT SOME OTHER IN-FORM K LEAGUE STRIKERS? Why can’t Stielike just let Kim Seung Dae / Suk Hyun Jun try out a game? Or let Joo Min Kyu / Hwang Eui Jo play in just ONE match? Must we stick with Lee Jung Hyup every time? No offense to the man who did pretty well in the Asian Cup, but doesn’t the coach himself also want an idea of what the other guys can offer?
I think for this round of callups Stielike chose WAY too many defensive midfielders. Jung Woo Young (I guess he’s playing pretty well in Japan), Han Kook Young (who knows what he’s up to in Qatar), Choi Bo Kyung, and Jang Hyun Soo, who I still think SHOULD be a CB not a DM. So, I personally think that if the media is correct and we end up fielding CBK and JHS in midfield, we might lose midfield control that we usually would get with Ki Sung Yong.
Now here’s a puzzling thing. There are only two players who can really fill the KSY role. The first candidate would be Lee Jae Sung, the star of the previous round of friendlies vs. Uzbekistan. Look at Jeonbuk’s latest lineup:
Thus, though I’ve long advocated for Lee Jae Sung as KNT’s #10 (until Lee Kang In comes around that is haha), I think for this round of friendlies the best thing to do is pair Choi Bo Kyung and Lee Jae Sung together in CM. Their skillsets complement each other and they are established starters for the same club team. The problem is, the only time LJS started for the KNT was as RW and I don’t think he’s going to be starting vs. UAE.
The other candidate would be Busan’s Joo Se Jong, who I initially thought was a DM/CB from spotv highlights and his replacing Kim Ki Hee, but as Jae fortunately informed me, is actually “a CM more along the lines of Ki SY (obviously nowhere near his level though).” So he could also potentially be included as well. I’d love to see him tested out sometime vs. Myanmar maybe, but (sorry Jae) I have faith in LJS whereas I’ve yet to see Joo SJ tested out on the international stage. I personally think a LJS – CBK midfield is the best way to go.
If Choi Bo Kyung turns out to perform REALLY well as a DM, perhaps we can look into him partnering KSY and shifting PJH to his natural LB position. Then we could potentially shift Kim Jin Su to RB, which I’ve wanted to see for a while now, but I digress. I’m very excited to see how he does.
Speaking of the #10 role, the most likely taker of that role is NTH. Now NTH puzzles me a bit. He was playing very well for his club back in 2014 then comes in to the KNT, puts in a MotM worthy performance vs. Saudi Arabia but plays very poorly during the AC. He gets back in form with Lekhwiya, but for the March friendlies he plays very poorly again. Bottom line: Good for club, hot and cold for country. Will NTH be able to nail down that #10 role? We’ll see how things play out.
As for the wingers, in my eyes the pool consists of Yeom Ki Hun, Son HM, and Lee CY, though Stielike probably sees it as those three + Lee JS and Kang SI. Yeom Ki Hun is officially the most in form K League player, and I think the majority of people will agree. Perhaps we’ll see him vs. Myanmar – we do sorely need a freekick taker on this team.
The defense is much more self explanatory. With Lee Chae Min and Kim Ki Hee injured, only three CBs are left and with Joo Se Jong’s inexperience, Hong Jeong Ho and Kwak will almost certainly start.
As for the fullbacks we have two LB’s in Kim Jin Su and Jeonbuk’s Lee Ju Yong, and three RB’s in Jeong Dong Ho, Lim Chang Woo, and Kim Chang Soo. Stielike probably trusts Kim Chang Soo the most, but he’s also the player fans trust the least considering he really isn’t a consistent starter for his club. Knowing Stielike we will probably see Kim Chang Soo, though I’d be very happy with either of the other two, both of whom I’ve long wanted to see on the KNT senior stage. As for LB I’d love to see Lee Ju Yong tested, but since Stielike seems to want to go all out vs. UAE, I think a logical thing to do would be KJS vs. UAE and Lee JY vs. Myanmar.
As for GK, I mean it’s not really a question – KJH is gonna start.
Anyone who followed the Asian Cup will know that UAE is a fairly strong team. They have a decent striker in Ali Mabkhout, who was the tournament top scorer with 5. We need to thank him because he helped knock out Japan early 🙂
Then there’s another forward, who I believe played wide during the Asian Cup, named Ahmed Khalil, who’s the same age as Mabkhout but has almost twice as many caps and two more goals. Their most famous player is the very promising attacking midfielder Omar Abdulrahman – for a 23/24 year old, the number of quality highlight reels he has is insane. I guess SHM has just as many, but while SHM is frustratingly inconsistent this guy was consistently amazing for the UAE during the AC at least. He plays in a low level league but I’d love to see what he can do in Europe.
I am not familiar with the rest of the UAE team to be honest, but their formidable attack enough should worry us KNT fans.
This actually transitions very nicely to some key points we should watch out for during the match. The Tavern writers should jump in here to add what they will be looking out for as well.
1. Hong Jeong Ho vs. Mabkhout: We’ve seen an injured HJH, pretty much drugged with painkillers, get wrecked by Slimani of Algeria. Now, HJH is healthy and performing fairly well with Augsburg, helping them reach the Europa League. We must hope that HJH can deal with his adversary this time around.
2. Focus – can we keep focus for a full 90 minutes? I think the women’s World Cup is showing us that it’s in our genes to make a defensive lapse once or twice a game, and I hope Stielike has been working to make sure this doesn’t keep happening. If this is something a coach can fix, that is.
3. Speaking of what coaches can fix, remember how freaking frustrating the Uzbeksitan friendly and the NZ friendly were? The dumb pass misses, poor ball control, and most of all the complete inability to shoot? It’s been a VERY long time since I’ve seen a refreshing, no-major-qualms win from the KNT, I hope at least the Myanmar match can be one of those.
4. LCY’s form – I want LCY to start at least one match and play full time, possibly two, to help him regain form, and see where he is after his leg injury vs. Oman.
5. Omar Abdulrahman vs. our midfield – I have an inkling that if we play two DM’s in CBK and JHS we’ll cede control and let Omar Abdulrahman do what we wants. Which is NOT a good idea. I don’t think we should be manmarking him – he’s not Messi. I believe the best thing to do is put in LJS and let him do what KSY does – hold onto the ball, keep possession (he’s good at that btw), and control the game, taking ball possession time away from Abdulrahman.
Overall, I think playing the UAE is a pretty good measurement of where we stand. If we’re STILL lacking in the basics, we will have a hard time, but perhaps a clean win will show us that Stielike is doing something right behind the scenes. We’ll see what happens tomorrow, but I’ve gone from being the Tavern’s top optimist to the Tavern’s cynic. I’ve pretty much learned to not expect much, but so what? We’ll be rooting for the KNT till we die regardless right?
Well that’s it for my preview, and we’ll see you guys early tomorrow morning! Don’t forget to follow the Tavern’s Twitter account (I think most of you already do lol) and our Tavern FB page, which used to be pretty much nonexistent but we are working on reviving it! And keep an eye out for Roy’s Women’s World Cup Brazil match analysis!