Why Korea’s 3-5-2 Just Doesn’t Work

I’ve recently been addicted to Gordon Ramsay videos on Youtube. Don’t ask why, but it seems like a good way to kill time in between classes or before bed. In one Hell’s Kitchen episode, contestants are given the chance to cook anything for the Chef – any one-course meal they’d like. Though there were some remarkably bland meals (cauliflower couscous?) which Ramsey rejected with his usual sharp-tongued repugnance, one ingenious chef decided to serve a rib-eye steak with white peaches, almost to show how avant-garde and innovative he is. Ramsey is intrigued, but spits it out after taking a bite and says, “It doesn’t work. Fucking disgusting.”

Well, in the strangest of ways, that couldn’t-help-himself chef is Shin Tae-yong, and his 3-5-2 is the rib-eye steak with white peaches. It’s unnecessary, fails to fit ingredients that don’t go together, messes up some good individual ingredients and, simply put, is fucking disgusting.

The Birth of 3-5-2

Perhaps there was a time in which fruit on steak tasted good – or perhaps there wasn’t, and maybe it’s time for me to *really* drop this analogy. Regardless, let’s rewind and look for a moment at the place of 3-5-2 in past and modern tactics, because there obviously is a place and context for the 3-5-2 shape. Jonathan Wilson explains in his evolution of tactics, Inverting the Pyramid, that in European football, the 3-5-2 was the natural progression from the Italian catenaccio, which saw two defensive defenders – a man-marking centreback and a defensive and central right-back – accompanied by two more aggressive ones – a central libero (or sweeper) and an aggressive left-back. To provide balance, the right midfielder often had the responsibility to tuck in defensively.

By converting the right midfielder into more of a wing-back and tucking in the defensive right-back into a 3-man central defense, you had your back 5 (3 centrebacks (2 defensive, 1 sweeper) and 2 wingbacks).

3-5-2 is both the progression from catenaccio, and the response to the tactical trend at the time, the 4-4-2. As illustrated below, the red team has a spare man at the back to cover for either centreback or move up as a ball-carrier, while the central midfield sees a 3v2 overload in favor of red. Without tactical innovation from the blue team, they theoretically have a disadvantage in attack and in midfield.

Teams playing this shape were victorious in the 1990, 1994 and 2002 World Cups, as well as the 1996 Euro. The tactical world either joined the club or tried new ways to beat it. Even the English, housekeepers of their beloved 4-4-2, tested the 3-back at one point.

The Death of 3-5-2

Michael Cox characterizes the 2000s as the “death of the three-man defense”. By around the mid-2000s, football was changing to a more modern form as we know it today. Cox hypothesizes that the game saw more pace, agility and versatility, a break from more rigid shapes. For example, teams saw more merit in integrating skillful midfielders centrally. One-striker formations like the 4-2-3-1, in which number 10s could play both as the attacking playmaker and a deeper second striker, rose to fashion. It also gave a new meaning to the role of the attacking full-back, as it allowed teams to provide the space and balance for overlapping fullbacks, not necessarily wingbacks (one attacks, the other stays at home beside the centre-backs to protect against the counter). Faced against these 1-striker formations (including the 4-3-3), the 3-5-2 fell out of fashion. Why play 3 centrebacks against just 1 striker? It was too much cover, and reactive to a threat that no longer existed – two traditional strikers.

Simply put, the 3-5-2 died. It was shelved and became a useless formation.

The Return of 3-5-2?

However, in certain contexts, 3-5-2 and 3-man defenses have returned somewhat to prominence. Jonathan Wilson again (this article is basically going to be me picking at the brain of Jonathan Wilson, don’t be too impressed) points out how despite the 3-5-2 largely vanishing from the tactical scene, some teams in the mid-200s remained successful with it. Egypt under Hassan Shehata won the 2006, 2008 and 2010 African Cup of Nations undefeated by playing the 3-5-2 in a continent where 4-4-2 was still then the basis of tactical thinking. Only sides that would try and fit players into a 4-2-3-1 system managed to pose Egypt discomfort, including in their World Cup playoff in 2010 against Algeria.

In the recent Euro 2016, the two sides playing a back three – Italy and Wales – made it deep in the competition. Both sides, however, used that formation not out of ideology but out of practicality, Wilson argues. Italy needed a way to integrate the sturdy Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini trio, while Wales needed to patch up defensive problems while maintaining the integrity of their three-man midfield of Ledley, Allen and Ramsey.

In the respect that a few select national teams have used it to great success, the 3-back has returned. England and Russia seem set to enter the World Cup with a 3-man defense. It also has made a small breakthrough in club football, with Juventus and other Italian clubs using it frequently over the past few years, as has Conte’s Chelsea and on occasion Pochettino’s Spurs. Its muted return is more owed to teams playing to their strengths than to reacting to the trend of tactics in football. With the exception of Shehata’s Egypt, a 3-back today is practical, NOT about reacting to how to beat what everyone else is doing.

Shin Tae-yong’s shortcomings with the system

Since Shin Tae-yong took over, Korea has tried the 3-back on five separate occasions. And it is fair to say that so many goals conceded under the 3-back system have been a direct consequence of players being unable to play the system being exploited.

Let’s go over a few examples. October 2017, Korea is down 3-0 to Russia, and their 4th goal sees neither of the three centrebacks take responsibility for any of the two forwards.

There’s three centre-backs. And two imminent threats for forwards. Remember that graphic we saw earlier, of two centrebacks marking two forwards and a spare centreback to cover? No Korean players is close enough to stop the progress of either forward, and the left centreback is miles away from the action.

 

The play evolves and none of the 5 defenders near the penalty box is marking the goalscorer.

Against Morocco, the wingbacks become the culprits. Shin Tae-yong had tried to shoehorn Lee Chung-yong as the right-wing back to dramatic failure.

The third run was against North Korea, where South Korea’s offensive approach was anemic, especially since North Korea was only deploying one forward…

This is a lot of respect for Jong Il-gwan – three centrebacks AND the left wingback? He better be Messi.

Then against Poland, Shin ended his experiment in the first half because of it’s low efficiency at creating chances, switching to a 4-4-2 in the second half. K League Coach (@kleaguecoach on Twitter) highlighted this super well, so I won’t try and re-state things. Instead, here’s a comparison of Korea’s first half final third activity and their second half final third activity, courtesy of K League Coach (seriously, check him out, he’s the real deal!):

Finally, yesterday against Bosnia, all three Bosnian goals came from exploitation of the holes in Korea’s defense, and the inability of our wing-backs to track back down the pitch as quickly as one should in a 3-back formation. Goal number 1:

Lee Yong comes out to challenge the left winger, and gets caught out. Yoon Young-sun (connected by a red line) isn’t prepared to cover for the space behind Lee, and is much too narrow.

 

Acres of space for the early cross for the Bosnian player. Kim Min-woo ultimately misses the clearance which allows for Visca to bang home. Individual error + structural failure = goal.

Goal number 2:

Korea’s back 5 is *very* spread out.

 

Highlighted in yellow is Kim Min-woo, the left wingback, the highest man on the pitch to help the play. Son(?) is trying to attempt a cross into the box.

 

The play breaks down – it was low-chance anyways. Bosnia break out. Kim Min-woo (highlighted) has elected to tuck into central midfield (???) instead of sprinting back to return to the defense.

 

Well-hit longball over the top of Ki Sung-yueng, and Oh Ban-seok (highlighted) is painfully slow to react. Visca through on net and scores, 2-1 Bosnia. Acres of space behind the centrebacks, no one picking up the wingers and no wingback in sight to defend.

Goal number 3:

Both the right wing-back (Lee Yong) and the right centre-back (I think it was Kwon Kyung-won at this point?) get skinned and Bosnia is in space again.

 

With Kim Min-woo (the left wingback, who should be picking up the right winger!) nowhere in sight, Oh Ban-seok is once again painfully slow to react to Visca’s run. A deep cross comes in and Bosnia score their 3rd to kill the game.

Fact vs Korean Context

Fact: The 3-5-2 is a dangerous game to play in modern tactics because of how the game as evolved as I’ve described above. It requires players comfortable in the system, a manager comfortable in teaching it, and the knowledge to know when it’s overkill to play three defenders against a given opponent. Unless you’re Italian, this formation requires commitment.

Korean Context: Shin Tae-yong clearly can’t teach the 3-5-2 in the short time-span of international breaks (or whatever homework he assigns players during their club season). Moreover, he’s trialing the 3-5-2 in all the wrong games (against North Korea’s 1 striker, and Bosnia’s 4-3-3 – he was *asking* for the wingers to run behind the wingbacks).

Fact: The 3-5-2 only really suits a squad that is made for it – even in club football, it’s hard to build a 3-5-2 system over time. Antonio Conte, for example, had to train and model Victor Moses into a wingback, but still went for 3-4-3 in order to please Pedro, Hazard, Willian and company, at the expense of Fabregas. This year, he opted instead to try and bring Cesc Fabregas into midfield and re-model Hazard into a forward drifting wide, and Chelsea declined mightily in quality.

Korean Context: Shin Tae-yong tried Lee Chung-yong and Kim Young-gwon as wingbacks early on. He sobered up and called up K League wingbacks or fullbacks, but is still trying to squeeze Ki Sung-yueng as the central centreback, when it clearly is a waste of his talents on the national team. Moreover, Hwang Hee-chan, Son Heung-min and Lee Seung-woo can all be effective as wingers, but the 3-5-2 forces any wing-forward centrally only.

Fact: The 3-5-2 needs powerful, powerful wingbacks. They take up the hybridization responsibilities as clever attackers, sort of like wingers, and disciplined wide defenders, like a fullback. They need to have pace and stamina in leaps and bounds.

Korean Context: No Korean player active today shares all of these attributes.

Fact: The 3-5-2 also needs centrebacks who know their roles. Wider centrebacks have to be prepared to block crosses, but also cover rapidly, all while knowing when to shift narrowly. The central centreback is preferably both sweeping in behind and moving high up the pitch as a ball-playing defender.

Korean Context: Yoon Young-sun and Oh Ban-seok may have a reputation to be stronger centrebacks, but they were seriously exploited vs Bosnia for their inability to cover. Ki Sung-yueng was outmuscled by Dzeko on more than one occasion and doesn’t know the role, as demonstrated by his tunnel tirade at halftime (throwing his armband on the ground and swearing loudly).

Club Manager vs International Manager

The problem that Shin Tae-yong has had consistently for me is that he tries to manage national teams like a club manager. With both the U20 and Olympic sides, he has had extended training camps and multiple friendlies (remember the U20 team playing a random friendly against Jeonbuk Hyundai?), and he’s brought that approach to the Korean national team. We had a training camp in January with friendlies against Latvia, Moldova and Jamaica, and we’ve scheduled 4 friendlies ahead of the World Cup – the most of any national team. Granted, he’s been in the job for less than a year, and perhaps he saw how Hong Myung-bo’s inability to give his team tactical variations in 2014 as something that felled them. Simply put, he wants a lot, a lot, a lot of time with his team.

But his biggest achilles’ heel is his obsession with trying out multiple tactical variations with international teams. Under his tenure, the KNT has played 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, 3-5-2, 3-4-3 and 4-4-2. In less than a year! Shin’s reputation as the tinkerman has left fans – and probably players – guessing as to what he’s going to do in every match. Club teams can build around 2-3 tactical plans in a year and master them, training over a sustained period of time to find the players to fit the formation. International managers, however, given their limited access to the squad, should more often find the formation to fit the team. With the lack of a real #10 on the national team, and the obvious Achilles’ heel of an unorganized defense, Shin Tae-yong’s decision to go with a sturdy 4-4-2 against Colombia, which is capable of a dynamic high press against weaker sides, is a laudable one. However, the 3-back systems that he has deployed are the perfect example of Shin trying to desperately find the players to fit the system.

The 3-5-2 As A Solution for Sweden?

My reasoning for why Shin Tae-yong is still trying the 3-5-2 is because he believes it could give Korea a platform to beat Sweden. We basically know what the Swedes will do – they play 4-4-2 with two tall strikers, and their starting XI is largely set in stone for quite some time, and all their variations in their limited system are well documented. Forsberg likes to drift inside and work his trickery, Olsson (the left-back) likes to push up, and if everyone is in their usual place then Sweden will just go long to Toivonen or Berg from the ball-playing centrebacks Granqvist and Lindelof. Their defensive shape is predictable.

But not only can we not play the formation, Sweden has proven it can play against it if it’s not well executed. In their European play-off, Italy, for example, lined up in a variant of the 3-5-2 against Sweden’s 4-4-2 (it was more of a 3-1-4-2 than a 3-4-1-2), but couldn’t score across two legs. Ventura’s poor game management combined with Sweden’s rational decision to just play a very compact 4-4-2 in response to the numerical overload in midfield saw the Italians flounder. This Italian side also had not often played in the 3-back (though it’s a comfort zone for most Italian national teams) under Ventura, while the Swedes have been playing 4-4-2 for years.

They are not like the African sides of the past decade or the European sides of the 90s, and will adjust easily to the 3-5-2 as they did against Italy. The 3-5-2 isn’t some invincible formation like it once was, and Korea’s variation of it does not satisfy the practicality criteria required for its success in modern day international football.

So, Shin Tae-yong, don’t put peaches on your rib-eye. Keep it simple, because the 3-5-2 (or 3-4-3) just doesn’t work. It hasn’t, and it won’t, and quite frankly, it’s – in my best Gordon Ramsay impression – fucking disgusting.

About Tim Lee 295 Articles
The maple syrup guzzling kimchijjigae craving Korean-Canadian, eh?

25 Comments

  1. Great read Tim! I agree with your assessment. However whatever formation we use, hopefully they master it by now and stop throwing weird formations to confuse out opponents. In reality we are the ones getting confused and screwed!

    • Oh Alex you couldn’t be more right on there! The players look so confused and Korea’s opponents have been happy to exploit that. We need to settle into a formation and improve at it. As Tim would say, no more 3-5-2.

  2. I’m not one to swear unless the context requires it…and this context requires it. ‘Fucking disgusting’ is totally the appropriate description. Great article – but you got me at the first paragraph 🙂

  3. It seems like everyone and their grandmother knows this formation doesn’t work except STY. If korea come out trying to use this same tactic after it has failed miserably over and over again, he should be fired on the spot

    • Jung, I am totally with you. Shin is most likely going to be held to a similar standard as Hong Myung-bo was at the 2014 World Cup. Show an unconvincing and embarrassing performance like at the last World Cup and Shin will be sacked. Persisting with this formation will most likely lead to that end. I hope he sees reason and changes his tactics. If not, we’ll all be hoping for a miracle.

  4. Awesome post. My football IQ just went up.
    Did anyone watch the Sweden Denmark friendly?
    I’m curious on how their form was and how their tactics will affect KNT.

    • The trick with writing these things is to sound smart, not actually be smart 😉

      I watched 75% of it (got distracted because it was boring af). We should put up a Sweden tactical preview before the match, so I’ll save some ideas for that, but the by and large of it is Sweden is very predictable and managed 0 shots on target, but didn’t give Denmark very much anyhow. It was a 1.5 side (only 2-3 starters out) and they either 1) built up from the back with Leipzig creative maestro and Sweden’s key player Emil Forsberg tucking in centrally so that he could do his magic 2) hit longballs out of the back to their two target men.

      Both of their centrebacks are comfortable in possession (Granqvist did a David Luis burst up the field, while Lindelof transfered to Man Utd specifically bc he’s a good ball handler) so idk how well our high press will work.

      Less Forsberg is better for Korea though, so I’m leaning towards a 4-4-2 and trying to keep as much possession as possible, high press and take the chance on dealing with Sweden’s longballs.

      If STY tries the 3-5-2 vs Bolivia or in the closed-door match v Senegal (though it will be hard to tell what formation he plays in that since we may get 0 info) then it might mean he REALLY doesn’t think the 4-4-2 vs 4-4-2 will wield a goal for Korea.

  5. Hey Michael or Tim, any reason why paik seung ho wasnt called up for the provisional roster or even the friendlies in the past few months? I know he’s a year older than lsw and is praised for his technical abilities, and also has been playing regularly for club. Maybe I’m naive or missed something haha.

    • I think Jinseok (our youth expert who’s sadly crushed under med school responsibilities instead of seizing his destiny to become the greatest Korean football writer about our youth players the world has even known) mused how he wished PSH had also been called. I think it’s mostly because in terms of creative midfielders we already have Lee Jae-sung (and had KCH rip) and he doesn’t have an X-factor or must-have attribute like LSW. Also he’s pretty important to the U23 side that will play in the Asian Games this August for military exemption (w/ SHM as overage player).

      Basically the same reasons we thought LSW wouldn’t be called (STY’s newfound conservatism, sticking to what he knows) + some extraneous factors that made LSW a more attractive candidate + PSH’s responsibility to the U23 side which can bolster his career path.

  6. Ah I see. All reasonable and fair points. But realistically speaking korea has maybe like 10 percent chance to progress out of the group. I feel that giving youngsters chance to play is a win win situation. Either they play poorly, get crushed and learn through experience and mistakes or surprise the world play well and advance, and gain interest (offers) from top euro clubs. This would be my strategy imo.

    • Yeah, I absolutely agree with that but the factors Tim mentions probably outweighed this “Play the kids” factor unfortunately. For a Korean footballer’s career, an Asian Games gold medal can be huge so Paik getting a shot at one so early will do wonders for his career. Lee SW will also most likely be going to the Asian Games. Korean media is even bringing up Lee Kangin for the Asian Games, and coach Kim Hak-bum has said any player that will help Korea bring home the gold is up for selection, regardless of age.

  7. Stop confusing the players and keep it simple. Stick to what you know! It makes absolutely no sense for Ki to learn a new position during training right before a friendly (and the World Cup). STY tinkering with our side and trying to act as this tactics virtuoso will only cause havoc. We need to minimize our mistakes and lapses in defensive communication; players need to know who they’re guarding and which spaces to occupy.

    I was trying to come up with my lineup for our 4-4-2 after these friendlies, and I can’t really come up with our full team. Very few in defense impressed me. Kim Min Woo and Oh Ban Suk were especially bad. My vote for GK is Cho. I think Kim Young Gwon should definitely be a CB. As for his partner? Who knows. Right and left back are both up in the air for me. I really miss Kim Jinsu. Ki obviously as the CM, his partner should either be Koo or Park JH. Then some combination of Lee JS, Hwang HC, Son, and LSW. What do others think?

    Also, I feel like after the disappointing 2014 World Cup, we were all optimistic for 2018 because we were excited for Son, Ki to play together with LSW and PSH. Now here we are. The transfer ban really hurt their careers. I guess we have 2022 to look forward to with LSW, PSH, and LKI with a veteran presence from Son. Throw in Hwang, Kwon, Kim Minjae…

  8. I’ll bite, for the sake of discussion. While I will ultimately agree on criticism toward Shin TY, I will argue it isn’t the issue with 3-5-2. I am not a fan of 3 back system.. but..

    1. The problem isn’t with the formation. If anything, formation is meaningless in modern football compared to in the past. The systems were much more rigid (4-4-2 flat of current era is completely different to the ol 4-4-2 flat of English) with specialized positions/skilled players. In modern football, you see multiple variations/transitions of “formation” within a game. To blame it sorely on 3-5-2 is unfair…

    2. Korea doesn’t have perfect formation or ideal formation if you are to really consider the current pool of players. Many argue, noting the good result against Colombia to support 4-4-2 but at the same time, ignore the result against Northern Ireland. Majority of the success under 4-4-2 came against extremely inferior sides (not to mention, most had 2nd to 3rd string squads against KNT 1.5 squads). Even against Honduras, 4-4-2 Korea played more like 4-3-3 to 3-5-2 when KNT started to click & score goals in 2nd half.

    3. 3-5-2 can be successful if Shin TY commit to the system.. but not only that, commit to an “identity”. Failure of 3-5-2 (tbh, any system for Korea) has mostly to do with lack of commitment to “identity”. Shin TY focuses on “nullifying” opposition & in the process, forgets he has good players in Son, Koo, Park JH, Ki SY and so forth. To nullify the opposition, he has taken players completely out of position or they aren’t at their best. The constant tinkering & experiment did nothing but harm chemistry blah blah blah.

    Shin TY, based on his comments.. also.. obsessed with his tinkering imo, isn’t sure how he wants Korea to play. He can’t figure out if he wants to play counter-attacking, counter-press/defensive highline+press, possession football, defensive hoofball or whatever.

    4. The Italian 3-5-2 or 3 back system isn’t the only way. 3 back system of Pep, Tuchel and so forth are completely different in their approach. Also, you don’t need “Victor Moses” type as wingbacks. While he is doing well with Chelsea, he was atrocious as wingback for Liverpool. The ability by the 3 CBs to shift, and move outside to cover the wingbacks is much more important. The whole idea of wingbacks are to spend majority of their time in midfield . Modern wingbacks are basically wingers…. Kim MW positioning, as you highlighted above, isn’t completely wrong (especially when you consider Shin TY.. at least in the game, wanted his WBs to push higher up).

    • Yeah I agree. Conclusion: The 3 back isn’t the problem. Shin TY is the problem. In his defense, taking over KNT with 2 crucial qualifying games remaining was incredibly difficult. I think even a lot of top managers would be struggling too if they were in charge of Korea. Maybe, a better and more experienced manager would have known that tinkering can really hurt a team, especially a national team.

    • 1) You make a lot of good points. I’m not trying to say that the 3-5-2 is the only reason, but I do think testing this kind of starting shape with wingbacks very high against Bosnia was bound to fail. You’re not a big fan of relying on the numbering but stay with me here – 3-5-2 vs 4-3-3 is more worrisome than 3-5-2 vs 4-4-2 or any two-top because you’re basically doing a 1v1 with the centrebacks vs the wingers. It’s not the formation’s *fault*, but it is Shin’s fault for using it in games where it was going to be exploited by default.

      Basically I think STY should have done 3-5-2 vs Honduras and 4-4-2 vs Bosnia if he wanted to test the two badly.

      2) You’re right, the 4-4-2 isn’t strictly that. But a flat 4-4-2 is too simplistic anyway. When I say I like Korea’s 4-4-2, I mean I like having a simple back four bc this side has no chemistry to play with 3 CBs. If a winger pushes up, or a midfielder drops deep, or many things happen to change the shape during the game then so be it – for sure against Honduras JWY dropped deep and LSW was so high up compared to LCY that it wasn’t strictly 4-4-2. But it remains that the team’s default shape is 4-4-2. Surely there the starting formation indicates the team’s approach. It’s the three digits that can indicate the kinds of approaches we’ll take in a game.

      Totally agree with 3.

      4) For sure, I was being simplistic, not all 3-5-2s are the same just as not all 4-4-2s or 4-2-3-1s or wtv. KMW’s positioning wasn’t wrong per se – in fact there would have been absolutely no problem if OBS (or whoever the wider CBs will be if we play this again) could have followed the run. The emphasis should probably be more on STY should teach KMW to track back and stay deeper because the 3-man defense is so fragile, rather than asking him to do the things he did.

      The 4-4-2 system is far far far far far from perfect, but it’s safer and more reliable than any 3-back experiment STY has done. I think the Northern Ireland game was dumb anyway because KSW was starting. The second half vs Poland was much better.

      I do think with SHM, LSW, KCH, LJS, HHC in the ranks that Korea playing a high press (at least vs Asian teams) can be the first step towards a new Korean “identity”. KSY doesn’t have a proven direct successor when (if) he retires after 2018 WC or 2019 AC, and the side has always lacked clear #10. Not to say we shouldn’t look to players to step up and play the role, but given how most of the players I mentioned aren’t good in defensive responsibilities but are light and quick, STY (or whoever steps in after 2018) has potential to make a stable identity for Korea highlighted by high energetic press.

      • 4-4-2, 3-5-2.. or whatever, as long as Shin TY

        1. doesn’t use any player as “libero” from defense
        2. can commit to one “formation” as base

        I’ll be happy. 4 (they were’t that great at Olympics & U20 WC under Shin TY) or 3 back.. meh. Just stick to one. Lack of clear identity & constant tinkering w/ ideas that don’t mesh well… was an issue ever since he managed the Olympic squad Main reason why I never rated Shin TY (along with selecting players that don’t fit with comments on whatever he states is his “ideology”)….

      • On the 3-5-2 vs 4-3-3 argument…

        To use Liverpool as an example, all of Liverpools heavy defeats (we’re a 4-3-3 team) came against 3-5-2 (Spurs, Man City). Always struggled against Chelsea & some of our surprising defeat against lower teams were against teams who used 3/5 backs (Swansea this season).

        BvB, another 4-3-3 while Peter Bosz was the manager.. struggled against teams who used 3-5-2/3-4-3 (for ex- Poch used 3 back against BvB in CL).

  9. Great article! I love reading about tactics. I think a lot of people have forgotten or didn’t know that Korea used a 3 back system at the 2002 world cup. Back then, Korea defended so well. They were so organized and disciplined. It definitely helped that Hiddink had more time with the players to prepare for the tournament, but 2002 was a golden age for Korea, especially for defenders. They had so many talented, physically and mentally tough defenders like Hong Myung Bo that Korea is sorely lacking now. They managed to shut down world class players like Figo and Totti.

  10. Thank you for the amazing post. I was blown away about how well detailed and analyzed this article was. You should just be the analyst for the KNT.

    I totally agree on your point of view about the 3-5-2 system. Korea does not talented wing backs that are fit for the system that Shin tries to incorporate. Shin needs to mold his system around his talented players (such as Ki, LSW, and Son). I loved your peach and and rib-eye analogy.

    Also, someone needs to send this article to Shin and hopefully he will stop using his failed 3-5-2 system.

    Keep up the great work!

  11. Logically I can understand why STY wants a 3-5-2. He wants an extra guy in the MF, and if they are defending, I suppose it can morph into 5-3-2 so they aren’t deficient at the back. Otherwise if they lose possession in the middle of the pitch, like they did against Algeria in 2014, it will be wave after wave of Swedes, Mexicans and Germans having a field day against the KMNT’s lacklustre defenders.

    Of course ideally in a 3-5-2 formation you sort of need mobile defenders that can try and cover a wide area if the wing back gets beaten. Or centre mids that can cover and act like defenders when they get spread out, and wing backs that are up for a long day. I don’t think we have a single, credible defensive holding mid or defenders that can even defend, so this is probably not going to end well, even if someone can rationalize the theory.

    He’s in a tough group managing a team that is lacking quality. I feel bad for him, but he had to know what he was getting into. I wish them the best but most of us posting on this site live in a rational paradigm, it could be reallly ugly in 2 weeks.

  12. I think its understandable that shin wants a 3 back against swedens 2 tall strikers. 2 v 2 wouldnt cut it if korea was counter attacked with a long ball. So he wants a 3 back with the wingbacks pushing high to provide width. Its obvious that no winger can run back faster than a kicked long ball thats why the 2 defensive mids fill in on the flanks and the wingbacks run back to the defensive mids position. As Tim said it needs a lot of time and a tactical intelligent team to execute the system well. Not something to be implemented in a few matches. Im pretty frustrated with all the experimenting aswell, but I understand that Shin tries hard to perform well. I still think he should stay after the WC. He might be able to build a solid system over the next 4 Years. Switching coaches all the time is not much different from having one coach switching between systems.

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