World Cup Tactics – Kevin

Yeah. Hopefully for the right reasons...

Kevin’s Preferred Tactics and XI

So this is difficult.

For the first time since I’ve been following the Korean national side, the World Cup has returned, and I have absolutely no idea what our game plan is.

Korea’s manager, Shin Tae-yong, has brazenly taken the helm going into the World Cup, and it’s almost like everyone but the people in charge forgot what happened last time Korea’s U23 manager was promoted to take the senior side into the World Cup.

They went three and out.

For whatever reason, Shin Tae-yong, who admittedly may have won the Asian Champions League but has since done not much else in his managing career, believes he will lead the Korean national team to newfound success.

All signs indicate otherwise. And we’re less than a month away.

Seriously, I don’t even know what formation our side may show up with. Games are starting in the AM for me, but I know I’m going to need a shot at the start of every match.

Fuck it. What are my tactics.

 

Formation

We play with four at the back.

I don’t care what Shin Tae-yong is thinking. 3 at the back does not work. We look disorganized. We look sloppy. We can’t hold a goddamn line. We’ve never played with it before and it shows.

On top of that, fullbacks have always been our strength. Our side is traditionally possession based and likes to move the ball around. Fullbacks have a lot to do with that. They provide an extra outlet when attacking, and provide extra security when defending. We’re used to it, we like it, we should work with it.

Considering our form as of late and our inept showings with anything less than a back four, I’d rotate between a 4-4-2 and our most comfortable 4-2-3-1.

 

Injuries

Despite the colossal goatfuck that is our national side, we still won’t be going with our strongest 23.

Kwon Chang-hoon, Korea’s next-best attacking asset behind Son Heung-min, is out. After scoring double digit goals in his first season in France, twenty minutes before the end of Dijon’s final match in Ligue 1, he ruptured his ankle, and may even potentially miss the Asian Cup in eight months time.

Not only that, Yeom Ki-hoon, a tricky veteran winger, is out injured. So is Lee Keun-ho, another staple veteran and pesky attacking threat.

So is Kim Min-jae, Korea’s best defensive prospect. And Kim Jin-su, who enjoyed a stint in Germany with Hoffenheim, is a tentative maybe. He hasn’t played for nearly two months due to his injury, yet is still our best option at left-back.

 

Squad

So it goes without saying our squad is a bit of a mess.

Defensively, there’s not much to hark about, but it is good to see Cho Hyun-woo coming to Russia, and I hope he is the dubutant between the sticks.

He can actually catch, which is more than what I can say for Kim Seung-gyu, and is a decent shot-stopper. I haven’t seen him flop hopelessly as I have with Jung Sung-ryong time after time, so overall I have no complaints with him.

Hopefully he doesn’t take it too hardly conceding as many goals as he may. Because I can already sense they won’t be his fault. And that’s a good thing.

Speaking of…

Honestly, what’s there even to say about our defense.

Our provisional squad. Except Lee Keun-ho and Kwon Chang-hoon are out.

It’s poor. Kim Young-gwon’s World Cup debut in Brazil ended with him getting bossed three games straight. He’s been in China for four years since.

Kwon Kyung-won arrives as another option at centerback, who’s also has been honing his trade in China. Forgettable.

And then there’s the most contentious figure in the side; Jang Hyun-soo. My opinion of him is neither here nor there, but knowing that it may be a reality that two of these three names could actually appear side-by-side on television requires me to hold back tears.

If he’s cleared to play, I’d want Kim Jin-su on my side, but I’d have no idea who to place as his partner on the right. Sorry. Lee Yong can play, I guess. I refuse to see Jang Hyun-soo on the right. No thanks.

Obviously, our strength lies in our ability to attack, but after recent news of Kwon Chang-hoon, even that ability may come into question.

Captain Ki Sung-yeung is the staple in our midfield. He’d be pulling the strings to this side, but his midfield partner would need to protect him in order for Ki to dictate play.

Unfortunately, that has been the painful case for this side for years now.

Jung Woo-young is familiar with this position, but he’s been unconvincing. Park Joo-ho deserves a shout, considering he’s been playing regularly again at Ulsan, but in all honesty, I’d love if Koo could manage to make it work alongside Ki like before. Koo’s defensive ability may come to question, but fuck it, we’ve won the bronze medal with that combination so I’m going with that.

Our versatility on the wings remains one of our greatest assets, despite the personnel beating our side has received as of late. Earlier friendlies had Lee Jae-sung and Kwon Chang-hoon switch wings interchangeably throughout matches, although they favored their left and right sides respectively.

But now with Kwon Chang-hoon and Lee Keun-ho confirmed out, there is a gaping hole on the right. With a 4-4-2, we could see Lee Jae-sung on the left and Lee Chung-yong make yet another undeserved return to the national side, which hurts to say to what once was Korea’s brightest prospect out wide.

Hwang Hee-chan and Son Heung-min would spearhead the team; Son obviously the attacking threat of this team, and Hwang the more industrious busy-body–harrying the opposition’s defense as well as continuing forward link-up play in the final third. With a partnership up top, Shin could also go with the classic target man/pacy forward combination with Kim Shin-wook and Son Heung-min later in the match.

Suk Hyun-jun deserves to be mentioned in this conversation. As a powerful forward who’s been hustling his way through Europe to continue living his dream as a professional footballer, it is tragic that he isn’t even part of the early preliminary camp, especially considering he’s been plying his trade with Troyes, netting six goals this season in Ligue 1.

 

With a 4-2-3-1, the Koo-Ki combo would have an additional enforcer in the middle. Park Joo-ho would be the main contender for this role, especially considering the reinvigoration of his career since moving to Ulsan. I trust that combination, considering that backbone has been tested before in the last Asian Cup. He’d be alongside Ki, with Koo playing his favored role right behind the striker.

With a trident top 3, Son Heung-min would slot in on the right, starting in space to gather the ball as an inside forward threat. Lee Jae-sung would play on his favored left, but the wingers would be encouraged to switch sides interchangeably throughout the match. Hwang Hee-chan would lead the line, his industry enough to get the nod over the one-dimensional Kim Shin-wook. Considering how Korea tends to press in efforts to regain possession, it would do our squad a world of good to see that energy starting with our forward, Hwang.

 

Bench

Korea’s bench can provide an extra dimension to the team’s game. The question is whether or not they’ll actually perform.

Lee Chung-yong would do this team a world of good if he were to recapture even just a sniff of best form. In terms of playstyle, Lee Jae-sung’s would be most similar to Chungy’s, but Lee Chung-yong at his prime has always possessed an exciting end product, be it a smart pass or finish. Furthermore, he shares the same fight as Lee Jae-sung for regaining possession, and when successful, his ability to snatch the ball when the opposition least expects it goes hand-in-hand with Korea’s counter-attacking tendencies.

Of course, it will be nigh impossible to predict as to whether or not Chungy will deliver. Considering the dearth of minutes he’s missed since his last-ditch transfer to Crystal Palace three-odd years ago, Chungy’s minutes have been scant to say the least – and perhaps the questioning of his form would be moot to everyone but avid fans of the Blue Dragon.

And then there’s Lee Seung-woo, the highly rated ‘La Masia’ product from Barcelona, who’s just experienced his first year of professional first team football with now-regulated Hellas Verona. It’s been a tough transition to go from free-flowing La Masia to a relegation scrap in Italy, and Lee Seung-woo’s had little to show of it. But all signs seem to indicate that he’ll be part of the 23 heading to Russia especially considering the latest string of injuries.

It’s hard not to fall for the hype; Lee Seung-woo’s performances with the underaged Korean squads have spoiled viewers with some of the finest dribbling ever seen in Korean uniform. And it’s even more exciting when you see similar highlights from the 20-year old in the Blaugrana uniform.

But that’s just what they are – highlights. Comprehensively, his game has had little to show, and most of his blockbusters come from underaged squads. Given, he scored a banger against Milan late in the season, so the quality is there. The question is how much of it does he possess, and will he be capable of delivering on the biggest stage of world football.

It will be interesting to see if Shin Tae-yong’s prior relationship with Lee Seung-woo will help bring the best out of him this summer.

At their best, Korea’s options on the bench can flip a match on its head with their ability to beat their man and put in a dangerous ball. At their worst, they’d be subsidiary options too coy to try and take their man, and more often than not relinquishing possession with either a sideways or back pass.

 

Verdict

We’re fucking shit.

The volatility of our attack is too heavy to hope upon, and our defense exudes no sense of reliability, let alone confidence. Furthermore, the hindrance of injuries inflicted upon members of our first team squad only exacerbates the dearth of quality our team possesses, but let that be made clear before Shin Tae-yong hides behind this excuse after declaring his ability to do a good job.

What hurts the most isn’t the fact that we lack talent; we possess quite a decent amount to show on the pitch. What hurts is that we will be blindly marching down the same path we did four years ago, except with poorer tactics and inferior personnel, excluding the Assistant Coaches we have in Toni Grande and Javier Miñano.

But in all honesty – this is football. All signs indicate an unceremonious three and out, and considering our group includes the World Cup holders as well as a side that has qualified past the group stages six consecutive times going into Russia, perhaps failure to advance out the group stages isn’t too pessimistic to assume.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that I want to see a fight. I want to see Son Heung-min drive the ball into the final third hell-bent on finding the back of the net. I want to see Ki Sung-yeung boss possession and ping cross-field passes into space. I want to see the desire from our wingers to skip past his marker and put in a dangerous ball, if not perpetually on call to get on the end of a smart pass behind the opposition’s back line. I want to see industry when chasing possession, and a fight when we have it.

Shin may have the disadvantage of an injury-ridden squad and no expectations, but that doesn’t mean he can’t display what Korean football is capable of, as he so aptly put it early in his helm. We’re a possession based side opting for quick counterattacks and smart passing play. For the first time in what seems like ages, we have a clinical finisher who will not only be starting up top, but also leaning towards veteran status at the side. We have an industrious midfield with the talent to keep possession, find space in tight spots, and release a good ball in the final third. These things have never changed about our side – the quality in execution has continued to be our greatest hindrance.

We might not qualify into the next round, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t uphold our demand for quality.

Korea fighting.

5 Comments

  1. Look at it this way, the pressure is on Switzerland, Mexico, and Germany. Not us. 3 to 4 points would be glorious.

  2. Anyone watch the Champions League final? Gotta say that after today, I’m actually feeling pretty lucky. Mo Salah could have had an amazing World Cup but he’s probably out. In one instant, Egypt went from a darkhorse team to basically having a 0% chance in my opinion (could say the same thing about Peru losing Guerrero but that’s another issue).
    Even though we know how good Kwon Chang Hoon is, it could be much worse! We still have Ki and Son. Damn, it’s so easy for players to get injured in this sport. Here’s hoping we don’t have any more needless injuries in the upcoming friendlies..

    • Well, Mo Salah may not be completely out. But he won’t be at 100% for sure. Nasty tackle by Ramos.
      It’s true to say that we are lucky to have some depth. If we lost Son or Ki though, it would be over haha…

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