A Tactical Analysis of the Call Ups

First off, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jae, and I ran the South Korea Soccer blog (now defunct). I received an offer I couldn’t refuse from Mr. Ghim to come and join the Tavern crew, and, as I said, I just couldn’t refuse. I will be bringing a more tactical centered look, mainly at the national team and national team players. Any feedback is most welcome. Before we launch into my maiden post, a small promo for my other site. It’s called “A Season with the IPark” and is a more personal look at my experience following the K League Classic club, Busan IPark.

By now you have most likely heard that national team boss Choi Kang-Hee has revealed his latest call ups for the World Cup qualifying match against Qatar. They are:

Goalkeepers: Jung Sung-Ryong (Suwon Samsung), Kim Young-Gwang (Ulsan Hyundai), Lee Bum-Young (Busan IPark)

Defenders: Park Won-Jae (Jeonbuk Motors), Jung In-Hwan (Jeonbuk Motors), Yoon Suk-Young (QPR), Kim Ki-Hee (Al Sailliya), Kwak Tae-Hwi (Al-Shabab), Jang Hyun-Soo (FC Tokyo), Kim Chang-Soo (Kashiwa Reysol), Oh Beom-Seok (Police)

Midfielders: Shin Hyung-Min (Al-Jazeera), Han Gook-Young (Shonan), Lee Keun-Ho (Sangju Sangmu), Ji Dong-Won (FC Augsburg), Koo Ja-Cheol (FC Augsburg), Ha Dae-Sung (FC Seoul), Ki Sung-Yueng (Swansea City), Kim Doo-Hyeon (Suwon Samsung), Lee Chung-Yong (Bolton Wanderers), Son Heung-Min (Hamburg SV)

Forwards: Kim Shin-Wook (Ulsan Hyundai), Lee Dong-Gook (Jeonbuk Motors)

More after the jump.

First off, I have mixed feelings regarding these call ups. Choi Kang-Hee still seems to be insistent on calling up certain individuals even though they have been shown to not be up to the task. Going into this match I am not all that confident of the result as of now.

Let’s go position by position.

Goalkeepers are a bit obvious. Jung Sung-Ryong, despite letting in four against Croatia, is still the obvious number one. Although I am starting to wonder if he should look to move to a different league (cough*Europe*cough) to improve his skill set. One feels that he will not improve much by staying in the K League Classic any longer. Kim Young-Gwang is still the number 2, he showed in the match against Australia that he’s decent, but not ready for the full international spotlight. On a personal level I am pleased to see Lee Bum-Young back on the list, due to my Busan bias. Lee Bum-Young has claimed the number 1 shirt at Busan, had a solid outing against Team GB at the Olympics, and shows good promise. Here’s hoping he delivers.

Ahhhh, defense. We’re so thin there. Looking at the call ups and, it’s just so disappointing. There is no one there even remotely world class. Kwak Tae-Hwi still seems like a Choi favorite, and admittedly he wasn’t awful against the Croats. Jung In-Hwan will likely be drafted alongside him, although I would still very much like to see Kim Ki-Hee get a chance. I wonder if Choi will take a risk on Yoon Suk-Young on the left, since he still has not featured for QPR. He dropped Choi Jae-Soo, so there will be someone new there. On the right, I’m not too sure either. Kim Chang-Soo was poor against Australia. Oh Beom-Seok offers plenty of experience, but he’s been in the wilderness for a bit and is now playing for the police team in the Korean second division. Park Won-Jae is an option, but isn’t too experienced.

Midfield. Our biggest strength. There should be five midfielders starting, whether Choi goes back to the 4-2-3-1 or sticks with the 4-1-4-1. Ki Sung-Yueng is a lock. So is Koo Ja-Cheol. It would appear that Choi is looking for more experience by recalling Ha Dae-Sung, so I think he’ll start as the holding midfielder. The two wide spots are a bit harder to predict. Ji Dong-Won has been in good form for Augsburg, so there’s a good chance he’ll make it. Lee Chung-Yong is also going through a good moment, so maybe him too. Lee Keun-Ho is recalled, but I wonder if he’ll start since he missed the Croatia friendly and ,like Oh Beom-Seok, is playing in the second division. Then there’s Son Heung-Min, who hasn’t yet clicked for the NT.

Forwards. Here we reach the main point of frustration. Choi Kang-Hee has officially called two fowards, Lee Dong-Gook and Kim Shin-Wook. The biggest talking point, when the call ups were released, was the fact that Park Chu-Young has not been called. At the press conference Choi said there wasn’t any particular reason why Park was dropped, just that he was focused on the opposing team and his strategy. Sigh.

As mentioned earlier, it will not matter much whether Choi sticks with the 4-1-4-1 formation he used against Croatia and Iran or reverts to the 4-2-3-1. Both formations rely on generally the same ideas and tactics with only a couple small differences. In defense Jung Sung-Ryong will start between the sticks, barring some injury between now and then. Kwak Tae-Hwi will be in center defense and will likely be partnered by Jung In-Hwan, who Choi seems to favor. I’ll go out on a limb and say that Yoon Suk-Young, despite not playing lately, will start on the left, and that Park Won-Jae will be preferred on the right (the Jeonbuk connection). In midfield, Ki Sung-Yueng will start centrally and will be partnered by Ha Dae-Sung. I don’t think Shin Hyung-Min showed enough against Croatia to warrant another start, and Ha Dae-Sung is more experienced. Koo Ja-Cheol will be in the playmaking role (if 4-2-3-1) or the other advanced central role (if 4-1-4-1). Out wide I think Lee Chung-Yong has shown he’s back, so I imagine he’ll start on the right. Left is a bit harder, but I think Choi will go safer and pick Ji Dong-Won. While he didn’t start against Croatia, my gut instinct is that Choi will once again turn to Lee Dong-Gook to lead the attack. I do think that Choi will stick with the 4-1-4-1 formation as well. So, my gut instinct starting XI will look something like this:

Lee Dong-Gook

Ji Dong-Won / Ki Sung-Yueng / Koo Ja-Cheol / Lee Chung-Yong

Ha Dae-Sung

Yoon Suk-Young / Jung In-Hwan / Kwak Tae-Hwi / Park Won-Jae

Jung Sung-Ryong

My tactical take

One of my biggest complaints against Choi Kang-Hee, following the friendly loss to Croatia, was his obvious lack of tactical knowledge and his inability to “shuffle the pack” so to speak. His latest call ups, reek of these problems. I will forgive him for his defensive picks because quite frankly, I cannot think of anyone better (maybe Park Joo-Ho who is back in the FC Basel picture?). But it is with the forwards that I have real issues. I lightly defended Lee Dong-Gook following the Croatia game. He has some good points, but also many negatives. His K League Classic form is good, but that’s never translated to the national team. He offers a good reference point for the attack, but when he’s surrounded by players who thrive on switching positions and being fluid that isn’t always useful. I can’t imagine Choi called him up as a back up plan, which means that he will likely start. The cost of this is that Son Heung-Min will likely be dropped to the bench. I understand that this qualifier is important, and that Choi wants to go for “proven players”, but surely there must be some time when a manager decides to go for what is best for the team going forward (no pun intended). Lee Dong-Gook had his chances, he wasn’t able to take them. It’s time to move on and embrace the new future of Korean attacking football, currently personified in Son Heung-Min.

My other complain about the attacking call ups is Kim Shin-Wook being in, and Park Chu-Young being out. Disclaimer, those who have read my stuff before know that I am a Park Chu-Young fan. But rest assured, my annoyance at him not being called up does not have anything to do with that. Yes, he’s out of form. Yes, he’s not in his club’s set up. There is still reason to include him. Kim Shin-Wook is essentially a younger version of Lee Dong-Gook. A classic number 9 who holds up play, brings in other players, wins aerial challenges, and can score (in theory). Park Chu-Young is not a classic number 9. He is a player who can score, but plays on the shoulder of the defense. A player who can make smart runs, and force defenders to honor his presence. The key to defending players like Lee Dong-Gook and Kim Shin-Wook is fairly simple. Put on a body on them. Make them play with their back to goal. Force them deep and away from goal. Threat nullified. To stop Park Chu-Young, you need to be smart. Play the offside trap well. Have enough pace to counter his. And to an extent, rely on Park beating himself. Even is you disagree with my tactical analysis of Lee’s/Kim’s/Park’s play, there is still one other overarching reason why Park should have been called and Kim should not have. Park brings something different to the team.

As the match grows closer, I will put out another tactical preview based on any form changes or news of likely starters. Until then!

About Jae Chee 339 Articles
A football fan who got bit by the writing bug.


  1. Hey welcome back Jae! I used to read your posts on the south korea soccer blog all the time (especially before/after the 2011 AC – oh the horror)
    CKH just doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t know how else to put it..

  2. Hey Jinseok, thanks for the compliment, I’m honored. I said it after the Croatia match, but I think Choi Kang-Hee just doesn’t have any ideas. He’s relying on the fact that other than Iran the qualifying group is fairly weak, and that our players are just good enough to earn us an automatic spot in Brazil. As long as he’s at the helm, I wouldn’t expect any major changes in player call ups or tactics.

  3. I think playing son in the forwards would have been a better decision. Our defence is where the key work needs to be done. Like you said Yoon suk young hasn’t yet played for qpr and therefore hasn’t played a game in a while. Kwak is usually the staple of the defence because of his experience. Ever since the departure of lee young pyo the def has been a problem. Midfield is the heart of our team. Nearly all of our mids are starting XI players on European teams. Lee chung yong had been slowly coming back after his injury but I think the combination of ki’s wide midfield play and koo’s in depth attacking will be where it’s won. Park chi young hasn’t got much playing time at celta Vigo so I think it was the right choose not to play him in this match.

    Great article btw. Your posts on South Korea soccer blog were amazing.

    • Thanks for the compliment David. There shouldn’t really be any change in my posts here compared to the SKS blog. Roy, Jinseok, and I have talked about our roles and there isn’t really any overlap in areas of expertise. Jinseok has a lot of insight about the youth players and Roy follows the European-based players closer than I do. I fit in nicely with my ability to cover the senior squad. Our only real lacking is the K League, which we’re working on. The Tavern represented an opportunity to join a more complete blog and team to cover South Korean football, so it was a fairly easy choice.

      But, to your footballing points. Defense is certainly our biggest problem. We haven’t found any replacements for Kwak Tae-Hwi and Lee Jung-Soo in the center, Hong Jeong-Ho seemed a promising choice, but has really fallen off (and got injured just before the Olympics). Jung In-Hwan and Kim Ki-Hee have promise, but we’ll see. Likewise we haven’t been able to replace Lee Young-Pyo or Cha Du-Ri. Although fullback seems to be a weak position all around the world. It’s difficult to think of many truly world class fullbacks.

      I wasn’t necessarily advocating for Park Chu-Young to start. Because as you said, he has not been playing much for Celta, and when I watched the times he did play, he looked a shadow of the player who was lighting it up in the final months of Cho Kwang-Rae’s tenure. I thought he should be called as he offers something different from Lee Dong-Gook and Kim Shin-Wook. Sorry for the long comment reply.

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