Here we are with part 3. In this edition we will take a painful look at the defensive options Choi Kang-Hee has decided to bring in. Remember to check out part 1 on the forwards, and part 2 on our midfield.
8 defenders were called in total. Like the midfield analysis, I will break them up into groups: central defense, left back, and right back. There are also three goalkeepers in the squad.
Five of the eight players called are capable of playing in central defense. They are: Kwak Tae-Hwi, Jung In-Hwan, Kim Ki-Hee, Jang Hyun-Soo, and Kim Young-Kwon.
Likely Partnership: Kwak Tae-Hwi and Jung In-Hwan – Despite their continuing defensive frailties, it’s difficult to see Choi shuffling his defense too much. I predict frustrations and mini-heart attacks during the qualifiers from these two.
Could Break Into the Duo: Kim Young-Kwon, Kim Ki-Hee – Kim Young-Gwon had a solid Olympics, and at times under Cho Kwang-Rae seemed almost ready to burst onto the defensive scene (albeit mainly at fullback). For the senior side he hasn’t been given too many chances, the last being in the Australia friendly, where he got to play the first half. A decent showing, but not spectacular. Kim Ki-Hee likewise had his last senior action in that match, performing a touch better (IMO) that Kim Young-Kwon. I still think it’s doubtful that either will make it into a match, but if there’s an injury one should step in. Kim Young-Kwon seems to have a higher upside than Kim Ki-Hee, yet Ki-Hee seems to be looked on more favorably by Choi Kang-Hee.
Just Along for the Ride: Jang Hyun-Soo – A promising young defender who is getting regular playing time in the J1 League with FC Tokyo, but I have yet to see any indication that Choi Kang-Hee is seriously considering him at all. Although there were some whispers that he might have seen some action in the last qualifier had Kwak Tae-Hwi missed out. So, maybe there’s hope.
Two right backs are here. Kim Chang-Soo and Shin Kwang-Hoon. It’s kind of a toss up between these two. Neither is particularly outstanding. Neither is great offensively nor defensively. Kim Chang-Soo is probably a bit more defensive, while Shin Kwang-Hoon is a bit more offensive. But the flip side is also true. Kim Chang-Soo offers less going forward, while Shin Kwang-Hoon will leave the defense a bit more exposed.
I saw Kim Chang-Soo several times while he was at Busan IPark (but not since he moved to Japan, traitor), and he was . . . okay. I thought he was pretty p*** poor against Australia, and honestly was a bit surprised when he got recalled for Qatar. And yes, I’m surprised that he got called again for these matches. He starts pretty regularly for Kashiwa Reysol (who are having a good ACL campaign, but a mediocre league season). I haven’t seen Shin Kwang-Hoon that much. Thought he looked good attacking against Croatia, but I think they were up 3-0 already by that point, and had already taken their foot off the gas.
Neither player is terribly experienced at the international level (both on 3 caps). But the feeling is that Kim Chang-Soo will start. This probably makes more sense, as Lee Chung-Yong will offer plenty of attacking threat, so Shin Kwang-Hoon isn’t needed as much unless we’re still looking for a winner later in the match. Kim Chang-Soo should stay deeper and allow Lee Chung-Yong to conserve a bit more energy.
There is only one true left back with the group, and that is Park Joo-Ho (Kim Chi-Woo can also fill in here). Park Joo-Ho is a bit frustrating for me. He seemed poised to assume the left back spot after Lee Young-Pyo retired, but his career, both at the club and international level, have been incredibly inconsistent. Park had a good run out with Basel, but I wouldn’t say he was fantastic. Decent going forward, a bit inconsistent in defense. Not the biggest of fullbacks either, which leaves him vulnerable to set pieces. Our lack of fullbacks is another very worrying problem. While quality fullbacks are not common in general, the fact that we have virtually none is an issue.
The starting goalkeeper is a lock. It’ll be Jung Sung-Ryong. But the fact that he is a lock is troubling. Jung Sung-Ryong showed good form when he took the starting job over from Lee Won-Jae just before the 2010 World Cup, but in the last year or two he’s started to show some problems. People say that the sign of a great goalkeeper is when they go long stretches of the game without touching the ball, and then all of a sudden make a great save. Unfortunately, Jung Sung-Ryong seems to be the opposite at times. It seems like each game he lets in a goal that he really should save. This happens for both his club (Suwon Samsung) and for Korea. In 18 matches for club he has kept only 5 clean sheets. While this is partially attributable to the defense at Suwon, it’s still a sign of concern. The last time he kept a clean sheet for Korea was a year ago, coincidentally against Lebanon.
The consensus number 2 at the moment is Kim Young-Kwang of Ulsan Hyundai. I don’t see Kim Young-Kwang really challenging Jung Sung-Ryong any time soon, or ever really, for that matter. I don’t feel that Kim Young-Kwang offers any real improvement over Jung Sung-Ryong. To me, Kim Young-Kwang is simply a slightly above average K League level keeper. He has done relative well for Ulsan, but has never shown that he is capable of being a number 1 at the international level. His last international appearance was in the Australia friendly last December, and in that game he didn’t do much to convince me that he is a player capable of challenging Jung Sung-Ryong. In fact, I think it is much more likely that a younger keeper like Lee Bum-Young challenges him for the number 2 spot.
Speaking of Lee Bum-Young, the Busan IPark keeper seems to have solidified his standing as the number 3 keeper, seemingly beating out FC Seoul keeper Kim Yong-Dae. Lee Bum-Young is not ready for the number 1 shirt either, but unlike Kim Young-Kwang, he seems to have the potential to one day challenge Jung Sung-Ryong (although that would probably be after the next World Cup). Since Busan IPark is the only K League team I watch regularly, I feel like I have a decent grasp on Lee Bum-Young’s skill set. He has good athleticism, but is a little rough around the edges on some of the finer points of goalkeeping. His positioning okay, but he needs significant work on his decision making (when to come out and when to stay), and it’d be nice to see him develop a stronger aerial presence for set pieces.
I don’t think there will be many surprises here. Choi seems committed to sticking with the group that got him here, so that means a central pairing of Jung In-Hwan and Kwak Tae-Hwi. Park Joo-Ho is the only left back, and it feels like Kim Chang-Soo will get the right back nod. Jung Sung-Ryong in between the sticks again.
Park Joo-Ho / Jung In-Hwan / Kwak Tae-Hwi / Kim Chang-Soo