I had chuckled quietly (don’t think the podcast audio caught it, though) when Roy said that he thought Korea would win the Asian Cup. Not chuckling at him, of course, but of the thought that we would win the Asian Cup. It had seemed so improbable, so unlikely.
And yet, here we are, still talking about the tournament on its final day. So before I continue with my preview, mianhaeyo Roy.
(And the classic blogger statement before a “Continue Reading” tag = more after the jump.)
We are so close. For the first time in 27 years, we are in the Finals. For the first time since we won it in Seoul in 1960, we are so close to winning it all for the first time in 55 years.
It has been a bumpy road, an opportune one, for sure, but we have made it. 3 times in the past 4 Asian Cups, we stumbled at the semi-final stage, and that curse was beaten this time around. 3 times since 1960 have we made the finals, and three times, we stumbled. So often, this Asian Cup trophy has slipped out of our grasp, unjustly or by our own doing. This year, all the variables have gone our way.
But in the knockout stages, we seemed to hit a second gear. We were more confident. I would be lying to say it was perfect football – far, far, far from it! But why this second gear? Why this belief, this confidence? It must be attributed to the game in Brisbane against these Socceroos. Stielike went with the best team he had available, and we hung on for the win. And what a wise move it was.
So tonight, in front of close to 25,000 Korean fans in Sydney, with the entire nation fixated on their televisions, for the international testimonial of Cha Du-Ri, for a potential major psychological boost for Korean football, for a spot in the Confederations Cup, for the Asian Cup Finals… simply, to see if we will be crowned Champions of Asia.
Stielike is unlikely to deviate from his original team.
Kim Jin-Hyeon will start in goal. He has been rock solid. The back four will do their best to protect him, but the Aussies will probably get a quality chance or two, and Kim will need to be there like he was been there for us all year. And not fail badly at being Neuer. Please.
Back four should remain exactly the same. Kim Jin-Su has played EVERY SINGLE MINUTE of this Asian Cup for us, what a beast. It will be an intriguing matchup with Australia’s right-back Ivan Franjic. Center-back pairing is Kwak Tae-Hwi and Kim Young-Gwon. Not perfect, but not horrific either. We haven’t really had a hair-pulling moment from KYG this Asian Cup, let’s hope he hasn’t saved his major gaffe for the Finals. And of course, legend Cha Du-Ri will play in his last international game (I think) tonight, starting at RB. Hopefully he can exploit the space Jason Davidson leaves behind him as I would expect the Aussies will have more of the ball than us.
Ki Sung-Yueng has had a fantastic tournament, but we have come to expect quiet, solid, clinical performances from the Swansea midfielder. The person who has impressed the most with respect to their expectations is Park Joo-Ho. He is the perfect balance between a physical presence in DM with his challenges, good cover for the fullbacks and helping Ki get us up the pitch.
Attacking midfield: Son Heung-Min on the left. Sonaldo has had a few good curlers on net this Asian Cup but none have gone in. He has also been double and triple-teamed at times. With Davidson leaving space behind him and Australia playing pretty high (if I were to predict how they would approach this game), Son needs to counter quickly and effeciently. In the case that he is left out of options, Nam Tae-Hee needs to be there as well. Like Jinseok said, he “needs to take a chill pill” and just relax. His creativity is one of his bigger assets, he needs to shine today more than ever. If Son is not allowed to do anything, on the counter or when both teams have finished transitioning, Nam has to step it up.
Interesting to see what will happen at right wing. Han Kyo-Won is a more defensive winger, more conservative in his approach and more traditional in attack. Against Iraq, we had Lee Keun-Ho come on in the second half for Han and he outworked the Iraqis without really getting any results. Perhaps Stielike employs the same strategy and hope the Aussies tire themselves out and then have to cope with Lee’s work rate.
Lee Jung-Hyup has had good and bad games. At times he’s awful in the air, other times he is an effective target man. We need the latter tonight from our center forward.
Australia’s team will be:
Mat Ryan in goal. He has been great when called upon and let’s remember, the Aussies have only conceded once, and that was another opportune goal by Korea in their clash in Brisbane.
Jason Davidson at left-back – he leaves a fair amount of space behind him and doesn’t get back as comfortably enough. Trent Sainsbury and Matthew Spiranovic as center-backs – they both like to get forward, Sainsbury especially, which Korea could take advantage of. Ivan Franjic, who is still recuperating from injury, will likely get the nod at right-back.
Their midfield lynchpin is Mile Jedinak, but he has been injured this tournament and was awful against the UAE. He will need to bounce back tonight. Their 4-3-3 formation means Jedinak will be accompanied by Mark Milligan and Massimo Luongo. Their wingers are Matthew Leckie, a good runner on the left side, and Robbie Kruse, Son’s teammate at Leverkusen. Tim Cahill up top, of course.
Still with me? Here are 3 things to watch in the Asian Cup Finals.
1. TIM CAHILL V KWAK TAE-HWI
If Australia get the ball to Tim Cahill in the air, they are dangerous. In the Group Game earlier on in the tournament, Kwak was 100% in aerial challenges against Cahill. He will need to be as effective over a full 90 to stop Australia’s principal danger man.
2. SCORING FIRST
If Korea score early and score the first goal, Australia’s giant crowd will become very quiet very quickly, like in the group stages. If Australia score first, then the crowd will become even more hostile and work in favor of the Australians. It is a no-brainer.
3. AUSTRALIA POSSESSION GAME = KOREA COUNTER?
An intriguing part of this matchup is Australia tends to keep possession and be proactive. Korea, on the other hand, have had close to 65% possession in their last two knockout games. I will be interested to see if Korea will sit back and counter, or if Stielike will try to keep possession through our DM’s when we have the ball.
Time: 1am PST, 4am EST, 6pm KST, 8pm Local Time Sydney, Saturday January 31st 2015.
Korean Broadcast: SBS Sports/KBS1 (Right?)
American Broadcast: One World Sports
Venue: Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia
See you in 6 hours and a bit. DAEHANMINGUK FIGHTING!
Tavern Owner intruding>>> Tim has been moonlighting with a UK blogging outfit, Just Football, who commissioned him to draw up a player profile for Korea’s likely starting XI in the title match. Check that out here. Cha – the last link to the 2002 Korea World Cup squad. His last international tournament, possibly his last in a KNT uniform. He’s going out big. Whatever happens, here’s to the son of Cha Bum-Kun – I believe the KNT will walk out onto the pitch in Sydney and go all out in his honor.
Less than 4 hours to go. Dae Han Min Guk ya’ll. Dae Han MIn Guk indeed.