After sealing knockout stage qualification for the 5th consecutive Asian Cup via two lackluster 1-0 wins against Oman and Kuwait, the South Koreans take the pitch one final time in the group stages, with top spot in Group A on the line. However, their opponent will strike more fear in the Koreans than their previous two Middle Eastern opponents – it is none other than the host nation, the Socceroos, Australia.
(More after the jump.)
It was like this in 2011 too. South Korea was drawn into the same group as the Aussies, and the two teams drew (albeit on Matchday 2) and the Australians ended up winning the group, and the South Koreans finished in second. The difference? Australia got a kinder route to the finals, with Iraq and Uzbekistan to deal with, while the Koreans went into extra time against difficult Iran and mighty Japan.
Although this year the stakes don’t appear to be so high in that respect, if Iran lose to the UAE and Japan win their group, a plausible combination, then the South Koreans will hope to avoid that half of the bracket and win their group instead. A loss in this game means a Quarter-Final match against in-form China (on a horrid Brisbane pitch in very hot conditions), a team I would certainly not underestimate at all the way they are playing. A win in this game would be Uzbekistan (who have struggled in this tourmament so far) or Saudi Arabia (who have been poor leading up to this Asian Cup).
So, just to make things clear here – Korea win = Korea win the group, play out-of-form Uzbekistan or Saudi Arabia in Melbourne + Avoid Japan until the finals. Draw or Aussie win = Korea runners-up, play in-form China in Brisbane in Quarter-Finals.
With all the injuries/illnesses and uncertainty around the team, and with some players due for a rest, this team is not set in stone.
Stielike has said they will play their best players to win this game, even though the Quarter-Final is more important.
GK should be Kim Jin-Hyeon, unless Stielike goes crazy and thinks it’s Jung Sung-Ryong’s turn. No, it’s not. Kim Jin-Hyeon, please and thank you.
DF will hopefully stay somewhat similar. We need a bit of understanding and smartness in our back 4. Kim Jin-Su is expected to play at left back, and the center back pairing will include Kwak Tae-Hwi, his partner, unsure. Rightback does not appear to be Cha Du-Ri, who’s energy and pace is needed for the Quarter-Finals, as Kim Chang-Soo is apparently 100% fit. However, this is based off of some news portals, so again, nothing is set in stone.
While we’re on the defense topic, Stielike got a little touchy when asked about his questionable defense pairing against Kuwait – here is his response (in English, too.)(1:00)
Even though Ki Sung-Yueng has played the first two games, Yonhap expects him to start, alongside either Park Joo-Ho or Lee Myung-Joo. I personally have liked Park Joo-Ho as a 6 so I would hope he rests and Lee Myung-Joo gets a shout in Defensive Midfield.
The MF three will not feature Son, or so it seems, as he is 1) still recovering from a flu and 2) needs to be rested for more important matches. But as for the actual three players that will step in, I really do not have a clue.
Striker is also a questionable spot. Naver seems to suggest Lee Jung-Hyub will get a turn.
Essentially, we don’t know much about anything except that Son and Cha are likely to be rested but Stielike still wants to win this game to avoid the awful pitch in Brisbane, the location of the Quarter-Final game if Korea loses this match.
Here’s a guess, don’t quote me on this.
Australia have been impressive so far this Asian Cup, that’s for sure. They are very fluid in attack and with deep playmaker Mile Jedinak potentially coming back from injury in this game, the Socceroos will fancy their chances. That being said, they are expected to rest Matthew Leckie (LW) and Massimo Luongo (RCM), the latter who has impressed this Asian Cup with his skillful play and runs.
The Aussies tend to create an overload in the wide positions and whip it in to Cahill. It sounds like a predictable game plan, but it is not an easy one to stop. Tim Cahill has a uncanny nose for goal, and if he is not rested (which I suspect he might be), the Korean defenders could have their hands full.
Their rightback, Ivan Franjic, has particularily impressed me. Franjic gets up the pitch very well and his crosses are excellent. Kim Jin-Su could have his hands full if Franjic starts.
Again, Australia’s XI is a bit of a mystery as well, with Postecoglou certainly wanting to rest some players ahead of their Quarter-Final matchup.
Interesting note: Two Australians have special ties to Korea/Korean players. Alex Wilkinson is a Centerback for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, and who knows, with squad rotation, maybe he will start. Robbie Kruse plays for Bayer Leverkusen, and he gets on really well with “rockstar teammate” Son Heung-Min.
South Korea and Australia drew 0-0 in their last encounter at the 2013 EAFF Cup.
South Korea has the edge in their “recent” meetings, with 2 wins, 2 draw and a loss to the Socceroos in the new millenium.
Their last meeting in the Asian Cup was of course that 1-1 draw in the 2011 edition – both goalscorers, Mile Jedinak and Koo Ja-Cheol, are possible starters in this game.
The last time South Korea lost their final group game was in 1996, a 2-0 loss at the hands of Kuwait.
Time: 6pm KST, 4am EST, January 17th
Korea TV: MBC
USA TV: One World Sports
Location: Lang Park, Brisbane, Australia
–Brisbane Stadium is also used for Rugby Union and Rugby League, which could explain its poor pitch.
Weather: 36C, 97F, Sunny (note: The game is late afternoon in Australia so the weather should be slightly cooler)
My Prediction: 2-0 Australia
It’s a bit of a rushed match preview, apologies. What team would you play against the Socceroos? What will the final score be? Oh- and be sure to follow us on Twitter for a creative way to watch the game should One World Sports not be accessible to you. See you at 4am and good night – for now – from the TSC.