[Asian Cup 2015] Game 1: South Korea v Oman – Preview


The day is finally upon us. 4 years after a heartbreaking Asian Cup semi-final exit at the hands of Japan, South Korea begins their quest to end their 54 year (and counting!) drought of the Asian Cup against the injury-plagued, but not to be underestimated, Oman. Will Stielike’s men triumph in their first tournament game under their new manager?

(More after the jump.)

59 years ago, the first ever Asian Cup was contested. The tournament, after the Copa America, is the second-oldest official continental tournament to this day. In that Asian Cup, the usual powerhouses of today – Japan, Iran, Uzbekistan – did not feature. In the qualifying stages, unknown teams such as North Borneo or Ceylon were involved. Then-powerhouses Israel qualified for the Asian Cup because their Muslim opponents refused to play against them. South Korea needed to beat the Philippines and Taiwan on aggregate to represent the East of Asia. The eventual Asian Cup was a 4 team tournament, with Israel, South Vietnam, South Korea and hosts Hong Kong participating.

The South Koreans won that tournament, going undefeated in Hong Kong with 7 points in total, thanks to a 2-2 draw with Hong Kong, a 2-1 win against eventual runners-up Israel, and a 5-3 victory in what was surely a thrilling match against South Vietnam.

The 1956 AFC Asian Cup winning side.

Oddly enough, the South Koreans lost the replica of the Asian Cup trophy they were awarded for their historic triumph, and it was only discovered in the past couple of months, under their noses, hanging on a trophy cabinet, unidentified, in a skating rink in Seoul.

In 1960, the tournament came home, and was played in Seoul. This time qualifying automatically, the Koreans came out winners for a 2nd consecutive year. Now, 55 years later, they have yet to set their hands on the elusive Asian Cup trophy again.

And the campaign to end this drought begins in a mere space of hours, as South Korea takes on Oman. So what Korean team can we expect?


South Korea will stick with their 4-2-3-1 formation. The general consensus is Kim Jin-Hyeon has won the first-choice keeper job, at least for now. The back four is easier to predict at center-half than at fullback. Kim Ju-Young and Jang Hyun-Soo are tipped by most Korean media to get the start, which may be a wise choice against an Omani team who will likely let Korea attack them. In my opinion, playing Kwak Tae-Hwi would be a liability, with his lack of pace, although some would argue otherwise in terms of a DM providing cover. Nonetheless, Kim JY-Jang HS seems to be the pairing of choice.

As for rightback, it is a toss-up; Cha Du-Ri offers energy and pace on the right, but leaves a lot of space behind them. As I will explain later, this space is dangerous for a counter-attack minded Omani side. Kim Chang-Soo is doesn’t seem to leave as much space but is less apt coming up the pitch, one could argue. Leftback is also a battle between Kim Jin-Su and Park Joo-Ho. The latter can feature in DM but a quick peruse of Korean media doesn’t seem to suggest that will happen in this match, but Kim Jin-Su was disappointing against Saudi Arabia. Once again, a total toss-up.

Ki Sung-Yueng will of course be starting, but his partner? SBS commentators this morning tipped Lee Myeong-Joo, but Han Kook-Young is also a possibility, with his defensive cover needed for potentially dangerous Oman counters.

The midfield 3 is set in stone, or so it seems. With Koo Ja-Cheol missing out on the captaincy, his role in the starting eleven has changed from “leader on the pitch” to “none”. Son will start on paper on the left, Nam in the hole and Lee Chung-Yong (who refused a contract offer from Bolton yesterday) on the right.

Striker is also an unsure spot, with various news organizations calling different things. Lee Jung-Hyub doesn’t seem to be tipped for a start, as his target man role might not be needed as much in a Omani team ready to concede space.

Just give me a picture.


The Oman FA logo.

I have done a lot of reading and research on Oman, although I haven’t watched one of their recent games for myself, just a little disclaimer there.

Oman play a standard 4-4-2 formation, very direct, and rather quick.

Oman, at first glance, struck me as a team having one thing that Korea lacked – consistency. Their manager, Paul Le Guen, has been with them for 3 years and counting. Their defensive backline has generally stayed together, and there is good chemistry between their two strikers, Said Al-Ruzaiqi and Amad Al-Hosni.

With 22 of 23 Oman callups playing in the now-professional Omani League (the lone exception: Wigan keeper Ali Al-Habsi), the first team should know each other fairly well. Despite this, they are a team still searching for the right balance between defense and offence.

What’s more, they have been plagued with injuries due to a pre-tournament friendly with over-aggressive China, forcing Le Guen into making two changes due to injury from the final squad.

Their recent results include the Gulf Cup, where they topped their group and thrashed an overly defensive-minded Kuwait 5-0, but failed to do anything else in the knockout stages, finish a disappointing fourth. A Jekyll and Hyde story if there ever was one.

Defensively speaking, Oman do not press until you reach the halfway line, which is something we can certainly expect versus Korea. Although they put 11 men behind the ball, they are not invincible to simple yet costly mistakes, especially at fullback. Regular rightback Saad Suhail is out and key centre-back Mohammad Al-Musalami is doubtful for this opener.

Simply put, Oman are a well-organized defensive team who seldom concede but seldom score. Their chemistry is one of their biggest assets, but with injuries in two key backline positions, they are suddenly not looking as scary as they were mere days ago.

A possible Oman lineup. NOTE: Saad Suhail is injured and has been replaced. Al-Musalami is doubtful. Picture courtesy of Tim Palmer (australiascout.com)


  • Oman have never progressed past the group stage in their 3 appearances at an Asian Cup; the last time South Korea did not was in 1984 (but they did not qualify for Japan 1992).
  • Korea only have one win in their opening group game in their last 5 Asian Cups.
  • Oman have the most players with 100+ caps in the tournament, with 4:
    #1 Ali Al-Habsi (100 caps)
    #12 Ahmed Mubarak Al-Mahaijri (108 caps)
    #17 Hassab Mudhafar Al-Gheilani (113 caps)
    #20 Amad Al-Hosni (115 caps)
  • Korea have not played Oman in 12 years, according to Soccerway. Their last match was a 3-1 win for Oman in Oman.

Korean TV: KBS2 (Lee Young-Pyo in the commentary box for this one!)
American TV: One World Sports
No other official broadcast elsewhere.

Stadium: Canberra Stadium, Canberra, Australia
Time: 2pm KST, 12midnight EST, January 10th, 2015

The two other games following this one will be North Korea-Uzbekistan and China-Saudi Arabia. You can read my North Korea preview for Just Football website here: http://www.just-football.com/2015/01/north-korea-asian-cup-2015-preview/

Have a good night, sorry for the late preview, won’t happen again, don’t forget to follow the Tavern writers on twitter, I’ll be live-tweeting for sure, but I’m not sure about the others. Jalgayo from the TSC and see you in 4 hours.


About Tim Lee 321 Articles
The maple syrup guzzling kimchijjigae craving Korean-Canadian, eh?


  1. Lee Keun Ho and Nam Tee Hee should be sitting on the bench. Heung Min Son should be up top with Ki partnering with LCY. Koo Ja Cheol will be just fine coming on the pitch as a sub as long as he promises not to ball hog.

    • Hi, welcome to the Tavern! We hope you will like our .asian Cup coverage.

      All due respect, who do we play in the hole then if Nam or Koo doesn’t play?

      Son up top has been thought about before but I think right now, son’s way more useful as a winger than a player having his back to goal all game. But there are people who still like it to be tried, which Stielike might do in the next year or so in a friendly. who knows?

      • I definitely agree. I am an over the hill ex American football player and coach. Successful coaching philosophy however cuts across all team sports. You have to play your best player in each position. Son is a natural no.2 in 4-4-2 system and a winger in 4-4-3 or 4-2-3-1 but I don’t see anyone else on the Korean squad that can fill the roll of no.10 or central striker. Do you have any ideas Tim?

        • Eh, not really. We only have three Center forwards called up and they are all lacking in their own way. Cho didn’t get involved in the buildup like a false nine usually does, Lee keun ho can’t finish and Lee Jung hyub is inexperienced and that showed with his awful mistake yesterday.

          In the ten spot, Koo isn’t really suitable there. I’d start Nam

          • Well apparently cho wasn’t even asked to play false 9, he was supposed to strictly play Center forward. Still, No runs, no movement, just lost. Drop the guy for Kuwait.

    • Despite the biased Aussie telecast, I still think we faired well all things considered. Stilecki has done a fine job trying to tuning up this team. I see what he’s trying to do and I feel its been impressive. We were much more horrendous prior to him coming aboard and had real moments of excellence tonight. Scoring has always been an issue for KNT regardless of the manager (although we played out of our trees in 2002). Hopefully we continue to improve.

  2. First time posting at the Tavern. I’m David. Love this site, I’ve been reading it for the past few months.

    Agree with some comments above. I think Stielike is a great coach just based on what he said to the media. He seems really positive.. I like what he said about how the team should play for the happiness/joy of Koreans back home. Also, what he said yesterday about playing poorly and learning from mistakes and then getting better as you go along. That’s how you win!

    I honestly think that mentality is often lacking when Koreans themselves are the coaches. It seems their mentality is always “Algeria is historically weak, so we will win,” or “Kim Shinwook is a tall guy, so just kick the ball to his head,” or “If you lose to Japan, you are completely worthless.” When I was living in Korea, I heard those kind of things from my Korean friends all the time.. not saying that’s how everyone thinks, but it’s certainly common. I grew up in the U.S. as a Korean-American and played a lot of sports here. Not trying to be culturally biased, but I guess it sometimes frustrates me as a fan of the KNT. Those guys have the talent and workrate… I feel like if they played in the U.S. with U.S. athletic system/mentality, they could decimate any team. That’s why I like the Tavern because you guys seem to know which direction the team should go in.

    Also, any idea why Korea never plays Japan in friendlies? Since 2006, I remember they used to always play each other at least once a year and Korea would usually win. I went to a lot of games at Seoul World Cup stadium and most people thought we’d always beat them because we’re just better. Since Japan beat us badly in a friendly in 2011, we haven’t played them in a friendly. That doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s like the KFA is worried about getting shamed by losing to Japan. Japan always played us when they were worse than us… anyone think it isn’t a coincidence that they got better over the years? You guys even admitted that Japan will probably beat us this time around… I hope Korea wins, but I feel like if they had played and lost to Japan in friendlies over the past few years, we’d be ready to face them now because we’d learn a lot from those losses (still think we can win if we play them during the AC though!).

    Another note, which is a little different but slightly similar. Listening to what you guys said about if it’s better to come in first or second in the group… I think it’s always better to come in first because you’ll most likely play a weaker team. You can’t really control what will happen in other groups, so make sure you put yourself in the best position. I was working in Korea during the last Asian Cup and remember we were in a group with Australia. We got second in the group on point difference, and I knew that was a bad sign. Australia had beaten India 4-0 and we were playing India in our final game. It really seemed like the players weren’t trying to get a 4 goal lead (which they were capable of doing), and it’s what we needed to top the group. Because we got second in the group, we then played Iran then Japan (as Jinseok said, we know how exhausting that was). Australia had a much easier path to the finals. Nobody in the media and none of my Korean friends even seemed to think about that.

    I wrote about a bunch of different stuff without much of a point haha. I guess I’m trying to say I wish I could be the coach… oops, too bad I don’t know enough about soccer strategy. I’m learning a lot from you guys though! Anyway, Stielike’s comments to the media give me hope. I hope the players listen to him, and I hope he’s just as good in the locker room.

    Thanks again for the awesome site.

    • powerful 3rd paragraph there, dude. many there live in a world of absolutes with an inability to see things from different perspectives. i feel like its held us back in a lot of ways but who can argue a country which was at one time one of the poorest countries in the world rising from the ashes the way it has. yet I feel like we’d be a lot farther if the hierarchy pecking order over there would pull its head out of its ass and quit focusing on who can do/say what and quit looking for the scapegoat to blame.

      hope you post more.

      • it’s a bit unfair to lay ALL of that junk on korean culture. most of it is sports culture. look at FIFA, UEFA, AFC, and others. heck, look at the NFL and MLB. it’s just human to be slow to change and trust in hierarchy and yet, ironically, quick to find a scapegoat. and EVERYONE has their biases. the US is full of idiots, too. really, it’s just a matter of degrees. the biggest problem consistently seen in the KFA is nepotism, but again, look at FIFA, et. al. I agree on the assessment of needing change, but it’s too simplistic to say it’s about korean culture.

        i do think though David might be onto something in that perhaps korea is a bit too afraid of failure sometimes. they are rarely risk taking (in terms of soccer, i don’t think it’s inherent to korean culture en toto). i’d like to see the KFA be a little bolder in terms of leadership and vision.

        • Daniel-
          how do you explain the hubae/sombae mentality which was briefly taken away in 2002 only to reappear after Hiddink left? many reports and rumors seem to indicate its the same as before Hiddink joined.

          • your comments per usual is tangential as if you don’t read the actual comments. nowhere was the sunbae/hubae relationship brought up as part of the ‘korean culture’ being criticized, so i never addressed it in particular. however, since you bring it up, i’ll oblige and bite.

            if you think it was never there even when hiddink was there, you’re kidding yourself. it got a lot of press but that was not the main reason they did well. personally, i would rather not have that in place as hiddink’s operating mode, but i’m also not silly enough to believe that it had as much of a major impact as you apparently do. why do you think it ‘reappeared’? because it never went away to begin with. they just wouldn’t do anything in front of hiddink. it was only important from the coaching perspective that hiddink didn’t give a crap about sunbae/hubae relationships affecting lineup decisions. however, after hiddink, show me a coach who cared about sunbae/hubae relationships in defining lineups. i would guarantee it to be none of them. there was favoritism, but it wasn’t based in seniority. it was based on pet players. you’re grasping at straws.

            if you want to blame anything for korea’s issues, it’s rather simple, and jae and i mentioned this right after the cup. for all the hullabaloo, the main reasons (as is the case usually with most teams) for korea’s struggles are: 1) lack of talent 2) lack of consistency in leadership 3) malfunctioning tactics. just because you have a handful of people in europe doesn’t mean the team is loaded. i pointed out back in the world cup that it wasn’t surprising that algeria beat korea from the perspective of those three criteria. algeria despite its rankings had better depth in talent. just take a look at where most of those players played. it wasn’t just a handful of players playing in europe. it was most of their squad. they had consistent leadership. they had tactics that suited their personnel.

            koreans have succeeded in many different sports so all this stuff about korean culture is mostly fodder. if anyone wants to hold onto them to make them feel like they have the answers, by all means, hold onto them. it’ll still be nonsense though.

          • (Edited by an admin)
            where in my comments did I say the word ‘major’ as part of my argument? please point that out. what is your experience with Korea? I spent nearly 4 years from 2005 to 2009 there working abroad for a public company but spent 2 years after that in a state of brief retirement taking the country in. I spent 6 months in Taegu then 6 months in Pusan. The rest of it was in Seoul and Inchon. i can tell you that in that short time I was able to observe the hierarchy system in college students I hung with and it was definitely alive and well over there and is very much part of the culture.

            and Im sorry…were you on the 2002 team? you sound like you were even though that can’t be possible. have you read Hiddink’s book then? doesn’t sound like you even did that. because if you did you’d know the man went out of his way in the book to explain how he neutralized the pecking order, a focal point of his tenure with the team. am I ‘silly’ enough to think that Hiddink changed the team’s mentality completely….of course not. but i believe it paid great dividends for how the team ultimately performed.

            you bring up some obvious and rather simple points about why the team continues to underachieve. the teams that came after 2002 were often touted as being more talented but still never managed to succeed particularly in the striking and goal scoring capacity. i tend to think the culture plays a part in how people perceive things and that the constant underling “do as I say” mentality prohibits or even prevents individualism and the ability to be creative. traits necessary for being attacker/strikers. certainly might explain why we often have 6 guys surrounding the opposition’s box looking at eachother with little else going on in between them and the keeper.

          • and before you label my statement as being blanket, ill remind you again that Hiddink clearly wrote in his memoirs that the hierarchy was clearly evident and observable nearly from the moment he joined the team (seniors eating with eachother etc). players in general over the years have often complained about Korean managers who’ve implemented near martial law on their teams.

          • (Edit by an admin)
            when did i say that the hierarchical system doesn’t exist? in fact, i explicitly stated that it does. you continue to go on and on with things that are tangential to what was addressed. if you are ignoring ACTUAL comments then just be honest and say you are bringing up another thing to talk about.

            as for your comments about hiddink, you again apparently can’t or won’t read what i actually wrote. where did i say that hiddink didn’t work to neutralize hierarchy?? in fact, what you stated goes along exactly with what i said about hiddink. my point was that for korean PLAYERS hierarchy never went away. i already answered your question on hiddink’s neutralized culture, but perhaps you couldn’t make the connection. i said that just because hiddink created a certain supposed culture on the surface, it doesn’t mean the age seniority culture went away. again, you tried to point this out that in society it is still strong. exactly. connect the dots and see that it never went away when hiddink was there. you think just because hiddink THINKS he got rid of it that he got rid of the CULTURE? he got rid of the surface practice of it. you seriously think a culture that is hundreds of years old simply vanished in 4 years under hiddink? and you apparently sidestepped my direct point. name me a coach who chose players based on seniority. i’m waiting.

            thanks for your korean credentials. i speak korean fluently enough, i’ve been around koreans enough, i’ve been to korea enough and i have enough korean friends to know very well what the korean culture is. in fact, you and i have not even disagreed on what the culture IS! so bringing all that up is besides the point. furthermore, i criticize korean culture plenty, but we all have our biases as to what should be criticized or glorified or not. my other point was that koreans have found success even with the hierarchical structure in various sports, so to lay the problem on that is just nonsensical. would i get rid of it? yea, i think i would. it’s just not a big issue in my opinion. if i stated that you think it’s a major issue and you didn’t actually say or mean that, i apologize. i inferred that based on you bringing that out of left field in the line of discussion. if my 3 points are too simple, then the problem isn’t that it’s too simple, it’s that you’re wanting to grasp at more straws than there really is. does the hierarchy play a part? i’m not saying it has zero effect. i’m saying it’s unlikely that it is really worth talking about. there are too many other issues that would likely make more impact on a team. this is provided that my points are true (which i could be wrong) that hardly any coach since hiddink has picked players based on seniority. furthermore, you even have players who don’t care much about that anyway, like ki and chungyong and possibly koo. so i can poke holes on this point on hierarchy in way too many ways. of course, an additional question is whether a hierarchical korean culture needs to be done away with simply because you or i don’t like it very much. i have no chip on my shoulder. i’m just being fair. i guard myself against even my own biases. perhaps you should sometimes, too.

            for my tone, that really is my bad, so i apologize. but, i beg you, please respond to or more importantly NOT IGNORE ACTUAL words that were written. i don’t even care if we disagree, it’s just beyond annoying when you do that. still, i will try to curb my tone even when you do that, since i hardly expect that your style will change just on my account or for the many many years your habits have developed. it may take longer than four years to change even if it needs to.

        • Well I really don’t have time for this at least for the day since I have to go to church (LOL) but suffice it to say, Im always going to be in the corner saying that whatevers happening to us on the attacking side, a lot of it has to do with the mental/psychology aspect. And Ill take back my earlier transgression while I have this chance.


          • I apologize. I was cranky. I’m sure I could’ve made my points better and without being testy. I will be more considerate next time.

            Peace, man.

  3. I think hierarchal system definitely play a part in the way KNT plays and from casual observation, it is obvious to me some some players are held back. Just observe how Koo Ja Cheoul is named captain when in fact he rides pine in Mainz and is injury prone. That is just one example.

    I guess I see a lot of selfishness from the older players that are less capable.

    I usually stay out of on-line debates but It is frustrating to watch a team that under perform consistently and our antiquated culture is a big part of it.

    • I could be grasping for straws here as Danial pointed out but the way the ball is sometimes needlessly passed around the perimeter or at the half-line sometimes appears to be deference to each other. Maybe not now but I feel like Ive seen it here and there. I def feel like this was the case in 98′.

      Or it could be because technical ability or creativity is sorely lacking and there is no one who really wants the balls, but I really feel like being told what to do as a hubae in any setting robs that person of individuality. Up until very recently, I think its safe to assume Korea could be characterized as being very ‘clonish’.

      Anyways I think Ive made my points clear enough so Ill stop there.

      • i agree with you on the ‘clonish’-ness having existed up until recently, but i think that has ended for the most part. of course, in terms of clonish-ness we’re meaning in a robotic un-creative way, since you could argue that there is clonish-ness at barca, but in a way that allows for creativity. i do think in terms of player development it has changed much. if you look at many of our current younger players, their problem is definitely not from a feeling of clonish-ness but more like they all don’t fit well together, but my opinion is that the leadership and the direction of development is the bigger cause/problem. players i think are so exposed to players around the world and trying to emulate them, that there is a greater pursuit of being more than just an army guy (yes sir, no sir type) if you will. what’s needed is for the kfa and manager to have a sense of how to develop individual talent while blending them. the hubae thing is alive and well, but i don’t really see it being played out on the field. i mean, ki and koo and son all have had older teammates and they seemed to speak out plenty and their play hasn’t seem deferential at all to those older. and they’re high level athletes that want to win.

        anyway, i hope you accept my apology.

  4. Didn’t mean to open up a huge debate! Sorry bout that..
    I just hope the guys pull out the victories… they gotta put the past in the past, don’t try to relive 2002, don’t be so ashamed of 2014, and just utilize their current strengths and infuse a little creativity. Not sure how you teach them creativity… that’s the only issue. But I think for whatever reason Nam Tae Hee has that in him and can do damage. As Stielike said, just go out there and have fun. Just as an example, that’s how I felt when I watched Colombia play in the World Cup. They looked like they were just having a blast from day one, and it stopped right at the moment they walked out on the field to face Brazil… ironically, exactly the game they lost. The Koreans need that sense of excitement and exuberance in their play and each other to take it to the next level. I got faith it’ll happen one day.

  5. Eh, I’ll just throw a few thoughts in there on the culture thing. As everyone agrees, the sunbae/hoobae, hyung/dongsaeng thing is alive and well in Korean culture. While Hiddink did make a concerted effort to reduce it’s effects on the field, I’m sure he’s aware that he did not remove it from the group as it’s far too engrained in the culture and players. Koo Ja-cheol being named captain is not an example of this as there are several players who are both sunbaes to him and hyungs to him. Cha Du-ri would be the obvious choice if you’re going on hierarchy given he is the oldest and is tied for the highest number of caps (and debuted far before any other current player).

    Does it inhibit the players/performances? Perhaps a bit, but it’s not the biggest reason why Korea has not performed to expectations over the last decade. That has to do more with an over-emphasis on players in Europe and a neglect on the domestic league and grassroots efforts. You can’t teach creativity, but you can encourage it by helping young players develop their technical ability and then encouraging them to show their skills on the pitch (and not just focus on winning).

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