So, we had hoped to do a Tavern Hangout before the game against Russia to discuss some of the finer details of the team. Unfortunately, as it often does, ‘real life’ intervened and we just couldn’t find time where everyone (or most of us) could do it. So, instead we sent some questions/thoughts (an in-house mailbag) we had to each other and answered them.
*Note – This post may be updated in the days to come.
Tim: How optimistic are you about Korea’s chances in the World Cup?
Well, I sound like a Jurgen Klinsman (telling his own US team that they won’t win the world cup this year) in which, no Korea will not win it – but can still have what can be perceived as a productive World Cup. Advance to Round of 16 on South American soil – Hong and the KNT can return to Korea with heads held high. I am optimistic, but cautiously optimistic. Not counting the last 2 recent friendlies – the KNT under Hong has improved in a number of areas – not perfect – but much improved overall compared to how the team was operating under Choi Kang-Hee. If that KNT shows up in Brazil, beginning with the Russia match, Korea will be an exciting team to watch in Brazil. (Roy)
Even after the past two demoralizing friendlies, I’m still confident that Korea will make it past the next stage. The atmosphere will be different from what the team is used to and they will be more focused. (Jeremy)
Honestly, I’m not quite as optimistic as the other two are. I do think Korea has a chance to advance to the round of 16, but it will be very, very close. I have a sneaking suspicion that goal difference may play a factor, and the way Korea has been letting them in lately is a big worry for me. (Jae)
Let’s win the whole damn thing (but realistically, we’ll get to the RO16 and get knocked out there) (Jinseok)
Roy: To what degree might we see surprise formations or strategies on the pitch?
I really don’t think we’re going to see anything surprising like a 4-1-4-1 or something along those lines. Hong seems to like the 4-2-3-1 and he’s always used that in theory. He’s never been that tactically adventurous manager, whether you like it or not. Hong will, most likely, stick to what he’s tested, what he knows, and not show us much else. Should he be trying something new? That’s a different discussion, and there’s really no time for that… (Tim)
I think Tim has hit the nail on the head. Hong’s a fairly conservative manager, and while reports have hinted (and his own interviews) that he’s been holding something back, it would be out of character for him to reveal something completely new or different come game 1. (Jae)
Yep. What they said. Very little (Jinseok)
Jae: Korea played a much more aggressive pressing style (defensively) against Ghana. Do you think Hong should stick with that tactic or adjust given the number of goals conceded and relative ease with which Ghana broke the press?
Hong should not stick with that tactic. I think Korea should play more defensively and not press as much as they did against Ghana. (Jeremy)
Jinseok: What changes would you make to the current starting XI and formation?
Hmmm. This might not be the change I would go with, but it’s just a thought that came to mind. The same formation, but a much more counter-attacking game. Utilize the fullbacks and wingers to get crosses in the box, ideally to the Wookie. Let him be our secret weapon. The towering Ulsan one-top.Also, if Hong really wants to send a message, bench Koo and put in Kimbo or Lee Keun-Ho or Ji, someone, anyone like that behind the striker. Maybe it’s just me but I felt as if Kimbo/LKH/Ji on the pitch equaled better attacking movement. It flowed a tad better.Basically, if we want to be adventurous, PCY out, KSW in, and KJC out, anyone else who can do that job IN. (Tim)
A tricky question, one that has me thinking on different levels (a realistic one and a more theoretical one). In theory, I would change quite a bit. Something more in line with what Tim suggested, but maybe even a bit more extreme. The problem is that Korea has never really played that way (counter-attacking) under Hong Myeong-Bo, so I have doubts about how well it would work. Being slightly realistic (using Hong’s general framework) I would say dropping Koo Ja-Cheol for Lee Keun-Ho or Ji Dong-Won would be the only change I’d make. (Jae)
Jeremy: To what extent will we see Son Heung-Min?
To the same extent we’ll be seeing Jung Sung-Ryong. All the time. I think he’s indispensable to the squad now. He’s arguably our best player. Him and Chungy have been the two bright spots (well, Han Kook-Young to a certain extent too) in the last two weeks. (Tim)
Every game fo sho. Will he score every game? Probably not. (Jinseok)
Jinseok: How would you evaluate the Ki-Han combo so far? Has it worked out as it was supposed to?
Good if you go back to the friendlies before that tune up matches with Tunisia and Croatia. I do believe his injuries (which he tends to keep under the rug) prevents him from reaching his fullest potential at the various clubs he’s been at since 2011. (Roy)
As a combo, it’s been okay. It’d give it a 6/10 overall. I’d rate it higher if Ki had become more adventurous in going forward, knowing he had a pure defensive midfielder behind him. As is, Ki and Han are both staying deep, and the attack is suffering without a link. (Jae)
Jae: Do you all still have faith in Park Chu-Young or have you joined me in my skepticism yet?
I still have faith in Park Chu-Young – the Greece friendly showed he still has that natural flair for scoring elegant goals. He seems to have still done well despite infrequent time on pitch for his various clubs since joinging Arsenal in late 2012. (Roy)
I still have faith in PCY. (Jeremy)
I think many of us are perhaps foolishly hoping for a London 2012 moment. Out of the blue, Park thrives under a big stage, his club self a mere shadow as he guides us to some incredible almost unforeseeable achievement. That being said, I am incredibly concerned about his lack of form and-dare I say it?-focus. Park just doesn’t seem to be tuned in for the World Cup. He’s shown us his lost, ineffective club self in these last two friendlies. The attack doesn’t seem to be clicking with Park (or Koo for that matter). He’s just not there, physically or I feel even psychologically. That grin after he sent a shot high and wide against Ghana. Maybe I’m reading way too much into it, in fact, I probably am. But that grin showed no concern of being down 3-0 to Ghana, no worry about having missed a chance, a simple “oopsie-daisy!” kind of smirk. And what, is he suddenly going to show up at the big show? Suddenly take everything seriously?What Park Chu-Young are we going to see? Park Chu-Young of days past or Park Ju-Young of Arsenal?It’s a clash of emotions. My heart says “just you watch Jae! just you watch all you Park-skeptics! He will send us to the Round of 16! And I will have said ‘I told you so!'” But my brain is unsure. Confused. Worried. Petrified. Is it fair to say a lot of us are like this right now? Foolishly optimistic? (Tim)
PJY 4 lyfe (Jinseok)
Tim: To what extent will we see Kim Shin-Wook?
He should win a good amount of aerial battles for Korea. Maybe even score a few goals. I think he will start in the first match. (Jeremy)
The mini tour in the US earlier in 2014 was a very important test for Kim Shin-Wook. So underwhelming – it forced Hong to find every possible way to include Park Chu-Young, and I would be surprised if we see Kim Shin-Wook in anything but a late sub role. (Roy)
It’s been long understood that Kim Shin-Wook and the current way the team plays do not match up. I’ve yet to see Hong Myeong-Bo make any noticeable changes to the team (or Kim) to alter that. As such, I would be surprised to see Kim Shin-Wook get any significant minutes. Perhaps if the team is in desperate need of a goal. (Jae)
Super sub (Jinseok)
Roy: Do you agree that the late season injury/recovery for Ki and Koo is the reason for their lack of form against Tunisia and Ghana?
Yes and no. Obviously heading into the World Cup with an injury-free season is the ideal scenario. But injuries happen, and in my opinion we’ve seen the worst parts of Ki and Koo post-injury in these friendlies. They just don’t seem 100%. Despite that, to say that if Koo was 100% fit we’d be a perfect team is far-fetched. A lot of the problems lie in the chemistry and how we break down our opponent’s defense, etc. etc. So no in the sense that injury isn’t an excuse for bad form – sometimes it’s just simply bad form. (If that makes sense to you.) (Tim)
Jeremy: Does Algeria pose a threat to Korea?
Yes. That’s all I need to say. They definitely do and all of us who were celebrating when we got them in the draw should be a little careful now. They cannot be underestimated. It would be downright foolish to think they are dead meat. No one is an easy opponent in our group and if we lose against Algeria then we’re probably out of the World Cup. (Tim)
The lesson happened just a couple days ago when Uruguay lost to Costa Rica 3-1. Costa Rica was the whipping boy of group D, like Algeria is supposed to be for group H. Take Algeria lightly and something similar could easily happen to us. (Jae)
You cannot underestimate them, but at least they are pretty predictable (Jinseok)