So the Tunisia match on May 28th is coming up folks! It is our last friendly at home (Seoul WC stadium) before the team heads off to Miami for training camp. Without a doubt, this friendly (as well as Ghana on June 9th) is designed to help us not just prep for a team that’s apparently similar to Algeria, but also to fine tune the issues in our team play and iron out the starting XI for good. It seems that sometime in the past we have played Tunisia before, ending in a 0-0 draw. Kickoff: Wednesday May 28 at 7 AM US EST / 8 PM Korea Time. TV in US: none [streaming options, check back on Tavern Twitter right before kickoff]. TV in Korea: MBC.
This will be our first friendly after the release of the final World Cup roster, so what we see on the 28th will pretty much be what we’ll see when the World Cup rolls around, minus some minor errors perhaps. So, it will provide us a pretty good idea of where we stand in terms of rebuilding since the Dark Ages and readiness for the WC.
As for our starting XI there are only two points of contention – goalkeeper and left back.
When it comes to the goalkeeper position we will probably see Jung Sung Ryong. Goalkeeper is a position where experience tends to matter, and considering that all three of them are either in bad form or inexperienced, it looks like the starter will be Jung. It really shouldn’t be so black and white, but considering that Jung and Kim Seung Gyu are on about the same form, and that Lee Bum Young has been beasting in the K League but 1) inexperienced and 2) rather underwhelming in recent tourneys, Jung is most likely to start at the moment. However, if he really screws up vs Tunisia, you can bet he will be replaced when the Ghana friendly rolls around. Considering the whole goalkeeper problem, however, I wouldn’t be surprised to see HMB sub out the starting goalkeeper some at half time. Perhaps Lee Bum Young will be given a chance due to his K League form, maybe behind Kwak and Hwang SH, to see how he does. Though it must be said, the opposition isn’t quite to the level of Russia, Algeria, and Belgium.
When it comes to left back… given the level of opposition I think Yoon will start. HMB will no doubt want to test out Yoon’s form and fitness. After all, HMB seems to trust Yoon the most (as do most KNT fans) when it comes to left back; the only problem, of course, being his lack of playing time. It seems though that he still has what it takes.
It is also possible that Ki will not feature vs Tunisia as he has just recovered from injury, and HMB has repeatedly stressed the importance of not getting injured – perhaps Ha Dae Sung will start in his place.
Thus, the starting lineup, on paper at least, will be:
On paper, of course, we’ll see Lee Yong playing defensively, the left back playing as a winger, and Koo moving forward to press:
Hopefully, with all the training at Paju so far and more time to gel together we’ll see a more cohesive team than we’ve seen before.
Sorry Jinseok, Jae jumping in here. I’ll be doing the tactical analysis for games (pre- and during the World Cup), so I thought I’d mention the five things I’ll be watching for against Tunisia.
- Left back – I agree with Jinseok that Yoon Suk-Young will likely start, but I’m curious to see if Hong uses him in a similar manner as Kim Jin-Su against Greece. Yoon can get forward, but his more balanced nature may alter how Hong utilizes the left back position.
- Possession and the defensive positioning (read on for Jinseok’s thoughts, then mine will make more sense) – Having a massive amount of possession and pinning Tunisia back makes sense on paper, but this Korea team rarely does those things. This team is built to be more direct, so we’ll see if they can settle down and play more patiently.
- Transitions – Korea took advantage of sloppy Greek transitions to score, and narrowly survived our own poor transitions. Hopefully Hong has drilled the team on picking up defensive assignments and being effective in switching to attacking positions.
- Han Kook-Young – Against an, in theory, lesser team that doesn’t have a key man to mark in attack, how will Han fit into the side? And would a more balanced player (Park Jong-Woo or Ha Dae-Sung) offer more (see point 2)?
- Pressing and Counter-pressing – Reports from Paju have stated that Hong has been working on these things, so we’ll see if it’s come to fruition. Korea’s counter-pressing has been fairly non-existent while the pressing has been poorly executed.
Okay, back to Jinseok’s preview!
I really don’t know too much about Tunisia, nor do I recognize any of their players. Quite a few seem to play in the French league. However, it is worth mentioning that they drew Colombia 1-1 quite recently, and that they missed out on a world cup berth due to losing to Cameroon 4-1 on aggregate. Meaning, they are not a team to be underestimated, though they certainly should be beatable.
I really wish I could find more information on Tunisia (for an expert analysis of the opposition see Jae’s Greece Preview), but there doesn’t seem to be too much online. I promise there will be a more expansive preview (for both sides) once the WC matches roll around.
Tactics and Predictions:
Expect Korea to play their typical HMB style game – fast paced, some neat passes here and there, a good mix of short passing and longballs, and perhaps a goal on a quick counterattack. Given the level of opposition we should also expect to see plenty of possession with HJH and KYK playing a high line like 60-70% of the game. Tunisia seems like they will most likely turtle, so this should provide a good idea of how well our offense can pry open a defense, which will truly be tested against Russia and Algeria.
If we cannot beat Tunisia our chances of getting out of the group stage would be in serious jeopardy. Given our dominance vs CAF sides, I’m calling a 2-0 or 3-0 win, with PJY scoring at least 1.