It’s finally here. The big match of 2013 for Korea (at least according to the KFA, in their explanation of why ticket prices are so high). Brazil is in town to give us a footballing lesson.
First up, us. There is one injury announcement. Defender Hwang Seok-Ho is out injured, and in his place Hong Myeong-Bo has called veteran defender Kang Min-Su of Ulsan. Other than that everyone has made it in one piece.
The main news surrounding the build up to Saturday is: Ki Sung-Yueng, the striker situation, and Koo Ja-Cheol (probably in that order). Upon his arrival at Incheon international airport, Ki held a mini press conference to sincerely apologize to former national team boss Choi Kang-Hee. Whether Ki’s sincerity was real it up for debate, as Hong had said earlier that he told Ki that he would need to apologize to Choi and the Korean public (during his visit to England). Either way, hopefully it puts the past in the past, and we don’t have to think about it again.
The striker conundrum continues with most of the debate surrounding who should start. An out-of-form striker-turned midfielder in Ji Dong-Won, a division 2 (Korea) player in Lee Keun-Ho, or another out-of-form attacking midfielder-turned deep midfielder-turned wide midfielder in Koo Ja-Cheol. The popular choice seems to be Ji Dong-Won for now.
Finally, we center on the last of the aforementioned three players, Koo Ja-Cheol. Koo has started and played regularly for Wolfsburg since his move back last summer, but he has not settled well, and certainly has not been playing excellently. His move deeper in midfield, next to upcoming opponent Luiz Gustavo, has not gone smoothly, and Koo has looked very uncomfortable in that deeper role. Lately he has been moved more to a wide midfield position, but he doesn’t seem fully comfortable there either. Koo has always been held in fairly high regards by Hong, even receiving the captain’s armband after Hong Jeong-Ho was injured during the Olympics. So, we will see if Hong is willing to drop him from the starting XI.
Okay, so the header for this section is a bit misleading, this is more the XI I’d like to see (for reasons I will explain later). The predicted XI is the same, with just a few changes. Ji Dong-Won would start ahead of Lee Keun-Ho and either Koo Ja-Cheol or Park Jong-Woo would start ahead of Han Kook-Young. I think I even saw a report suggesting that Kim Jin-Su would start at left back ahead of Park Joo-Ho, but I hesitate to say that’s realistic.
Brazil also had one injury drop out. That would be right back Maicon, who suffered an injury while playing for Roma against Inter. Scolari has not called up a replacement for him. There was also a major injury scare for Brazilian and Barcelona fans yesterday (and for those who paid big money to see him) as Neymar limped off during training after a collision with Hernanes. Spanish papers Marca and AS both reported that Neymar was a serious doubt for Saturday’s match, but the Brazilian medical team has since reported that he should be fine, and that the collision just resulted in him suffering a ‘heavy blow’.
Unlike Korea, Brazil has very few selection questions, just a minor one about the striker, right attacker, and attacking midfield role. At the Confederations Cup Brazil had Fred up top, Hulk out wide, and Oscar in the hole. In their last two friendlies Brazil had Jo up top, Bernard out wide, and Ramires in the hole (albeit slightly deeper). What will we see? If Brazil’s training XI is any indication we’ll see the following:
I suspect that Ramires’ inclusion (possibly on the Brazil right) would be a tactical move to contain Son. Dani Alves is of course a very attack-minded fullback, so the energy and workrate of Ramires may be to help counter that. It’s possible though that he and Oscar could switch positions, with Ramires going more central to help control possession and tempo if need be. There were some reports that suggested that Alexandre Pato may start up top, but it seems more likely that Brazil will continue with their Jo experiment for now (but I imagine we’ll see Pato at some point).
I expect Korea to be a bit more conservative in this match. Attempting to ‘take it’ to Brazil is likely to end badly. Defensively I think Korea would do well to follow the trend and fall into a 4-4-2 shape with (using my preferred XI) Kim Bo-Kyung dropping wide left and Son Heung-Min going more central. Brazil will likely push their fullbacks high up the pitch and there should be space for Son to exploit. Lee Keun-Ho can do something similar. This idea may be the strongest reason to include someone like Koo Ja-Cheol who excels at making attacking runs from deep, but I fear that a Ki-Koo(-Kim) trio may be a bit too weak to combat Luiz Gusatavo, Paulinho, and Ramires. I included Han Kook-Young in the XI purely as an ‘anti-Neymar’ player if you will. Kim Chang-Soo is experienced, but he’s not anywhere near the level of competing with Neymar. Lee Chung-Yong has a good workrate as well, but defensively he’s not much.
Just as an explanation of the diagram above. Korea drops into a 4-4-2 shape defensively. When they recover the ball, they counter mainly through Son Heung-Min and Lee Keun-Ho, who stretch the defense side-to-side with diagonal runs into the space (likely) vacated by Marcelo and Dani Alves. The space that’s opened up by their runs is exploited by Kim Bo-Kyung and Lee Chung-Yong who use their pace to get past the central midfielders. Ki Sung-Yueng uses his long passing range to distribute the ball.
I think this will be an extremely difficult match for Korea to get anything from, barring a completely jet lagged and exhausted Brazil side. But, considering most arrived a few days ago, that seems unlikely. I think a draw would a great result for the side, but a narrow loss is more likely. I think something along the lines of a 2-0, 3-1 Brazil win would be acceptable outcome in all honesty, as long as Korea has some nice moments and/or makes life quite difficult for the Brazilians. That may be pessimistic, but I think it’s fairly objective. A lopsided loss the way Australia did would be extremely damaging in terms of confidence. Anything close or that would earn ‘points’ for Korea would be a major plus.
Korean TV – MBC (MBC also has a live stream through their website, requires registration)
US TV – BeInSport 11am EST [delay broadcast]
Time – Saturday, 8pm KST. Saturday, 7am EDT.
Where – Seoul World Cup Stadium, Seoul, South Korea
*I may be doing limited live tweeting during the match, mainly for major events (goals, bookings, and general trends I see). It won’t be as detailed as I will be at the match, and will be focused more on enjoying the experience. Plus the wife and baby daughter are going to, so maybe busy with other things as well.
(Tavern update: tavern owner at taeguk_warrior will not be able to live tweet -very jealous of Jae going to the game – we on the East Coast will only be able to watch on delay at 11 am EST.)