Previewing Lebanon vs South Korea

It’s finally here. Crunch time. Three matches in just under two weeks that will decide (most likely) if Korea will head to Brazil next summer or spend it at home. Lebanon. Uzbekistan. Iran. One away. Two in Korea. Three games with it all to play for.

All right, now that we’ve gotten the dramatics out of the way, let’s talk business. I’ve already put quite a bit down on figurative paper about Choi Kang-Hee’s call-ups, but if you’ve forgotten you can head here to see the whole list. Or here for detailed looks at forwards, midfielders, and the defense.

Also, if you’ve forgotten, at the present time of writing this is what the table looks like.

# Team MP W D L F A D P Last 5 matches  
1 Uzbekistan 6 3 2 1 6 4 +2 11 WWWDD
2 Korea Republic 5 3 1 1 11 5 +6 10 WLDWW
3 Iran 5 2 1 2 2 2 +0 7 LWLDW
4 Qatar 6 2 1 3 4 7 -3 7 LWLDL
5 Lebanon 6 1 1 4 2 7 -5 4 LLWLD

I won’t go into the permutations just yet, as there are far too many to adequately explain them all. Suffice it to say, Korea must beat Lebanon. Anything else will put an extreme amount of pressure on the team to earn maximum points from the two home matches.

South Korea

Word is slowly starting to filter out of the camp what Choi Kang-Hee is thinking. Initial reports were that he was considering a Lee Dong-Gook/Son Heung-Min partnership, but that is looking increasingly unlikely now. Choi Kang-Hee seems to be rolling the dice and betting on the recent wonderful performances of Lee Chung-Yong. The latest reports are that Choi Kang-Hee is looking to move Lee Chung-Yong out of his normal right wing role, and put him in the hole with Kim Bo-Kyung on the left and Lee Keun-Ho on the right. If he does this it would represent a rare bit of sense on the manager’s part. All three players, Lee Keun-Ho, Lee Chung-Yong, and Kim Bo-Kyung are positionally flexible across the midfield, and I would expect them to rotate spots should all three play. It does present a small risk to put Lee Chung-Yong in the hole as he rarely plays there, and his main skill is certainly as a creator rather than a scorer. Kim Bo-Kyung would seem to be a more optimal choice for the playmaking spot. Or possibly Lee Keun-Ho as he represents a more proven scoring option.

For the two deeper midfield spots, it would appear that the predicted duo of Lee Myeong-Jin and Kim Nam-Il will start with Lee Myeong-Jin given the license to venture forward to help the attack. There also don’t seem to be any surprises in defense (unfortunately) with a backline of Park Joo-Ho, Jung In-Hwan, Kwak Tae-Hwi, and Kim Chang-Soo expected.

Many will likely have wanted to see Son Heung-Min from the start, but it seems he will once again reprise his supersub role. One feels that he will need to start performing and scoring consistently to push out Lee Keun-Ho (most likely). Some many also have called for the likes of Ji Dong-Won, in good form for Augsburg, to start, but given that Lebanon will likely play more defensively, the attacking prowess of Kim Bo-Kyung is the better choice.

A predicted starting XI is:

Lee Dong-Gook

Lee Keun-Ho / Kim Bo-Kyung / Lee Chung-Yong

Lee Myeong-Jin / Kim Nam-Il

Park Joo-Ho / Jung In-Hwan / Kwak Tae-Hwi / Kim Chang-Soo

Jung Sung-Ryong


Lebanon is currently last in the group, and has only a slim hope for any sort chance at qualification. Anything other than a win sees them eliminated from the automatic places, and depending on Iran’s result, Lebanon could also be eliminated from the playoff spot as well. Which raises the possibility of a more adventurous Lebanese side. Normally one would expect them to sit deeper and defend, but if they know they need a result they may be forced to come out a bit. *Note – The Qatar-Iran match starts 1 hour 15 minutes before Lebanon-South Korea, so both teams will know a bit more about the path they need to take.

There is really nothing of note for the Lebanon side. They don’t have any star players or one particular danger man to watch out for. Most of the players play in the domestic league with a few overseas (2 in the UAE, 1 in China, 1 in the U.S., 1 in Sweden, and 1 in Norway). Midfielder Abbas Atwi is the most capped player with 51 caps. And fellow midfielder Rodas Antar is the current high scorer with 18 goals to his name.

A full list of the call-ups for Lebanon are as follows:

# Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club
GK Abbas Hassan May 10, 1985 (age 28) 13 0 Sweden IF Elfsborg
GK Larry Mehanna October 28, 1983 (age 29) 21 0 Lebanon Al-Ansar
GK Mehdi Khalil September 19, 1991 (age 21) 1 0 Lebanon Al-Safa’ SC
DF Ali Hamam August 25, 1986 (age 26) 22 0 Lebanon Nejmeh
DF Walid Ismail November 11, 1984 (age 28) 29 0 Lebanon Racing Beirut
DF Hassan Daher March 4, 1983 (age 30) 1 0 Lebanon Shabab Al-Sahel
DF Mootaz Jounaidi January 20, 1986 (age 27) 17 0 Lebanon Al-Ansar
DF Youssef Mohamad July 1, 1980 (age 32) 50 2 United Arab Emirates Al-Ahli
MF Onika December 15, 1984 (age 28) 32 3 Lebanon Al-Ahed
MF Amer Khan June 4, 1983 (age 29) 15 0 Lebanon Al-Safa’ SC
MF Roda Antar September 12, 1980 (age 32) 43 18 China Shandong Luneng
MF Abbas Atwi September 12, 1979 (age 33) 51 4 Lebanon Nejmeh
MF Nader Matar May 12, 1992 (age 21) 11 0 Spain Canillas
MF Adnan Haidar August 3, 1989 (age 23) 9 1 Norway Stabæk
MF Haitham Faour February 27, 1990 (age 23) 25 0 Lebanon Al-Ahed
MF Hussein Awada March 22, 1990 (age 23) 0 0 Lebanon Al-Ahed
MF Mohammed Shamas February 25, 1987 (age 26) 25 0 Lebanon Nejmeh
FW Soony Saad August 17, 1992 (age 20) 1 1 United States Sporting Kansas City
FW Feiz Shamsin July 12, 1992 (age 20) 7 1 Lebanon Ijtimai Tripoli
FW Hassan Chaito March 20, 1989 (age 24) 18 2 Lebanon Al-Ahed
FW Mahmoud Kojok April 29, 1991 (age 22) 2 0 Lebanon Al-Ansar
FW Mohamad Haidar November 8, 1989 (age 23) 21 2 Lebanon Al-Safa’ SC
FW Hassan Maatouk October 8, 1987 (age 25) 34 7 United Arab Emirates Al-Shaab
FW Alexis Khazzaka April 15, 1994 (age 19) 2 0 Lebanon Al-Ahly Aley


Match Expectations

While it would be easy to overlook this match with anticipation against tougher opposition in Uzbekistan and Iran, one only needs to look back a year-and-a-half ago to when we lost in Beirut in the 3rd round of qualifying. The infamous match that cost Cho Kwang-Rae his job, and saddled us with Choi Kang-Hee. While Lebanon isn’t much on paper, they will most likely present a stiffer task on the pitch.

Hopefully some of the key players like Lee Chung-Yong and Kim Bo-Kyung haven’t suffered any rustiness in their somewhat lengthy off period since the Championship ended. Depending on the result from the earlier match, this match could take on a few different looks. If Iran wins, as they are expected to, then both teams will be looking for a win. Korea to help keep the Iranians at bay, and Lebanon to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. This would be ideal for Korea as it would open up space for the attackers to get into, and one would think (and hope) that our defense could cope with the Lebanon attacks. An Iranian draw or loss would likely see a tighter match, particularly from Korea who may feel a draw would be sufficient. A point in Beirut would see us draw level on points with Uzbekistan, and maintain the gap between us and Iran.

That being said, a win would of course be the most desirable outcome. A clear advantage over Uzbekistan going in to the next match in Seoul, and a more space (possibly) over Iran. Despite the continuing hiccups in the team’s performances, and the missing Ki-Koo combo, this group should have what it takes to pick up three points.

Like the last qualifier, I will be live tweeting the match on my old @SKSBlog handle if you’d like to follow along or chat during the match. Due to the time difference the match will start at 2:30AM (June 5) Korean Standard Time.

About Jae Chee 339 Articles
A football fan who got bit by the writing bug.


  1. Just watched the first half of Korea vs Lebanon. I pretty much watched all the Korean qualifiers this year and each time, I felt the team was playing their worst ever. I am changing my mind again. THIS is the worst I’ve ever seen Korea play. Silly defensive and passing mistakes, and most of all, poor finishing by our best forward, Lee Dong Gook. It kind of tells you something about the quality of the national team when we have Lee and Kim Nam Il starting in a must win game. Put the young blood in! In contrast, Lebanon is playing like their feet are on fire! I definitely blame the coach for this travesty.

  2. /cue pointless rant/ I give up. Really. I came back home slightly after the 2nd half started and well… I wasn’t surprised at the score. This was a pathetic game, and the Lebanese goal post was quite probably the only man of the match for me. Under normal circumstances I’d have been anticipating a satisfying game of football (since it’s well, Lebanon), but unfortunately I’ve stopped harboring any expectations for NT games under Choi Kang Hee’s lead. I heard he’s headed straight back to Jeonbuk as soon as the last qualifier is played… does that mean he’s never coming back to the NT?!! (If so, where’s the champagne, guys??)

    But well. I’m really hoping the next manager is one who can really work with the team and bring out their strong points in spite of… this mess that CKH has left. Either my vocabulary is too limited in range, or there are really just no words to describe how much of a disaster CKH has been to the NT. What happened to the days when playing against the lesser Asian teams was practically a guarantee for points? : It’s as if while ALL the other Asian teams (let alone Japan and Australia) have been improving, Korea (as a team) is the only one progressing backwards. Ah.. I need a drink.

    • Reports are that he will return to Jeonbuk following the end of qualification regardless of the outcome. This has long been expected as Choi KH said as much when he took the job initially. This was one of my big concerns/complaints about Choi even before his string of mediocre results. He never wanted this job. He took it in a moment of patriotism, to help the nation. Not because he wanted it. And you can see it every match. He doesn’t really care. To him last night’s result is probably acceptable because it took the team an inch closer to qualifying.

  3. I think we are going to qualify for this World Cup. I just watched Chung Mong-Gyu’s interview with FIFA after the match. I’m curious to know if his priorities are legitamite or if he is just wasting our time.

  4. It seems like S. Korea is at least expected by the public to advance out of the Group Stage (World Cup). I hope so, the US definitely expect their own team to do the same. Bleacher Report said this well, “South Korea has a bright future!”. Fingers crossed.

    • I would say that’s fairly accurate barring a group of death draw. Korean fans generally see the team as good enough to get to the round of 16, but not much further. Whether this expectation is realistic is another question though.

        • The way things are right now, probably not. Unless we were drawn into a very lightweight group. I think 5 points would likely be needed to advance (win, couple draws) and against decent opposition in a foreign country that’s not a gimme now.

          Now, if a coach can come in and get some cohesiveness and some of the key players to reach their max playing level, than ‘yes’ that’s a realistic expectation.

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