These three qualifiers gave us a chance, for better or worse, to see some of the alternative options for the senior squad. Some of the U-23 boys made their debuts or saw significant game action, some fringe players got more time, and some K Leaguers got in on the action. So, some questions (and answers) for the next manager and senior squad are in order.
First off, I know that it’s being widely reported that Hong Myeong-Bo has agreed to take on the senior squad, but I will wait for an ‘officially official’ statement from Hong Myeong-Bo himself and the KFA before presuming he’s taking over.
STRIKER – Who will lead the line? The qualifiers saw Lee Dong-Gook, Kim Shin-Wook, and Son Heung-Min all try their hands at the central striker position. None of them really did enough to convince that they should be the regular just yet. Lee Dong-Gook should certainly be ‘retired’. Kim Shin-Wook offers link up and aerial prowess, but not much else. Son Heung-Min has the talent, but not the experience.
CENTERBACK – Who will be the centerback pairing? Like the striker question, we got to see some youth and new faces in defense. Kwak Tae-Hwi’s injury against Uzbekistan gave chances to Kim Young-Kwon and Kim Ki-Hee. Kwak, like Lee Dong-Gook, should be thanked for his services, but ‘retired’ as well. Kim Young-Kwon put in 179 solid minutes, but unfortunately could be remembered for his 1 bad minute. Kim Ki-Hee was solid against Iran, but rumors of him returning to the K League could damage his credentials. Jang Hyun-Soo got a start, albeit in midfield, but showed some solid defense prowess. Hong Jeong-Ho, recently returning from injury should also be in the picture.
FULLBACK – Will the real left back please stand up? Kim Chang-Soo likely made the right back spot his to lose, with two solid showing against Uzbekistan and Iran. But, we’re no closer to finding a left back. Kim Chi-Woo started all three matches, but his goal aside, was a little disappointing. His set piece delivery was average at best, and he didn’t seem to offer a whole lot on the left. Park Joo-Ho will likely get a shot given his decent outings with FC Basel, and Yoon Suk-Young could re-enter the picture if he ever starts playing for QPR or someone else.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD – Ki and who? Ki Sung-Yueng will certainly figure to win back his central midfield spot when he returns from injury, but who will partner him? We saw four possible partners in Park Jong-Woo, Han Kook-Young, Kim Nam-Il, and Lee Myeong-Joo. One doesn’t figure Kim Nam-Il is really in the running given his age. But the other three are all possibilities given their differing attributes and strengths. Park Jong-Woo is the most physical, box-to-box type player, and he struck up a good partnership with Ki at the Olympics. But, he tends to get booked a lot, and seems to be frequently suspended. Han Kook-Young is the best defensive option, but would a deep-lying playmaker and defensive midfielder create too much of a gap between the defense and attack? Lee Myeong-Joo is the best passer of the three, but isn’t as strong defensively. A Lee-Ki partnership may resemble something of the earlier Lee (Yong-Rae)/Ki partnership.
WIDE MIDFIELD – Lee and who? Similarly, the left midfield spot is up for grabs. Lee Chung-Yong is certainly the right starter, but no one really made a clean grab on the left. Son Heung-Min, Ji Dong-Won, Lee Keun-Ho, and Kim Bo-Kyung figure to be the frontrunners. Son Heung-Min seems to be more effective in more central position. Lee Keun-Ho seems to be starting to feel the effects of his military service. Ji Dong-Won doesn’t seem to really have the necessary attributes to play wide. Kim Bo-Kyung seems to be bookmarked as a central player now. Dark horse outside candidates would be the return of Nam Tae-Hee or Lee Seung-Gi.
SON HEUNG-MIN – Where should he play? Son started two matches and subbed in the third. Twice he played left mid. Once as a support striker. This one actually seems a bit clearer in that he was far more effective as a support striker. Yet, one feels that when Koo Ja-Cheol returns, he will push Son wide. In that sense it becomes a question as to who’s strengths do you play to?
TACTICS – Direct or short passing? Of the three matches, the most successful one tactically was clearly the Uzbekistan match. It wasn’t a masterclass, but it was the only time when the team looked well organized and had clear instructions. The game plan was simple. Play direct to Kim Shin-Wook, who would knock balls down to the attacking midfielders. Yet, it didn’t create many chances, and was pretty unspectacular to watch. Our strongest players best attribute is their technical ability, so should the team be build around those strengths or should something simpler be implemented?
As always, feel free to share your thoughts and answers to these questions in the comments section.