I’ve been watching some highlights from Jordan’s last few games and reflecting on our recent match against Bahrain, which got me thinking about the different choices we have with our starting lineup. Jordan is one of the stronger Middle Eastern teams and this match is more or less a contest for who gets first place in the group. I think if we play exactly the way we did against Bahrain with the same XI, we may see a high scoring match, maybe along the lines of 4-2 or something? I think however we could make some changes for the better. Whether Klinsmann is tactically fluid at all or prefers to stick to his usual 4-4-2 I don’t know, but I am a little bit wary of watching Lee Ki Je face off against Al-Taamari, a top dribbler in Ligue One. I am no tactician, but in this post I do want to explore some observations about Jordan and taking these into account in addition to our shortcomings against Bahrain, how we can appropriately make changes for the better.
How Jordan Plays (I think)
- They usually line up in a 3-4-3 or 5-2-3 (depending on how you place the fullbacks). They have a fairly potent attack for AFC standards, though weaker defensively. The front three consists of Ali Olwan, Yazan Al-Naimat, and Musa Al-Taamari with the latter clearly their best player starting in RW on paper, but all three switch places and are quite fluid. These three are also quite fast and love to wait around for counterattack – if they’re the type of players to not track back much and loiter high up for the counter against Malaysia, you bet they’ll be looking to score on the counter against us.
- In this formation you tend to be quite thin in the midfield which was noticeable in their game against Malaysia.
- Their left back seems to be a more offensively minded than their right. Will be interesting as our right FB is more offensively minded than our left.
- Their defensive line was vulnerable to guys running behind them, especially because one or two of the 3 CBs will usually venture forward to make up for a relatively thinner midfield. They got caught on a few through balls – something our team specializes in.
Typically in Asia the “dark horses” involve teams like Uzbekistan and Qatar, but Jordan could be in the mix too – any team with a strong attack and a weak defense can, on a good day, beat tough opponents, but on a bad day can get wrecked as well. Prior to beating Malaysia 4-0 in the opening day they lost 6-1 against Japan (they rotated players and played a B team though), beat Qatar 2-1 (despite being weaker on paper), lost to Saudi Arabia 2-0, and lost to Lebanon 2-1 (despite being better on paper). I don’t think we will lose in any case, but it’ll be interesting to see whether Jordan will have a good day or a bad day.
How (I think) we will play
I think there are two trains of thought when it comes to playing “weaker” teams – either you say “we’re better than them, we will win no matter what” and stick to what you’re used to, or go full Pep Guardiola or Shin Tae Yong mode and switch things up based on your opponent. Klinsmann seems to be more of the former.
If we are going with the former, I suspect that a good player for player change (not changing up the 4-4-2 system centered around Lee Kang In, creating space on the left, etc. at all) would be to play Seol Young Woo left and Kim Tae Hwan right. Lee Ki Je, our usual LB, has his strengths and weaknesses as does everyone. He’s great on the offensive side and has a very potent left foot, but is definitely slow and not the best at defending. Sofascore tells us that in his 6 ground duels he only won 1 of them. We are getting by because Kim Min Jae plays alongside him and because Bahrain couldn’t capitalize on this, but at some point this will cost us. Against the fast and much more potent Jordanian attackers I do think that Kim Tae Hwan and Seol Young Woo, who are all faster in defensive transitions than LKJ and better defensively, would be key to preventing us from conceding on the counter. Remember that moment in the 32′ against Bahrain where Jung Seung Hyeon and Lee Ki Je failed to close down the attacking player? Jordan scored from similar scenarios twice against Malaysia, and for this reason I think that perhaps even shifting the defense to SYW, Kim Young Kwon, Kim Min Jae, and KTH might not be a bad idea either. KTH could be the more offensive FB this time going up and supporting Lee Kang In (against Bahrain he complemented LKI very well on the R side allowing LKI to drift much more centrally), while Seol Young Woo plays a slightly more reserved role in the half space to receive balls from LKI or through pass to our LW. Nothing changes to our system, and all four of these guys have good pace. I know Kim Min Jae plays better as LCB than RCB, but overall as a team, I think taking that hit is good – and without Lee KJ to cover for, it makes this option more appetizing.
One complicating issue is that Kim Tae Hwan missed training 1/18 due to muscle fatigue. So this may all be a moot point. Otherwise though I that making these tweaks in defense would be a perfectly fine option, and if we at least do that I think we can win this game 3-0 or 4-0. I really want to see more clean sheets from us.
I do wonder though if it may be worth trying out a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. We would dominate the midfield the whole game – Jordan’s midfield is thin and definitely not their strong suit (although the way we set up ours is very thin as well). There’s variables here of course – do we play Son alone up top and have our attacking mid three composed of Lee Kang In Lee Jae Sung and Hong Hyeon Seok? Or do we keep Cho Gue Sung up top, Son Heung Min left wing, and play Lee Jae Sung / Lee Kang In alongside him? Do we play Lee Kang In centrally with Lee Jae Sung out right? There’s lots to consider in the absence of Hwang Hee Chan. Ultimately, if they park the bus we would need Cho Gue Sung to either head the ball into the net, finish a cross, or create space for Son and other attackers (which he does so well); if not and there is exploitable space in the back, we would benefit more from a Son Heung Min one top.
I expect a 4-4-2 and hope to see the following backline:
CGS SHM up top
LJS PYW HIB LKI midfield
SYW KYK KMJ KTH backline
I could also see the following alternative being a good idea as well. Admittedly this is more of a Bento-esque lineup and not really a Klinsmann lineup. If we were feeling really adventurous, we could also replace PYW with Park Jin Seob. Would love to see how he does in 90′ against a mid-level AFC opponent.
SHM up top
HHS LKI LJS attacking mid (freely interchanging positions)
PYW HIB holding mid
same backline as above
In any case, I think all our players who were yellowed should get a second yellow this game when we’re winning. The last group stage match against Malaysia is the perfect time to rest some of our players. Though I guess the guys who are shedding rust, like Cho Gue Sung coming off the early Danish Superliga hiatus and Lee Ki Je who’s been in bad form to begin with, might benefit from just playing all three group stage matches. But more key players like Kim Min Jae or Son Heung Min at the least and perhaps also Park Yong Woo need to play every knockout stage match without the worry of being suspended for a crucial next game. Against Malaysia I think resting at the very least Son, Kim MJ, and Lee Kang In is important. Lee Kang In especially because he is coming off of a lot of fixtures for PSG and for the U23 team.
I’m also seeing a bit of negativity about the Bahrain match and I found this quote from Hwang In Beom on Park Moon Sung’s Youtube channel (specifically this video):
So yeah. They will only get better and better over time, and they are learning from past games / adapting to the ref situation. Let’s trust that the players who experience the games directly and also have much more experience than we do know better. It is not the right time to be calling for Klinsmann’s head. As fans we write and read posts like this for fun but in the end, the manager and the players know better. We have to be a positive driving force for the team not a negative one – something that our populace does not always do.
HUGE UPDATE – night of 1/18/2024 PST
As it turns out Kim Seung Gyu ruptured his ACL while training. He will be out of the tournament.
I have just one question. How? How do you rupture your ACL while TRAINING? Is our team doing something horribly wrong? We came into this tournament with 0 injuries. Now Hwang Hee Chan has a hamstring issue, Kim Jin Su also injured, Lee Jae Sung became briefly injured then came back, Kim Tae Hwan missed training because of muscle fatigue (as discussed above), even Lee Kang In is reportedly having knee issues, and now this – the worst possible injury. It is a huge relief that we have a decent second choice option in Jo Hyun Woo (though I sincerely pray that his passing and distribution has improved). But still, what is going on? Please fix your training methods if that’s the problem, KNT coaching staff. We wish KSG a quick and speedy recovery.
Another huge update! Japan lost to Iraq in the second group stage match and a Korea-Japan showdown is looking really likely in the RO16. For my thoughts on this, I updated my old Korea vs Japan article
Update 1/20 1400 PST: Suffice to say some of these things have not aged too well. Match recap is here.