Quick Preview: South Korea vs Malaysia 2023 AFC Asian Cup

Update: wow. 3-3. I have no words. I’m officially on the Klinsmann out train now. Wow we suck. No words. To the next person who says this is a good thing because we avoid Qatar/Iran/Japan: no. A psychological blow like this- drawing Malaysia despite a full strength XI while literally every other team rotated their squad – is absolute poison for us. We NEEDED a feel good pick up. I really don’t think we can even beat Saudi Arabia like this. Klinsmann is the definition of mad – the same issues keep coming up over and over again yet he changes nothing. And I can just see him smiling in my head instead of fixing a damn thing in training…

After a frustrating game against Jordan we now face Malaysia in the last match of group E. It’ll be fascinating to see what exactly we will do for this game in terms of tactics and lineups – because there are so many possibilities and variables to take into account such as yellow cards, injuries, and the side of the bracket in which we wanna be (spoiler alert: it doesn’t matter). Let’s go over a few talking points ahead of the match. And for a recap of the previous match, read the Jordan match recap.

Team news: Hwang Hee Chan, Kim Jin Su, and Kim Tae Hwan are iffy – perhaps not ready to start, but they’re getting close. Lee Ki Je has not resumed full training after sustaining a hamstring injury against Jordan – note that we have THREE out of four fullbacks on the injury list, leading to murmurings of a three back system against Malaysia. Kim Seung Gyu already went home so we called up the U20 GK Kim Jun Hong of Gimcheon Sangmu to the training camp (just for training purposes – ofc he can’t be on the matchday roster). Kim Jun Hong has been called up before, during the friendlies against Wales and Saudi Arabia.

Yellow cards: Cho Gue Sung, Son Heung Min, Hwang In Beom, Park Yong Woo, Kim Min Jae, Oh Hyeon Gyu, Lee Ki Je all have yellows.

How much rotation: the degree of rotation will be really important. There’s pros and cons to every decision. On one hand, you could play a total B team, which ensures that the yellow carded players – many of whom are irreplaceable to this team – will be available for the RO16. On the other hand, 11 days between games (20th for Jordan, 31st for the RO16) is a pretty long time to rest and may leave players rusty. Therefore, answer lies in the middle – you can either start a 1.5 then sub out at HT, or start a B team and sub on your core players with 20-30 minutes remaining so they don’t lose fitness (with 11 days between the prior match and the next RO16 match). The latter is what Qatar did in their group, having dominated perhaps the weakest group in the whole tournament, and the route I would favor. We will see which option Klinsmann opts for. It may also depend on what position in the group he is aiming for. Speaking of which,

Do we want first place? We will probably win against Malaysia, so barring Jordan losing or drawing against Bahrain, it comes down to goal difference. Is it better for us to face a weaker-than-usual looking Japan before they start to get their act together then face off against Iran and either Qatar or Uzbekistan? Or should we just settle for second place and opt for perhaps an easier path to the finals on paper via Saudi Arabia and Australia (not that these two are any slouches but Iran and Qatar look like the most convincing sides at the moment)? My philosophy is that it doesn’t matter who we face – as candidates to win the whole thing who cares? Let’s just improve our team game by game, win by as much as we can, and see where destiny takes us. Team morale matters. We can beat any team if we just play football the way we want to – the problem is we are getting overrun by weaker teams right now due to major tactical flaws. So the more important thing is how we play and fine tuning ourselves – we perfect our game, not try to game the system. Problem is… will Klinsmann get it right in the next few games?

Can two fullbacks even start? With injuries to three of four fullbacks leaving Seol Young Woo the only FB who can start (and even he has a shoulder injury), we’re left in a pickle – do we play our usual 4 back system with an injured player, a makeshift FB (like Hong Hyeon Seok or Lee Soon Min who have played FB for their teams before) or do we go to a 3 back? Klinsmann has never played a three back with our team before so I personally don’t think he would. I think it’ll be more likely to see Hong Hyeon Seok or Lee Soon Min fill in for fullback either on the R or the L.

So how are we gonna line up? Given all these variables I don’t even know. It’s too hard to predict. All I know is that we’re gonna have to rotate well, make good use of our substitutions to get guys who are injured up to speed, and try to avoid yellows at all cost. If I were Klinsmann I would at least rest Kim Min Jae, Son Heung Min, Hwang In Beom, and Lee Kang In – like playing 10-20 minutes max Malaysia if at all. They are absolute cornerstones of this team (admittedly Son is a bit inconsistent but he’s Son Heung Min, we can’t have him out) and we will not get very far without them. I think it’d be good to let Hwang Hee Chan on the pitch for 30-45 minutes so he can get back into peak form faster, although without exact data on how he’s doing and how he feels, I can’t make that call. I also personally want to see how Park Jin Seop does as our starting DM, though against weaker opposition I guess it’d be hard to compare him to Park Yong Woo.

Our strongest lineup when everyone’s healthy: Assuming that Klinsmann will always play Cho Gue Sung and also stick to his 4-4-2, I am strongly convinced that our best line up is JHW – SYW KMJ JSH KTH – HHC DM HIB LKI – SHM CHS. I think getting the flanks right in this lineup is crucial. LKI and KTH mesh well with each other really well because one drifts in the middle and one stays out wide. Not only that, KTH is really fast and can cover the rather slow Jung Seung Hyun as he often did vs. Jordan. Meanwhile HHC would mesh well with KJS or SYW – we saw him combining well with KJS with the latter’s underlapping runs leading to Cho’s goal. And he would mesh well with SYW because SYW is right footed and would mostly stay in that half space like an inverted full back. So yet again you get one guy drifting in the middle and one guy attacking the wide spaces. SYW is the most defensively minded amongst the FBs (which is funny since he’s not that good at defending) but I feel like if we field both KJS and KTH our both our FBs would be too offensive. What didn’t work before is that SYW isn’t a marauding down the flank kind of fullback like KTH is so LKI is needed for width where he’s less effective, and neither LJS nor LKJ have the ability to beat a fullback and create havoc behind enemy lines. In my lineup above we would solve the midfield problem, have more defensive balance, have more attacking outlets – things would just be more balanced in general.

Let’s get into some things I want to see the team improve upon from the last game:

Not losing every 50-50 duel. I don’t think Malaysia is the type of team that could beat us in physical duels (it’s really the Middle Eastern teams that give us the most trouble in this regard), but it still stands that tactically we’re leaving way too much space for the opposition to freely pass or move around in. We need to either get the defensive line even higher when our attack is super high up, or otherwise spread out our players better such that we don’t leave massive amounts of space in the midfield. Remember – we have Kim Min Jae, who can easily cover the space left behind the defenders.

Utilizing players properly. We’re doing two things that seem to be nullifying players’ strengths. First, Cho Gue Sung is a tall, physical guy who can win duels against anybody (including the Jordanian defenders)- so why are we having him chase through balls into space? Yes he needs to work on his finishing but we are also not using him right. Similarly, we don’t seem to be utilizing Lee Jae Sung the best way either. In our current system, Hwang Hee Chan is the one running at defenders after Lee Kang In shifts most of the play to the right, leaving HHC 1v1 in a lot of space against his fullback – and on 1v1s he is very very effective. Lee Jae Sung is more of a CAM type of player, not an all out attack raging bull like Hwang. He is great at keeping possession, making his way out of tight spaces, tracking back to defend, and heading, but he is not a Hwang Hee Chan type of player. The closest we have is Son, with Jeong Woo Young, Moon Seon Min, and Yang Hyun Jun also fitting the bill. So to me the most logical lineup would have been a 4-2-3-1 of Cho up top, Son out left, and Lee Kang In / Lee Jae Sung interchanging between RW and the #10 position in the absence of Hwang Hee Chan.

Move away from Plan A? I know we had a good system in place before the tournament but it surely means something that in each game, we looked better after making subs. I don’t know what it is, but madness is doing the same thing and expecting the same result right? I think Klinsmann has shown himself to be at least astute enough to make the right changes when need be – so hopefully he gets the system just right against Malaysia for the morale boost. We don’t look very convincing right now, so it’s up to the coaches to find a system that works and best fits our insanely talented team.

To be updated throughout the day.

About Jinseok 259 Articles
Diehard Korean football fan. https://www.taegukwarriors.com/jinseoks-story/


    • As important as KJS is for our future, feel like KYK would be more likely to start over KJS who still technically hasnt played any professional football yet.

  1. How on earth did korea not keep a single clean sheet this group stage? they did in 2015 and 2019, although they did not score many goals. (3 in 2015, 4 in 2019) and we had Uli Stielike in 2015.
    2019 was an easier group imo and we only scored 4 goals lol.

    We have 5 now. but i guess seeing how japan kept 0 clean sheets, we shouldn’t be too down lol.

    let’s go win 3-0!

    • 1) Asian football is improving 2) we play much more offensively now than in the past. Heck yeah let’s go win by a huge margin and get first. Bring on Japan Iran and Qatar

    • As long as you swap the wingers I think that’s the ideal CGS-less lineup too. Should pair HHC with SYW and LJS with KTH. HHC and KTH would occupy each others space too often.

  2. What is happening with our KMNT is kind of similar in a way to how taken aback some of the CAF teams got beat and pushed around at AFCON, because, increasingly nobody can take any competitive match for granted now. Tactics, strategy, in game problem solving is being filtered down to the less elite teams. The other development that has occurred is the game became so global, and there is so much coaching talent that is exported from Argentina, Portugal, Italy and maybe Spain.

    Nobody cares that the KMNT has made like 10 or 11 WC’s in a row because often at these WC’s in the group stage, the team can get it’s ass kicked. 5-0 loss to Holland in 1998. 4-2 loss to Algeria 2014. 4-1 loss to Argentina 2010. Being down 4-0 with many minutes to go in the 1st half against Brazil R16, WC 2022.

    We have to wake up to reality. Nobody really should be intimidated by playing us, we’re not that big of a deal at all, I mean we don’t have the guts to play a friendly outside Korea and we still lose several of them to even average teams.

    We’re honestly not that good. That is the reality.

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