Review: South Korea vs Brazil (Tactical)

Here’s the second review for South Korea vs Brazil, which is a more tactical review of the match without all the extra personal stuff.

Starting XI

Brazil sent out their largely expected XI, while Korea sent out a slightly surprising one. Hong opted to keep Son Heung-Min on the bench, and instead opted to shift Koo Ja-Cheol back to his old ’10’ role. That move pushed Kim Bo-Kyung out to the left. Ji Dong-Won started up top, Lee Chung-Yong on the right, and Ki Sung-Yueng started in his usual spot. Han Kook-Young was handed a start as the holding midfielder. In defense Hong Jeong-Ho and Kim Young-Gwon formed their usual partnership, and Lee Yong and Kim Jin-Su started at fullback. Jung Sung-Ryong was in goal. The only (small) surprise in Brazil’s line up was the inclusion of Hulk on the right ahead of Bernard or Ramires. Otherwise it was as thought: Jefferson; Dani Alves, David Luiz, Dante, Marcelo; Paulinho, Luiz Gustavo; (Hulk), Oscar, Neymar; Jo.
football formations

Tactics: Brazil Attacks, Korea Defends

Tactically there was little surprise about Brazil, with the possible exception of just how much of the ball Neymar saw. Almost every attack seemed to flow through him, and we saw surprisingly little of Jo, Oscar, and Hulk. Most of Brazil’s moves came down their left between Neymar and Marcelo. Korea countered by playing a more defensive side on the right. Lee Yong, as discussed in prior postings naturally sits deeper, while the inclusion of Han Kook-Young ensured there was a certain steeliness to that side. Lee Chung-Yong was also very diligent in his tracking back.

Compared to how Brazil played against Australia and Portugal, we saw much less deep runs from the central midfielders. The inclusion of Oscar and Hulk likely the reason why as they’re both more central players and are less likely to stretch the play. Ultimately this may have played into Korea’s hands as it allowed them to remain compact defensively, and not give Brazil as much space to play into.

Tactics: Korea Attacks, Brazil Defends

The only issue with Hong’s strategy is that it left the offensive side of things lacking in quality, essentially relying on two out of form players in Ji Dong-Won and Koo Ja-Cheol. Ji Dong-Won in particular had a poor night, taking far too long to make decisions and when he did, it lacked quality. Koo did slightly better, and looked more comfortable in the 10 spot compared to the deeper role, but wasn’t able to really influence things too much.

Korea seems to be in an in-between state in terms of how they attack. In some regards they still seem to want to do the short passing stuff developed under Cho Kwang-Rae, but also play more direct which Hong prefers (seemingly) and used more under Choi Kang-Hee. More on this in a bit, but it’s causing some problems.

First Half

The first half was mainly Brazil possession with few threats. Defensively, Korea was solid and compact, and it was very difficult for Brazil to really carve out any clear chances. Neymar got fouled, a lot, which resulted in a number of free kicks, but other than the goal, Brazil didn’t get too much from it. The inclusion of both Hulk and Oscar, as mentioned in the tactics section, didn’t seem to help Brazil much with everyone going into the middle things got quite crowded. Jo played little role given the lack of crosses and service. Also slightly surprising for Brazil was that Marcelo and Dani Alves had little impact on things.

Korea’s attacks were disorganized at best. Ji Dong-Won failed to really get anything going, and possibly caused more problems by generally drifting towards his right where Marcelo left space. The problem is that it took space away from Lee Chung-Yong, who’s offensive impact in the first half was negligible. Kim Bo-Kyung looked lively, but trying to combine with the out of form Koo and Ji wasn’t working. Han Kook-Young and Ki Sung-Yueng contributed little as well, being pressed back in defense.

Second Half

Brazil extended their lead early in the second half. Oscar came straight down the middle, and Paulinho supplied the required pass. Oscar rounded Jung Sung-Ryong and scored. With the score at 2-0, the game looked virtually lost and Hong started to take more chances. Off came Ji Dong-Won, and on came Lee Keun-Ho. The move paid dividends in terms of effort as Lee almost immediately stretched the Brazil defense more than Ji had the entire first half. Lee’s pace, directness, and ability to play wide on either side added a much needed extra dimension to the attack. Lee also allowed both Kim Bo-Kyung and Lee Chung-Yong to get more involved. Shortly after Son Heung-Min finally entered with the sporadically influential Koo Ja-Cheol going off, and Son showed a glimpse of what he can do as he took on the Brazilian defense.

With those two changes the offense showed much more dynamism with four high energy runners. Unfortunately the moves didn’t earn the team a goal, but it was certainly a step up from the first half. Brazil seemed content with their two goal lead and didn’t push forward as much. Go Yo-Han and Yoon Il-Rok made late entrances, but neither added much to things.

Player Ratings

Jung Sung-Ryong 6.0 – Won’t fault him for the second goal, but maybe could have done more with the first. Got fingertips to Neymar’s free kick, but couldn’t keep it out. The problem with Jung Sung-Ryong continues to be: always good, never great.

Lee Yong 6.0 – Decent night on the right, and I think he may have pushed his way into the regular starting XI (at Kim Chang-Soo’s expense). Did little in the offensive half, but when faced with the task of keeping Neymar quiet, he did well.

Hong Jeong-Ho 6.5 – Good night for the centerback pairing, with the exception of the Oscar’s goal. Battled Jo and the forward line, and kept Brazilian threats at a minimum.

Kim Young-Gwon 6.5 – See above. Was he at fault or Hong for Oscar’s goal? Kim stepped up to play the offside trap while Hong stayed back.

Kim Jin-Su 6.0 – Decent night for young Kim Jin-Su as well. Although he didn’t have as great a challenge as Lee Yong did. Hulk saw little of the ball, and did even less when he did see it. Would have hoped to see him provide more spark on the offensive side, but didn’t.

Han Kook-Young 7.5 – My MotM. Charged with the task of stopping anything (read Neymar) that came towards the middle, and did so. Although, it did cause the slightly risky thing of lots of Brazilian free kicks. Han looks very good on the defensive end of things, but will need to balance his game a bit to reach the next level. With Neymar, there is an obvious player to mark and watch, but against more balanced sides he’ll need to be more aware of everything, and be a bit more than a snapping bulldog.

Ki Sung-Yueng 6.5 – Okay showing upon his return to the national team. Mixed flashes of his old self with problems of his current form.

Lee Chung-Yong 6.0 – Battled on the right, but was limited offensively. After a string of bright performances, this one was a bit flat.

Koo Ja-Cheol 5.5 – Not a great night for Koo who was handed the armband. Looked more comfortable in a more advanced role, but his form has dropped mightily. His touch heavy, passing wayward, and no shooting boots. Is his place in the team secure?

Kim Bo-Kyung 7.0 – A good night for Kim who was moved back to the left. Given his form, and Koo’s lack of, Kim should probably be starting in the middle to remain influential in the team.

Ji Dong-Won 5.0 – Another poor night for Ji. Unfortunate for him. His woeful club form is certainly carrying over to the national team.

Lee Keun-Ho 6.5 – Playing in the second division is certainly taking it’s toll on the overall sharpness of Lee’s game, but some of the intangibles are still there, which in my mind makes him a better option than Ji Dong-Won. Stretches the play, has pace, and was positive and direct.

Son Heung-Min 6.0 – A bit lethargic from Son, who surprisingly was on the bench and didn’t enter until halfway through the second half. Didn’t hear of any injury reports, so it was a surprising move. Was crowded out by a Brazil defense willing to sit deeper with a two goal lead. Maybe would have been more useful when the score was even.

Go Yo-Han s.v. – Came on with about 10 minutes left. Did nothing of note.

Yoon Il-Rok s.v. – Came on with just minutes left. Despite being one of the better players at the East Asian Games, Yoon has seen little time since.

Hong Myeong-Bo 6.0 – Defensively Hong’s tactics were decent, but a well taken free kick and a defensive mistake undid the team. Offensively . . . there’s still problems.

Final Thoughts

I wonder if we’re seeing the limitations of Hong’s coaching and tactical skills. While Hong clearly knows how to organize a defense, he seems a bit lost on how to get the best from his offense. The Brazil game highlighted, for me, some basic problems.

Long or Short – Offensively, there seem to be some major issues with regard to how Korea sets out it’s attack. Long seems to be the answer, but the forward line is not well equipped to play that style. When playing long, as I see it, there are two types of forwards, fast ones who play on the shoulder and can run into space (Park Chu-Young) and strong, tall ones who can play with their back to goal and hold up play (Kim Shin-Wook). I suppose a third would be one who could do both (?). Ji Dong-Won seemed to be told to try and do both, but failed to do either. He moved to wide areas, but then tried to win aerial balls with no one around him to pick up the pieces. I know Hong is not a fan of Kim Shin-Wook, but if he wants his forward to win aerial duals and hold up play, Kim isn’t a bad option. If he’s looking for someone to run the channels and work hard, Lee Keun-Ho is probably the best option right now. Before people jump on me, Park Chu-Young would be best, but until he can show his form and fitness I can’t really say he deserves to be with the squad, much less start.

Ki Sung-Yueng – Ki returned to the squad, and while he certainly was missed to an extent, Ki needs (or needs to be instructed) to understand the tempo at which he needs to play. Ki is well known for having a fairly laid back attitude on the pitch, and against Brazil that really showed. With Brazil dominating possession, Korea needed to be aggressive with the ball, but Ki slowed down the play too much, too often, allowing Brazil to get back in shape and organize.

Koo vs Kim – Koo is clearly highly regarded by Hong, but his form is very worrying. Kim Bo-Kyung is clearly the most in-form player the team has now, and moving him into a potentially less influential role out wide would appear to be a mistake. If they were both in form I would say Koo is a greater goal threat, but as things stand Kim is better.

Son Heung-Min – The calls for Son to start as the “one-top” seem to be growing, but I still feel it would be a mistake. I don’t think Son is very comfortable playing with his back to goal, and putting him there would largely rob him of his greatest assets, his pace and ability to move in space. At center forward he would be marked by centerbacks and defensive midfielders, and not have a chance to get going.

No Aggression or Just Scared – Korea looked woeful on attack, but the main problem for me is that the team looked scared. Scared of big, powerful Brazil. Players always seemed to take an extra touch, and no one was willing to “grab the game by the scruff”. I think I’ve said it before, but we need at least one arrogant player, one who wants the ball for themselves and not just to set up others. Brazil was certainly a class above us, but we made it easy for them too.

The game against Mali is today. Hopefully there will be a shortish preview up in a few hours. I haven’t really had time to read the news and all, so it may be a lot of guesswork and a bit shorter than usual. Anyway, Hong has said it’s a must win game, so hopefully the team really goes for it.

As always comments are welcome and appreciated. Did you watch the match? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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


  1. Not bad for Korea. Played well in defense. HKY blew away my expectations. Considerable improvement than the CKH era. KBK was the only real offensive threat. Really hope that someone gets their act together and becomes our arrogant forward.

  2. Kim Bo Kyung was very lively and led the counterattacks quite well. I must admit Han Kook Young was very impressive. I saw the replay of the foul from Lee Yong to Neymar over and over and I don’t think it deserved to be a free kick (this is the one what Neymar scored on.) From what I saw, Neymar dived OVER Lee Yong without touching Lee Yong at all and did lots of hollywood action to get the free kick.

    • I think it was a foul. Lee Yong stuck out his leg to get the ball, missed, Neymar tried to jump over his leg, but couldn’t and was caught. I know Neymar has that reputation, but I didn’t see him do any blatant diving. He went down easy a few times, but most of his fouls were legit.

  3. I didn’t see the game but I’m just wondering…….is Ji Dong Won even that good of a player or is he being hyped up by fans? I think he did well in the AFC or Asian tournament a couple years ago? From highlights I have seen Ji Dong Won needs to work on his technical skills. When he goes to strike the ball for a shot at goal I noticed his “wind up” takes way too long. Even his goal in the Olympics versus England wasn’t great……it should have been saved. It was exciting to see Korea score but looking back it should have been saved by the goalie. The whole thing about Korean players playing in a hesitant way I think is correct. When they play against Japan they play with confidence. Korea needs players who play with confidence and have a “give me the ball!” attitude. Maybe they play in a hesitant way because they are afraid to get blamed if they do play in a risky but aggressive manner. Maybe their afraid they’ll get shamed by the coach or manager? I know Hong is pretty aggressive or old school in terms of his attitude or style of interacting with players. Or maybe it’s seen as being “proud” and not “humble” if they play in an “arrogant” way? What if the coach or manager was more jovial or carefree and passionate and there was no shaming involved (Diego Maradona)?

    • To an extent he gets hyped by being a Europe and English top-flight player. He did well last season with Augsburg, but he’s been in terrible form this year at Sunderland. He did do well at the AFC Championship a couple years ago which is why he was able to make the move to Europe. I suspect that Korea’s lack of an arrogant player is partially due to the culture, which places a heavy emphasis on the group collective (Koreans regularly speak in terms of ‘we’ rather than ‘I’, or ‘our’ rather than ‘my’). So, it’s possible that players feel uncomfortable about being that kind of player. One who demands the ball, will take on players and shoot rather than pass, and blast other players when they don’t perform.

      Does Hong play a factor? Maybe a bit. Certainly he talks a lot of about ‘one team’ and that kind of thing. But I have no idea if he pushes that in the dressing room or on the pitch. Foreign managers are always a bit tricky. On the one hand they can certainly bring a fresh and different attitude towards the game, but they can also cause problems if they push the cultural boundaries too much. From what I’ve seen Koreans are very hesitant to step outside of the cultural norms, and someone like Maradona could be a bit much.

  4. I think the thing about the collective mentality in Korean culture is correct. That means instead of “me” going out there and playing to dominate the game I have to think about “toeing” the cultural lines or standards or expectations of my team mates. If I don’t I will “stick out”.

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