Starting XI Finalizations + Thoughts Following the Recent Friendlies

Yet a third Tavern author asks the question: so what did we learn from these recent friendlies? Here’s a slightly different take: 

It seems that we’ve learned nothing from these friendlies, which we can agree were pretty much a waste of time. We’re playing friendlies when no other team is, and the only result was utter embarrassment. But there were still a couple takeaways here. First, the obvious: we have no depth period. Shameful displays all around. We also learned that HMB is no magician – more adept than previous managers, but not the perfect solution we wanted. I’m sure, however, that if we give him time he will slowly get the hang of things. And like his predecessors, HMB falls prey to favoritism as well, evidenced by his constant calling up of the consistently disappointing Go Yo Han and Kim Min Woo.

On the bright side at least, with our international reputation going down into the gutters, Algeria and Russia will not be as likely to turtle and frustrate us, and will play an open, attacking game. Algeria and Russia are teams known for a compact defense, and we always seem to struggle against the turtling teams. But if they play more openly, this should allow us to seize the game a little better and create more chances. The risk here, of course, is that they might be even more eager to secure a win against us, but underestimation is always a good thing. Belgium already thoroughly underestimates us. News broke out that Wilmots already considers us the weakest of the Group H teams. He’s likely to rest his top stars (Hazard…) against us if Belgium win their first two games, so we have a somewhat realistic chance of saying “screw you” and claiming the #1 spot in Group H. Although if you really think about it, a Belgium B team still has enough talent, on paper at least, to defeat us.

More importantly, I now have a very confident guess as to who will make the WC and who will make the 베스트11. I am now 95% positive that we will see this starting XI when the WC rolls around. And hopefully we will see a similar lineup during the qualification phase and the 2015 AC. A team devoid of LDG, KTH, revolving doors, and other nightmares we’ve experienced during the Dark Ages of 2011 – 2014.

The squad will pretty much look like this:

  1. Jung Sung Ryong (GK)
  2. Lee Yong (DF)
  3. Park Joo Ho (DF)
  4. Kim Young Kwon (DF)
  5. Jang Hyun Soo (DF)
  6. Han Kook Young (CM)
  7. Son Heung Min (AM)
  8. Koo Ja Cheol (AM)
  9. Ji Dong Won (FW)
  10. Park Ju Young (FW)
  11. Lee Keun Ho (AM) (possibly an extra CM or Lee Seung Gi if he continues on his run of crappy finishing and anxiety-filled performances. He’s clearly desperate to impress and not miss out on another WC)
  12. Kim Jin Su (DF)
  13. Kim Bo Kyung (AM)
  14. Park Jong Woo (Or Ha Dae Sung/Lee Myung Joo? I say PJW due to him outperforming LMJ; not saying much since both played terribly) (CM)
  15. Hwang Seok Ho (DF)
  16. Ki Sung Yong (CM)
  17. Lee Chung Yong (AM)
  18. Kim Shin Wook (FW)
  19. Nam Tae Hee (AM)
  20. Hong Jeong Ho (DF)
  21. Kim Seung Gyu (GK)
  22. Kim Chang Soo (DF)
  23. Lee Bum Young (GK)

And the starting XI is almost certain to be:

Park Ju Young

Son Heung Min                        Koo Ja Cheol                     Lee Chung Yong

Han Kook Young                          Ki Sung Yong

Kim Jin Su                 Kim Young Kwon               Hong Jeong Ho                    Lee Yong

Jung / Kim

The only real points of contention here are the striker, the CAM, the goalkeeper, and tactical concerns. It seems that Kim Jin Su and Lee Yong, with solid displays since the EAFF Cup, have locked in as our starting fullbacks. The most impressive left back display since Lee Young Pyo retired was Yoon Suk Young during the Olympics, but since he is still caught in the black hole that is QPR… look forward to the will-be 22 year old Kim Jin Su whipping in crosses and hopefully bagging some assists.


We’re probably best off sticking to our 4-2-3-1. Jae recently mentioned playing a counterattacking 4-3-3 by sacrificing KJC / KBK:

Son Heung Min — Park Ju Young — Lee Chung Yong

Han Kook Young — Ki Sung Yong — Park Jong Woo

… with same back four and GK’s. I honestly think this is a great idea in certain situations. We have two great #10’s but sometimes this could be the better option. Case in point? Jose Mourinho’s tactics vs. Man City by playing a central midfield of Ramires – Luiz – Matic and sacrificing Oscar. Perhaps against a team like Belguim we could pull this off, but remember that 1). HMB is not Jose Mourinho and the only time I’ve seen him NOT play a 4-2-3-1 is during Olympic Qualifiying and against Brazil, opting for a 4-4-2 instead, and 2). Han Kook Young and Park Jong Woo are not Luiz and Matic. And if Park Jong Woo / Lee Myung Joo / Ha Dae Sung are out of form (aka recent friendlies) this would never work. Jang Hyun Soo next to Han and Ki just sounds like an awful idea.

At the same time, a Barca-esque 4-3-3 sounds appealing at first too. I advocated this formation just last year because you can draw so many parallels. We play a high line of defense. We like to press hard and keep possession.  Koo plays like Iniesta (the advanced, quasi-#10 dribbler with shooting ability); Ki plays like Xavi (the orchestrator); and Han Kook Young plays like Busquets – not nearly as good but about as good slide tackling ability. We even have a withdrawn striker in Park Ju Young, a goalscoring inverted winger in SHM and a classic winger in Lee Chung Yong. To a lesser extent, even our full backs like to get forward all the time (and get caught out at times). However, I have a gut feeling that this formation might not work because our defense is even more frail than that of Barcelona’s – if we get caught out of possession, something Barcelona doesn’t do as often as we do – we’d be burned pretty quickly.

HMB has also tried 4-4-2’s pretty often, but honestly, it’s best to stick with our good ol’ 4-2-3-1.

General Tactics: As all of us have noticed by now, Hong Myung Bo’s system relies on pressing, and we’re pretty darn good at it. Well.. for the first 30 minutes that is. We’ve watched far too many games where we start brightly and overwhelm the opponent but run out of gas in the second half. Watch the Olympic match vs. Brazil for the most striking example, but this happens nearly every game. Could it be a case of overexcitement? It also doesn’t help that WE HAVE NO DEPTH. The only sub with a realistic chance of starting is Kim Bo Kyung; hell, many argue convincingly that Kim Bo Kyung should just START in the first place, either as the 10 or the LW. From a tactical standpoint, placing the more defensively solid / harder working KBK in place of Son Heung Min can be favorable. He’s a more-than-reliable backup for Koo just in case of injury: more creative, but not as agile and lacking Koo’s killer shooting ability. Then there’s Park Jong Woo and Lee Myung Joo to support Ki Sung Yong and Han Kook Young, both of whom impressed occasionally but disappointed more often than not. The other subs, particularly offensive subs – Lee Seung Gi, Yoon Il Rok, Go Yo Han – have been largely disappointing as well.

I also believe that our team must counterattack with more efficiency, and use our most potent weapon – our wingers – to full advantage. 손흥민 and 이청용 must not defend so deep. Furthermore, Son’s name is gradually becoming more and more famous; when a foreign player tries to name a Korean player, the first name mentioned always seems to be Son Heung Min. Defenders will most likely pay heavy attention to him, potentially making him less effective from open play. However, this will undoubtedly open up space for Koo, Ki, PJY, and Lee to exploit. On the other hand, nobody knows about Lee Chung Yong. Foreigners see a man playing for the second division in England, not realizing he is in fact (arguably) our best player.

Now that PJY has officially transferred, he will likely start up top. THANK GOODNESS! Once the best striker in Asia, Arsene Wenger ruined his career for reasons unknown.

Look at that finishing! No other player on the NT, except maybe Son, can finish like that or create chances like Park Ju Young does. Certainly no one can score headers like he can – not even Wookie – and his leap is almost Cristiano Ronaldo esque. We need him fit as quickly as possible. If I were HMB I would start PJY in every single one of the upcoming friendlies.

The alternative must be Ji Dong Won. He doesn’t offer much pace and doesn’t create chances on his own like Park Ju Young does. However, he finishes pretty well and links up well too, meaning our best chance to score goals, aside from our typical Son Heung Min / Koo Ja Cheol / Ki Sung Yong cannons, will be Lee Chung Yong or Son Heung Min assisted 지동원 goals / headers

Overall Evaluation of the SXI: Most of our players will be starting on a weekly basis. Son Heung Min, Lee Chung Yong, Ki Sung Yong, Koo Ja Cheol, Ji Dong Won, and Han Kook Young – basically our entire offensive lineup – have little worries with playing time. Park Ju Young also, in theory, should have no worries. If anything, we should be worried about Ki burning out – he has not missed a single minute of Premier League action since Poyet’s second game in charge, and the trend will surely continue. Han has also not missed a single minute of J League action with Shonan Bellmare the past season, but now that he’s moved to Kashiwa this might change. (Aside: the way Poyet built the whole team around Ki is freaking awesome). Hopefully, they can get a good rest before the WC comes around.

Goalkeeper?  The final three is almost certainly going to be Jung Sung Ryong, Kim Seung Gyu, and Lee Bum Young. Who will start? It’s a complete tossup between Silverback and Kim, depending on who’s in-form at the moment. And with both of them with poor performances against the CONCAF teams, who knows what will happen?


When we finally get our NT straightened out my greatest hope is that this team will be able to gel together and play together far more often. I would love to see a stable starting XI from now until 2018. And aside from Park Ju Young who will be 32 and Lee Yong who will be 31 when 2018 rolls around, the entire team will stay the same. But who knows? We have fullbacks in random overseas youth teams, and Lee Seung Woo / Jang Gyeol Hee will be 19; Baek will be 20 and Lee Kang In will be 17.

One thing’s for sure: good times lie ahead.

About Jinseok 259 Articles
Diehard Korean football fan.


  1. I think Ha is getting called up and it would be a crime not to call up LKH at this stage – yes, he SUCKS at finishing, and he might have work rate but he was nervous as hell during these friendlies.

    He’s always trying to make a chance, but at the critical moment, something ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS goes wrong.

    IMO This is not indicative of him playing in the K-League Challenge – heck, it’s easier for him since he’s playing against weaker opposition. This is indicative of him being a 95% forward – doing everything acceptably right but failing to put the ball in the back of the net.

    Despite this, Lee Seung Gi did not start a game in the friendlies, leading me to believe that he’s either 1) already in the squad or 2) not in the squad at all. I think he was using LSG in the role he wants LSG to play – a sub to create chances for a team being shut down.

    I really think that LSG is not going to Brazil and LKH is, but LKH will only get garbage minutes if the moment arises, playing behind PJY or whoever our striker is.

    We have a good team. There’s no reason why we should not make the last 16 – but it will not be easy. Russia and Algeria play that shutdown style and as you pointed out, we seem to falter against these teams. Belgium is fast and attacking from what I know, and that’s not surprising – they’ve got a monster squad.

    Our main advantage – experience. Many Belgium and Russian players haven’t been to a WC.

    Our main obstacle is going to be not sinking down to the slow compact defense of Russia and Algeria and finding chances should they choose to play that way. We need a win against Algeria and a point against Russia. If we don’t get either of those, we better pray that Wilmots decides to go REALLY easy on us.

    But Lukaku 🙁

    2018 and 2022 are going to be good years for us. Very good years. But we were saying that after London. Someone is going to cock things up (KFA looking at you).

    I’m optimistic but cautious – VERY cautious. It is ENTIRELY possible we leave the group with 0 points – and that will be in part if we can’t stay together as a unit – fast counter attack, flawless defense and a calm controlled midfield. Oh right, and finishing. I did notice Ki slows down our counter sometimes though – I think its Ki – or maybe its someone else.

    Whoa – that’s the fourth Tavern Writer to give their thoughts on this. I think Roy probably has to some extent somewhere, so make that all five.

    I hope that we can get our spirits together v. Greece and play a REAL team. No more testing. Lets pretend it is a World Cup match.

    BTW, the Friendly v Tunisia is NOT on a FIFA-sanctioned match day – so only local players again?????? If that is the case I am REALLY not sure what Hong is thinking.

    BTW BTW, Alexi Lalas HAD to point out that he and HMB went out for dog one time. On ESPN. Like, really? That just gives us a bad image – even worse than what it is on the animal cruelty organisation front – WE DON’T ALL EAT DOG!!!

    BTW BTW BTW, hopefully one of the 4 writers w/ an account can post this, (unless it already was?), but FOX SPORTS posted a twitter message on their page listing the Korean lineup v the US, and they simply went – Jung, Kim, Kim, Kim, Lee, Park, Go, Lee, Lee, Kim (Or whatever – you get the point).

    Okay, that’s ENOUGH for a comment section post. Mianhaeyo.

  2. I agree with your 23 Jinseok except for Jang Hyun-Soo and Nam Tae-Hee. I don’t know what’s happened with Jang, but he really seems out of Hong’s thoughts. As of now, it’s hard to see him at Brazil. If he is called for the March friendly, then maybe, but now I feel that Kim Ki-Hee, as bad as he was, would take spot 4. Nam Tae-Hee? I think Yoon Il-Rok would probably jump him in the pecking order. Nam just doesn’t strike me as a Hong type player.

    • Let’s not forget that Nam Tae Hee was good at bring speed and good passes in the right wing during the 2012 Olympics. Nam assisted Park’s goal against Switzerland with a beautiful cross . Nam was pacey with his energetic playing style and he’s doing good at his current club (let’s hope he gets out of his current club and goes to a better team). I don’t think Yoon Il-Lok is experienced enough or good enough to be on the national team for the world cup.

      • I’m not saying that Nam doesn’t deserve it, but Hong generally expects his wingers to be players who will track back and defend and do the dirty stuff as well. Maybe I don’t watch Nam enough, but he doesn’t strike me as that kind of player. Personally I don’t think either is good enough, but I feel that Hong likes Yoon better than Nam.

        • My impression is the opposite. Nam tracks back and wins the ball back very well for a winger. Unfortunately hes is not as useful offensively.
          HMB def likes Nam. More than YIL IMO

        • Nam’s problem to me has always been his lack of vision or some might say a seemingly low pitch IQ. He just seems to enjoy putting his head down and going forward. He’s got some great feet but all of that means nothing if you’re not linking up with players around you.

          He’s a pointless after thought at this point.

          • I completely agree with your statements regarding Nam. However, I haven’t seen him play much at all this year, and it seems like there may have been some adjustments as I heard he just scored his 5th consecutive goal in as many matches

          • @AnJrue yes he has scored in 5 consecutive games, which makes me think he’d be Alt-A to Lee Chung Yong (HMB sure thought so during the Olympics). We don’t really have another right winger and I prefer NTH to LKH and I’m sure we all prefer NTH to GYH at the least

        • I too don’t see Jang Hyun Soo getting the call, but I’m not sure Kim Ki Hee is coming along either. I’m seeing Yoon Suk Young coming along actually, even though he’s not playing at QPR.

    • Yeah they are exempt. Ahh I still remember me jumping up and down wildly after Korea’s 2-0 against Japan, Korea played very good football and I remember after the game when Park Jong Woo was waving his “Dokdo is Korean land” banner. Everything was perfect until FIFA decided to strip PJW’s medal. I felt so sorry for him. I can’t even explain how much pity I had for him.

      • It was a great game, but my only problem with that is we act like we destroyed Japan in that match. I don’t really see it that way unfortunately. It was basically our best players against Japanese nobodies. Koo, Ki, Ji, and Park were there, along with our #1 goalkeeper. Honda, Okazaki, Kagawa, Nagatomo, Endo, NONE of Japanese National Team starters were at the Olympics. They brought an entirely domestic squad, whereas most of our European players were there.
        If we want to really test ourselves against Japan, we should have a friendly with THEIR BEST SQUAD before the World Cup. Our best against theirs. We used to have friendlies with Japan all the time; I feel like the KFA gave up after we got smoked by Japan 3-0 in Summer 2011. it would be better prep to play Japan than playing against Canada, for sure. I think our avoiding Japan makes us look scared, to be honest.

        • And, sorry to say, I understand why the KFA is scared. Japan beat Belgium 3-2 in Belgium. We couldn’t beat Russia when we played them in the Middle East.

          • Hiroshi Kiyotake (player at Nuremburg) was there,I think Hasebe was there (player at Nuremburg) and I think Inui was there (player at Frankfurt) I’m not sure but I might be wrong.

          • Our national team is full of the young players that played in 2012 Olympics U-23 team while Japan has mainly more experienced and older players. U-20 2013 FIFA world cup: Korea made it to round of 8 and Japan didn’t qualify. Maybe this shows that Korea has a bright future?

        • It was essentially our A team minus HKY, HJH, and LCY vs. Japan’s solid B team. We killed them. Engouh for me. And until our NT finally becomes stable and PJY is back in form, I honestly don’t even want to play japan. We’re much better off playing European / South American / African opponents.
          Perhaps the KFA gave up because the NT was in complete shambles. Despite all our players’ individual talent if 1). the manager sucks 2). there’s no orgnaization or a system and 3). those talented players do not even step onto the pitch in favor of veteran nobodies… even the best players look bad.

        • Completely understand what you’re saying John, but I think that highlights the fact that a lot of the KNT was U23’s, they weren’t the wildcards, which means that generally our younger players are much better.
          That doesn’t really answer the question but yeah, that’s what I think.

  3. Would you guys agree that SHM and LCY shouldn’t track back and defend so deep? I find this slightly frustrating at times because with them so deep when we win the ball back we don’t have players upstream for the counter. Often our counter is stifled by someone having to keep the ball for too long because nobody is upfield to receive a pass. And with pacey players like LCY SHM and PJY we have the potential to be very effective on the counter, while KJC / KSY could support from the back and shoot from outside the box as they’re do so good at doing.Tracking back is a good thing though….
    Maybe we could adopt a system where only one tracks back while the other stays open for receiving the ball along with PJY / KJC? Or is that how it works naturally? idk I would have to check by watching some recent matches again

    • Normally, I think both drop deep next to KSY/HKY while the CAM stayed higher next to the striker to make a 4-4-2. I think the alternative you’re proposing would have one stay higher, while (most likely) the DM moves wide to cover and the CAM drops deep next to KSY.

  4. As already stated by so many, we have no real strikers. Park Chuyoung doesn’t really play the best as the main striker, I reckon he’s better behind, because he assists just as well as he scores. Son even though an Attacking winger should try striker, we counter attack to the centre, play through him, his dribbling and finishing is nothing short of amazing.
    Utilizing the wings is a very ‘Korea’ style of play and we really need to start playing through the centre more and emphasising our (when playing the right players) passing game, which is actually really good. KSY definitely as defensive winger but even then he has to move up a bit, he always controls the centre, I know Huh Jung-Moo wasn’t much of a manager but one thing he did correctly was play the current crop of players to their strengths, Ki was played more of a defensive mid right in the middle. Perfect. Personally I think Kim Bo-Kyung should start, his pace and dribble is awesome.
    LCY should stay where, although I’m contradicting myself when i say we shouldn’t be playing on the wings so much. Ji dong won is useful for his height for heading, so is Ki, who should push up when attacking on crosses but KBK and KJC staying back defensively. A lot of shifting but i see it working. But then, I’m not managing a team that is followed anally by millions.

    • Ki is NOT a defensive mid. His time at Swansea Sunderland and Celtic prove he needs freedom from defensive duties to be efficient, and as a DM Han is far more effective

  5. Except, I don’t think your proposal actually plays to strengths. SHM’s strength is not as a striker. He’s a winger who likes to cut in. While SHM isn’t nearly in the stratosphere of the likes of Ronaldo and Messi, that is the same reason Ronaldo and Messi who have the striker skill sets, play as wingers to create shots. For SHM’s skill set, it would probably be a little bit more shackling to his style of play to move up top. I agree with you that PJY is better as the shadow striker, but he’s really the only striker we’ve got. JDW is also not really the best as the up top primary striker. However, I’d be curious if it was possible to have JDW and PJY play duo strikers and simply shift back and forth based on circumstances. Shrug. Who knows. At this point there hasn’t been enough time to really see what would work best. Let’s hope we start seeing a consistent lineup and no injuries in the upcoming months.

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