Well this is it guys. For the regulars at least, we have followed the ups and downs of the team and it’s players for yet another 4 year cycle. Unfortunately the road was pretty shitty. From the glory days of HMB KTY CJC HSH YSC LYP PJS SJG LWJ and the rest of the 2002 squad to the 2010 WC qualification cycle where we went undefeated, we could proudly and unquestionably assert: we ARE the top team in Asia and a force to be reckoned with globally. Just one cycle ago we smashed all opposition including our archrival Japan – with relative ease, going undefeated throughout the qualification. Japan could not beat us for 6-7 straight years.
After 2010 things looked so promising. 21 year old double dragon looked.like they could develop into true world class players, PJY had fully established himself as Asia’s only competent striker, and a well fought loss vs the beast that is Uruguay (if it wasn’t for the idiocy of LDG and JSR we might’ve pulled a better result) made things looked promising.
Fast forward to 2014 and you have to shake your head in shame, trying to repress all memories of the dark ages. We’re now quite the laughingstock. CKR started losing to Asian minnows and got robbed of an AC title. CKH reduced our reputation to absolute shit. The national team lost all organization and identity and it still hasn’t recovered. The defense still does not exist. The Double Dragon combo stagnated as LCY took an injury/got stuck in the championship and Ki just stopped caring altogether. Once a midfielder famous for long passes and long range goals, he doesn’t do any of those anymore and only attempts backpasses. It makes me seriously worried for SHMs development, knowing that it is not that easy for a player to hit their true potential.
Worst of all while our reputation has been shattered Japan’s has steadily risen. My first year of college (just a couple months ago) I was eating with a friend who introduced me to one of his friends who also happened to be a football fan – the guy asked me what my favorite team was to which I replied Korea. He said he didn’t know much about us but then said the following words- “you know who’s really good? Japan” which sparked a discussion on how good Japan was. You can only imagine how hard I had to repress myself from doing something violent.
I could list so much more grievances but ain’t nobody got time fo dat. And now’s not the time for it either.
That being said, I’m basing this entirely off the doom and gloom of the last couple of weeks. It is very possible that we will get our shit together by Russia. I have faith in our countrymen. And so should you.
So: let’s discuss!
Korea doesn’t know anything other than 4231 and has been playing the same formation for forever. Unfortunately it hasn’t really been working recently, especially considering that KJC isn’t really a 10 and all he does is go forward too far. To make it worse a lot of players are coming off injury or a season of benchwarming. Unlike the Olympics, Koo and Ki – the duo that led Korea to bronze – are playing horrifically at the moment. The defense keeps messing up, even though the lineup is essentially the same. Think about it – YSY KYK HSH KCS played SO well during the Olympics but YSY KYK HJH LY, which is an upgrade on paper, has been playing even worse. Either the level of opposition is much higher, the players are terrifically off form, or as most of us probably suspect, both.
Team play, not just individual play, has deteriorated. The transition between offense and defense doesn’t exist. Too many backpasses and loafing around the pitch that allows opposition to get back into formation / counterattack with ease, respectively. Furthermore, there is no leadership and no communication, especially on the part of Jung Sung Ryong, the most passive goalkeeper the KNT has ever seen.
There are three causes for optimism, however:
1). Son Heung Min and Lee Chung Yong, who have clearly been our best players for a while now. Time and time again we’ve seen that our true strengths lie out wide.
2). Back when we played Russia in November, Hong Jeong Ho and Kim Young Kwon had a pretty easy time vs. the Russian attackers, even when paired with Park Joo Ho and Shin Kwang Hoon, neither of whom particularly impressed that game. Remember that Russia’s 2 goals came from a Jung Sung Ryong butterfingers moment (a tame shot that squirmed under Jung Sung Ryong, Jae described it) and a set piece where the Russian goalscorer simply outjumped our players. If Jung doesn’t screw up vs Russia I don’t think we should see any major blunders. However, given how fast the Brazuca flies (this ball is way too fast, btw, it’s worse than the Jabulani [or so I’ve heard, Jae says otherwise]) and given Jung’s complete lack of reflexes… I have a gut feeling Kim Seung Kyu would be better suited than Jung. But I also have a feeling that HMB will stick to Jung, to be discussed soon.
3). Pre-WC counts for nothing in the WC. Also, the match forecast is supposed to be 84 degrees (Fahrenheit), which I’m sure will play to our advantage somewhat. Remember that the entire Russian squad plays in the Russian league.
I personally want to see this lineup. Note, however, this applies if Park Joo Ho can play like he does at Mainz AND Koo still plays like utter crap– I still have yet to see PJH play well in a KNT shirt and I’m still hoping Koo finds his form.
In any case, I hope we don’t press too hard / press too hard up the pitch, because when Russia hits us with a counter we will get screwed for sure. To me, we should do what we usually do, trying to control the game with passes but staying farther back and more spread out than usual. If the two above conditions are met (PJH finds form, Koo is still out of it), should Russia go full out attack with a high defensive line, my ideal system would have Son Heung Min and Lee Chung Yong staying higher up the pitch (to long ball to them as soon as we get the ball back), with PJY just behind to make a run on the counter, while PJH and HKY cover for the middle as well as the reduced tracking back of the two wingers. If Russia play more conservatively, I would have HKY and PJH still stay further back to offer support for KSY, who will play centrally slightly higher up the pitch to spray long passes (ground or aerial) to the wingers who will be trying to make runs behind the defense.
I think this kind of 4-3-3 can work. The trio of Park, Son, and Lee are more than talented enough the produce a goal. We might as well throw more bodies into the defensive mix, and allow the front three to do their thing.
However HMB is a man known for believing in his players- think what effect benching would have on KJC and JSR. their confidence would be shattered like none other. He isn’t the type to make any drastic changes either. So right now I’m just hoping Koo snaps out of it and fully expecting the good ol’ usual 4-2-3-1. And you all know what that lineup is by now.
In this case, we MUST have Koo and Ki TRACK BACK as their lack of defensive contribution has cost us quite a bit recently. As I said earlier, “I hope we don’t press too hard / press too hard up the pitch, because when Russia hits us with a counter we will get screwed for sure. To me, we should do what we usually do, trying to control the game with passes but staying farther back and more spread out than usual.” I noticed during the Italy-England game that the players were more spread out throughout the pitch, whereas when we play we tend to be more clumped together playing short passes instead. This is something we should emulate.
Instead of this, where we have a huge gaping hole of empty space in the middle many teams have successfully exploited…
Something like this:
Moreover, HMB needs to stop trying to play the incisive-pass-hope-for-goal method and play on the counter. We have three players perfectly suited for the counterattack method (SHM PJY LCY) and we honestly suck at splitting apart defenses. And without a doubt, our most reliable method of scoring goals is giving SHM space to shoot. The best way to do it is counterattacking, or drawing defenders away from him.
But I guess all we can do is hope whatever HMB does works well.
Jae’s 5 Tactical Things To Watch For
Jumping in once again to talk some things I’ll be watching for.
- Ki Sung-Yueng’s defensive positioning: Ki made more of an effort to track back against Ghana, but his defensive positioning was poor, resulting in big spaces being left open in the middle. Ki will need to be smarter against Russia.
- Courage on the ball: Korea lacks a player with the vision and passing ability to split a defense open with a pass, so it will fall to the wingers, likely Son Heung-Min and Lee Chung-Yong to draw the defenders out through their dribbling. Lately though they’ve been reluctant to do so, preferring instead to pass. Both will need to assume more responsibility in attack.
- Compact on defense: Korea has often left far too much space between the midfield and defensive lines, allowing opposition attackers space in between. Against Ghana, Korea sacrificed compactness and discipline in favor of aggressive pressing, which didn’t work out too well.
- Ki or Han providing extra offense: Russia will drop nine men behind the ball, often falling into a 4-5-1 when defending. Korea can’t rely on the front four (plus the fullbacks) to break through that kind of defensive line. One of either Ki Sung-Yueng or Han Kook-Young will need to go up to help.
- The defensive line: Jinseok has already discussed it, but it will be interesting to see how Korea positions itself. Hong prefers a higher line, but Korea hasn’t had the pace to play it effectively. However, the defense hasn’t shown the focus and/or discipline to play a deeper line that invites pressure either.
Russia is a fairly strong team that can’t be underestimated. They are a very fluid team that doesn’t have a rigid tactical system / starting XI. From the little that I’ve watched of them I’d say the base is a 4-3-3 with a little bit of 4-4-2 mixed in, which on paper is like us but more varied. They do not have the technical ability as we do, but are direct, somewhat physical, and can counter pretty well.
Back in November, this was their lineup (and our semi-experimental one):
Now, captain Shirokov is injured (Denisov has taken the captaincy in his absence), and some news reports say Alan Dzagoev or possibly Yuri Zhirkov is supposed to take his place. My personal prediction would be Kombarov – Ignashevich – Berezutski – Yeshchenko for defense (fairly certain on this one), Denisov, Fayzulin, and __ in midfield, and Samedov, Kokorin, and ___ in attack. The entire plays in the Russian league, so I don’t really know much about them. However, this does not mean they are pushovers. Back in November both teams played awful games but they came out on top.
One Korean news site predicts this:
But given they put Kim Chang Soo over Lee Yong it has lost all credibility.
Since our friendly with them, they’ve beaten Armenia, Slovakia, and Morocco (conceding no goals), and drew with Norway. They must be feeling pretty good coming into our match, while our players are certainly low on confidence. Russia probably knows as well, unless they beat us they will have a very difficult time making it into the RO16. Both teams will be playing to their fullest ability, unlike in November. Should be fun.
My prediction is 2-1 us, with Russia scoring first and us responding through PJY and SHM. And no matter how crappy the road to Brazil, the recent friendlies, and the individual players have been, I still believe in the players because they represent our country. They should be able to respond when the actual WC game comes around.
Quick update: Veteran defender Berezutski is reportedly injured as well, though he has a chance of recovering in time vs us: http://sports.news.naver.com/sports/index.nhn?category=soccer&ctg=news&mod=read&office_id=001&article_id=0006963553