World Cup Tactics – Jinseok

Let’s face reality everyone – even with a fully healthy team, there was no chance we’d get past the group stage.

But as you guys all know we sure as hell don’t have a full A team. First it was Kim Minjae, Kwon Changhoon, and Yeom Kihun. Now add Lee Keunho to the official injury list, and in 3 days the KFA will announce whether KJS is match fit. What makes things even more infuriating is that STY refuses to callup anyone from the reserve list. We’re training in Paju right now with 26 players. Which begs the question – why the f*ck did you even announce a reserves list? There are a million more questions we can ask STY – in what alternate universe is Kim Shinwook > Suk Hyunjun? Is Jang Hyunsoo your bastard child? Why do you insist on playing 3 backs and 5 backs that clearly don’t work when Toni Grande created one simple lineup that actually kinda does? Do you hate Toni Grande and want to spite him? Do you realize that our current squad consists of TWELVE defenders to only SEVEN midfielders (one of whom plays in the Korean second division)???

Yes, I know, as Koreans we should be rooting STY on, and I do sincerely pray he does something right for once, but it’s hard to root for a guy who defies all logic, keeps fielding the same useless poorly-performing players, and ignores a system that works in favor of “tactics” that even casual fans could see failing from a mile away.

But before we start getting into a STY rant, we’re here to talk about what each of the Tavern writers would do, and what we think STY is going to do.


Jinseok’s tactics:

I’m a conservative kind of guy. I say we stick to what has worked in the past and avoid things that clearly don’t work at all.

There was one game in recent KNT history that wasn’t a huge eyesore and that was vs. Colombia (and to a slightly lesser extent, Serbia). Yes, teams who fly all the way out to Korea for friendlies have a habit of not showing up, but we looked better against exhausted Colombia than we did against the likes of China, Moldova, Jamaica, Latvia, etc. If you watched the game you knew that something dramatically changed. You also may have noticed that this dramatic positive change never came back to the KNT due to STY constantly tinkering with the lineups.

Hence, we are going to go 4-4-2. I am okay with other similar variants (4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1), but precedent shows we’re strongest as 4-4-2. If STY plays a 5 back or 3 back (which he almost certainly will, many of his media comments are pointing to that), I’m going to lose it – we’re going to get destroyed out wide. If KSW starts (which he almost certainly will, KSW seems to be STY’s plan A now), you can lose all hope of a decent offense (the one thing we have going for us). If these two things happen, as Tim put it so wisely, “Let’s just root for Japan.”

So here’s what I would personally do.

Would love to have seen Kim Minjae in Kim Youngkwon’s spot, Suk Hyunjun in Lee Seungwoo’s spot, and Kwon Changhoon in Hwang’s spot, but the football gods hate us and STY has a hard on for KSW. I could also see KJC or LCY in HHC’s spot, but HHC seems to be in better form.


FW: All aboard the Lee Seungwoo hype train!

Kwon Changhoon was the one silver lining to this depressing WC campaign. We were all so looking forward to seeing KCH on the world stage – he has rarely disappointed in KNT colors and is one of our few consistent players. Son aside, Kwon is the only player who can score goals on this team (remember his magic vs. Mexico in the 2016 Olympics?)

Well now that our one silver lining is gone I think it’s time to turn to another one – Lee Seungwoo.

I’ve criticized this guy quite a bit this season, but now that KCH and LKH are gone, we have to turn to LSW for some semblance of an offensive spark. Jae also advocated for LSW’s inclusion in his lineup, saying that despite his rust and rawness, he still has the offensive prowess and creativity to make something happen. I firmly believe that a quick, mobile attack beats the static, fumbling-with-the-ball Kim Shinwook any day. Since it’s clear SHM’s going to be drawing all the attention perhaps LSW and Hwang Heechan could wreak havoc in the space SHM creates, even though their finishing leaves much to be desired. Who knows, with competent midfielders around him in Lee Jaesung and Ki Sungyong, in the setting of a slightly more possession-oriented team, maybe LSW could shine. A big part of the reason why he failed at Verona was because Verona plays even worse than the KNT. The KNT also sucks at stringing passes together but we sure do retain the ball better than Hellas Verona.

Just for fun: If you can read Korean check this out – it’s a hilarious Chuck-Norris-esque situation of how LSW will singlehandedly carry us to World Cup glory.


Midfield: What have we done to anger the football Gods?

Without Kwon, Yeommy, and Lee Keunho –players who were bound to either start or get substantive sub minutes – our midfield looks insanely thin. If KCH was injured the reasonable RW deputy was LKH, and with LKH gone the deputy would’ve been YKH.

As for my picks, we don’t need to go into Lee Jaesung and Ki Sungyong. For right wing, I think Hwang should take that spot over Lee Chungyong or Moon Seonmin. Lee Chungyong is probably too rusty while Moon Seonmin is untested. MSM is a good player and is on great form with Incheon, but he’s a little too raw to be starting. Some may say HHC should be CF with LSW on the wing, but as Jae points out, it makes more sense to have someone with good workrate out wide.

The other big option in Kwon’s place is Koo Jacheol. Koo is usually a vital source of goals for us, but he’s not quite in shape (his last game for Augsburg before picking up a minor injury was 4/22 against Mainz, and he was fading big time at the end of the season).

If by some miracle it turns out that Lee Chungyong is lighting up training camp, then I am fine with LCY on the RW as well. However, what’s the chance that LCY could offer more than Hwang Heechan in terms of dribbling, pressing, and maybe even defensive contribution? Given that LCY is my favorite non-retired Korean footballer, it really hurt to write that sentence…

For KSY’s MF partner, I think most KNT fans would agree with me in asserting that PJH >> JWY or Joo Sejong (who probably won’t make the final cut anyway). PJH has been playing DM for Ulsan regularly and I still have faith in Uli Stielike’s single positive contribution to the KNT: that a KSY – PJH midfield pairing actually works. Every KNT fan can see that Jung Wooyoung, who has started in CM for a long time now, is more or less useless – I really do like the guy based off his interviews and I wish the best for his career – but let’s be honest what has he ever contributed to the KNT? We have better players we can select.

Alternatively, in the Colombia game Go Yohan partnered KSY to magnificent effect and could man-mark the likes of Forsberg/Ozil etc. like he did against James Rodriguez. So I’m completely fine with GYH next to KSY as well. But I don’t trust Lee Yong at RB – can anyone tell me the last time Lee Yong played well for the KNT? I can’t.


Defense: F*** it we’re screwed

I really don’t care about the defense because truth be told it has never worked and nothing STY can try is going to work. I would think some amount of cohesion could be attained with enough training but with Korea that’s not really a thing either. This makes me think that we should take the Brazil approach: score more than your opponent. But with Kwon Changhoon out, we have literally 1 player who knows how to score, and you can bet he’s going to be marked extremely heavily every game.

The only DF lock should be Kim Jinsu because Kim Minwoo hasn’t been great (and he plays in a 3 back system more than a 4 back system). Based on form, the CB should be Kwon Kyungwon, who’s been playing decently well for Tianjin in the ACL. The other CB should probably be Kim Youngkwon – as much as we hate him he’s got experience, and if no other defender can give us defending competency, at least he can offer experience. In right back I like Go Yohan more, but there is a chance he could be used as DM (as he did against Colombia, the one game that didn’t end up a huge eyesore).


Expected STY selection: Dear God he’s going to use KSW and a 5 back

Mark my words, everyone – the KNT must avoid starting KSW and lining up in a 3/5 back system at all costs. It’s not going to work, and every writer on the Tavern (and every invested KNT fan out there) knows it. Don’t get me wrong, I love KSW as a player and as a human being, but the fact of the matter is, he’s a poor man’s Suk Hyunjun and his role on the team is not to start. Last 5-10 minute sub tops, even that.

Maybe this will change, but the friendlies from January – March all featured Kim Shinwook. Every media interview with STY seems to point to KSW target man as Plan A. And as we all know, that plan never works, with the sole exception being SHM’s goal vs. Algeria.

I’m calling it: KSG – KKW JHS KYK – KJS/KMW KSY JWY GYH – SHM KSW HHC. If this happens I might just turn off my TV/stream.

I could go on for hours about why we should drop KSW entirely for Suk Hyunjun, but most of you know exactly why. It seems we’re stuck with KSW-SHM for now. Expect a boring, static-ass attack this summer, folks. Unless STY makes reforms against Bosnia/Honduras/Bolivia, that is. You can bet STY will change things around, but history tells us it won’t be for the better.

About Jinseok 260 Articles
Diehard Korean football fan.


  1. I don’t like Hwang Heechan as a right midfielder. Korea’s 442, which is similar to Atletico’s, probably works better with a player who is tidier in possession and more creative in this position(like Koke or Correa). Kwon Changhoon was perfect for this role. I would pick Lee Chungyong over Hwang. Actually, I prefer Korea to go back to a 4231 with Koo in the number 10 role with Son on the right, Lee Jaesung on the left, and Hwang as a striker. I rather see Hwang constantly press and harass the other team’s center backs.

  2. Yeah I’m not too sold on HHC wide, but based on how the players have been playing I think HHC is our best bet. LCY hasn’t played in too long (although he does get sub minutes so maybe he won’t be too off his usual game) and Koo faded real hard in April and hasn’t played in over a month now. I also think HHC wing and LSW FW is better than HHC FW and LSW wing, but honestly that’s a minute difference since they’ll probably be all over the place anyway. And LSW is closwer to a #10/”SS” than HHC is

    SHM wide has always been a waste of his talent imo, a lot of the times he’s defending / behind the ball, which isn’t utilizing SHM properly at all.

    I also think 4-2-3-1 doesn’t work too well on the KNT – it’s not instant suicide like a 3 back, but this is a debate we’ve had for a long time, and a lot of people believe that there are no natural #10’s on the KNT (or a decent FW since no SHJ); hence 4-2-3-1 wouldn’t be as effective as a 4-4-2

    • I think Koo can be a natural 10, but I agree that Korea doesn’t have a decent striker. I also agree that the wide position isn’t best use of Son’s talent for Korea. On Spurs, he can rely on others to create and take attention away from him. If not the 4231, I would like to see Park Jooho, Koo, and Ki play in a midfield three.

      On a Korean sports show called Sports Ya, a sports reporter mentioned that Suk’s injury proneness might be why Shin Taeyong is so hesitant to pick him. The show mentioned how Suk seems to always get injured when he’s playing well.

      • My personal opinion on KJC is that his natural area is where the 10 would play, but he isn’t a creative player. The other “problem” with KJC is that nowadays the space he wants to play in is the same that SHM also naturally plays in, so KJC is the one sacrificed to make room for SHM.

        • I still think Koo can be effective in the number 10 role. He’s comfortable on the ball and is somewhat of a goal scoring threat. The midfield three might give the more creative Ki more freedom to get forward. Also, Son might have more room to drift inside with Ki staying deep at times.

          • Koo in the old days could do that but I distinctly remember KJC’s recent KNT appearances as #10 being very subpar. Can’t name them off the top of my head but I remember thinking KJC had actually regressed since his initial Augsburg/Mainz days.

            Theoretically we’ve always wanted a KJC – KSY – DM midfield three, but when it happened it didn’t rly work out so we stopped hoping for that lol

          • Your last two sentences seem slightly contradictory to me, but regardless. In recent history we’ve seen that with a midfield three of KSY-KJC-DM it becomes quite rigid. KSY generally has to stay deeper bc someone needs to help provide extra defensive cover for the DM (bc ours generally all suck + cannot facilitate play from the back other than inaccurate hoofs up the field). So we end up playing this subpar 4-2-4 where there is a massive gap between the midfield and attack and the only attacking option is sending in crosses (K League teams often do the same unfortunately). Anyway, I’m not disagreeing with the idea that KJC can play as a #10, he can, but whether he is the ideal player for the role given the current squad is where I seem to disagree with you (and others).

  3. The players on the reserve list aren’t even training with the provisional roster? What are Suk and Ji doing right now? Just sitting around? That is a disgrace. Given how many players have gotten injured over the past few weeks, it is maddening that they didn’t just bring everyone to train.

    I think my ideal formation actually would’ve been a 4-2-3-1 with Suk as the lone forward, then Lee JS, Son, Hwang HC, with Park JH or Koo partnering with Ki. LSW first one off the bench.

    With the roster we have now with Kwon and others injured? Hwang up top, then Son, Koo, Lee JS, and then Park JH and Ki. I’m tempted to include LSW, though, for Koo.

    Finally, is there even a 1% chance that Shin TY is holding his cards close to the vest and throwing Kim SW out there and playing some other sub optimal lineups in these friendlies so that Sweden and Mexico aren’t tipped off? I know that we picked Honduras, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Poland as friendly opponents so that we could emulate conditions against Sweden and Mexico, but what if we’re baiting them into thinking we’re going to play this long ball game with Kim SW but actually play more of a possession game with speed on the wings? Maybe I’m giving Shin too much credit… Also, with these injuries, I think he also doesn’t know yet, and he’s back to the drawing board.


    Side note: John Duerden wrote a preview for ESPN that was published last week (before the recent injury news). He predicted a 4-4-2. Son and Lee KH up top, from L-R Kwon, Park JH, Ki, Lee JS in midfield, then LY, Jang HS, Kim MJ, Kim JS in defense, Kim SG as GK. Can’t believe how many have been plagued by injury.

    ESPN link:

    Yahoo Sports also wrote a team preview for Korea. Pegged the odds of advancing out of the group stage at 29.4%, which is considerably more optimistic than FiveThirtyEight’s odds from back in December (however, disclaimer below). Here is a full breakdown:

    Yahoo Sports (May 2018) –> (Though, this doesn’t add up to 200% so Yahoo made a mistake somewhere)
    -Germany = 93.8%
    -Mexico = 46.5%
    -Sweden = 42.6%
    -Korea = 29.4%

    538 (December 2017)
    -Germany = 82.5%
    -Mexico = 51.0%
    -Sweden = 48.2%
    -Korea = 18.3%

    Yahoo should also update their lineup prediction to exclude Kwon: Projected lineup (4-4-2): Kim Seung-gyu; Lee Yong, Kim Young-gwon, Jang Hyun-soo, Kim Jin-su; Kwon Chang-hoon, Park Joo-ho, Ki Sung-yeung, Lee Jae-sung; Son Heung-min, Hwang Hee-chan.

    538 link:
    Yahoo Sports link:

    • Yeah the reserve list players are basically supposed to wait for a call to report, and while they wait they should follow some basic instructions on keeping fit just in case, but no they are not with the team in Paju. It is incredibly ridiculous that STY hasn’t called up players to take the spots of LKH and KCH at the camp. The only thing I can take is that STY is planning on using the players within the remaining 26, and that guys like SHJ and JDW are nowhere in his thoughts or plans.

  4. Just FYI- Kim Shinwook was not playing when Son scored against Algeria. Trust me, I know too much about KSW’s ineffectiveness. It was a longball pass, but Son (luckily, off of the back of his neck) handled it himself lol
    The Wookie was playing when Koo scored against Algeria, but Lee Keun Ho actually got the assist. If you want to be nice, the Wookie set it up, but it went from Wookie to Son, slide tackle block from Algeria, to Lee, to Koo. OK, I guess you might give credit to the Wookie, but if the KNT is looking to that as a reason to bring him, it shows how much of a stretch it is.

    Take a sad look down memory lane and see for yourself. Son’s goal is around 0:58

    • Seems you can’t watch the youtube video embedded here, but if you click to watch it in Youtube, you can see it.
      Wookie’s “miracle setup” is 1:33

      • ay yes my b I was remembering KSW dropping some long balls down vs. Algeria, didn’t realize it was for KJC’s goal not SHM’s

        • No worries. I didn’t know either until I read your comment and double-checked for myself. I just couldn’t believe that his head led to a goal at the WC. I guess he kinda set up the assist, but…

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