South Korea lacking at both ends of the pitch
Sometimes international teams simply produce too many of the same type of player. Portugal produce too many wingers and not enough strikers. Holland produce too many attackers and not enough defenders.
South Korea, meanwhile, have a load of energetic midfield runners, but no-one to directly participate in the process of (a) scoring goals and (b) preventing goals being conceded.
That’s an overly simplistic way of looking at their squad, but it basically tells the story. That’s not to say that they are a bad side, but with the addition of a couple of solid centre-backs and a lethal goalscorer, they would be an excellent one.
The first XI
They are captained by Park Ji-Sung, who is a good figurehead for their side. Hard-working, versatile and technically sound. He plays on the left, with Bolton’s Lee Chu-Yong on the right playing a similar role. In the middle is Kim Yung-Woo, who would prefer to play a box-to-box role, but is forced to be slightly more conservative as he plays alongside another midfielder who likes getting forward, Ki Sung-Yong of Celtic. The midfield is probably the strongest area of the side, even if they do lack a true holding midfielder.
The main striker is Monaco’s impressive Park Chu-Young, a phenomenally quick player who doesn’t score as many as he should – 13 goals in two seasons in Ligue 1 is not an impressive strike ratio. 14 goals in 38 games at international level is better, and against sides with ageing defences like Argentina and Greece, his pace could cause real problems.
The identity of the other striker is unknown – it could be Lee Keun-Ho, another who likes working the channels, but at 5′9 is hardly capable of winning balls in the air, which is the kind of partner Park CY needs. Alternatively, it could be veteran Ahn Jung-Hwan. (It’s one of those “Ah I can’t believe he’s still around!” moments – for those who don’t recognise the name, it was he who, in 2002, scored the winner in the second round against Italy, and was promptly released from Serie A club Perugia by notoriously bonkers President Luciano Gaucci. He’s 34, hasn’t scored an international goal for four years and plays for team called Shide FC, but it would be nice to see him.)
Midfield support should mean Korea’s goal threat is far from non-existent, but there are serious problems at the back. Lee Jung-Soo and Cho Yong-Hyung lack height and experience, and the defence as a whole looks nervous from set-pieces, something Greece, Argentina and Nigeria – three physically powerful sides – will look to exploit.
The full-backs offer good support to the midfield, however, constantly bombing forward. The highly-rated Cha Du-Ri is a genuine attacking threat through sheer pace, whilst former Tottenham and PSV left-back Lee Young-Pyo provides a more solid game, and plenty of experience. In goal is another familiar face, Lee Woon-Jae, who has been around the national side since World Cup 1994.
South Korea are what you’d expect if you’d never seen them play, and only knew Park and Lee from the Premiership. Energetic, hard-working, but lacking in central areas.
Their group B matches will be interesting, however, because Korea have a completely different style of play to Greece and Nigeria, who are filled with more physical, less technically-gifted players. They will also give Argentina a decent test – the pace of Korea’s forward four will worry the Argentina defence, and Veron will not have the stamina to compete for 90 mins.
Expect a valiant effort, but for the seventh straight time in World Cups abroad, a first-round exit.South Korea lacking at both ends of the pitch