In a way, we have to be grateful that it's not the other South American giants Brazil or Argentina we're up against here - now that would just take the whole fun out of it. At least we have a glimmer of hope. Still, Uruguay has shown that they want to be regarded as one of the world's best. I mean, look at where they are geographically - if Brazil and Argentina squeezed out a baby, it would be Uruguay. You know they've GOTTA be good!
Well, at this stage, everyone is good, and there is no such thing as an easy opponent. We just have to take what we're given. Hello Uruguay.
Asians are supposedly good with numbers, but don't think that applies to me. However, if I am looking at the data correctly, the Uruguayans have a MAJOR ADVANTAGE over Korea.
Check this out these depressing numbers:
- 11 is the number of times Uruguay has participated in the World Cup vs South Korea's 8. (This comparison is not really fair since South Korea's first appearance was 1954, and Uruguay hosted the first tournament in 1930.)
- 2 is the number of times Uruguay has won the World Cup. 0 is Korea's. (Again - not fair, since Uruguay won the first and 4th events - well before Korea even played its first.)
- 10 of Uruguay's best eleven players currently play in Europe, versus South Korea's 4 (Lee Young-Pyo doesn't count since his current club is in Saudi Arabia). Not that European leagues are necessarily better, but we all know it's far more lucrative there, and that means more talent.
- Uruguay scored 4 goals and conceded 0 in the first 3 group matches. Korea scored 5 and gave up 6. The only advantage Korea has is that we scored more goals, but the goal differential is +4 to -1. That's a 5 goal difference.
- I found out that South Korea's all-time record against Uruguay is 0W-4L-1T. That is bad news for us. Unless you believe in that catchy phrase - 6th time the charm... That's how it goes, right?
- During those 5 games, Korea netted only 1 goal - in a March 2002 friendly.
- South Korea has met South American nations 4 times in the history of World Cup so far, and recorded a 0W-3L-1D.
But as they say, the game is not played on paper. ...Right?
My Answers For South Korea
The word from the Korea camp is that they will likely field pretty much an identical line-up as the first 3 matches. Sounds like Cha Du-Ri will be back at the right back position, while Yum Ki-Hoon will start yet again up front. Hold on... Let me give myself a paper cut under my finger nails.
If I were Huh Jung-Moo, my starting line-up would look something like this: (Notable changes are underscored.)
Forwards: Park Chu-Young and Lee Seung-Ryul
We have seen Yum Ki-Hoon start 3 times, and poop 3 times. We have to consider ourselves lucky that we got this far, but also think of Yum as an experiment that bombed - it's now time for a change. Lee Keun-Ho, who was left off the World Cup roster (I'm still scratching my head from that decision) would have been perfect, but we have to work with what we've got. From our current squad, Lee Seung-Ryul is probably the best candidate to partner up with Park Chu-Young. He may be inexperienced, but I have been impressed by his natural sense for the game. He knows how/when to do the right thing to compliment his teammates, as well as step up to the plate himself and score when needed. You know those guys at pickup games that come right in and immediately make an impact? That's him - he is athletic, with lots of speed, and knows what's going on around him at all times.
Midfielders: Park Ji-Sung, Ki Sung-Yong, Kim Jung-Woo and Lee Chung-Yong
I kept it the same here, due to lack of other options. It is true that Kim Jung-Woo didn't perform too well in the last 2 matches, but I'm not willing to replace him for Kim Nam-Il, either. (One reader Charly left a funny comment saying the reason KNI is nicknamed "The Vacuum Cleaner" is because he sucks. OK, it's not funny if you are Kim Nam-Il, and he doesn't really suck - he just had a bad - a VERY VERY BAD moment against Nigeria.) Honestly, there is really no other person I trust more to replace Kim Jung-Woo, as depressing as that sounds. We'll just have to hope he replicates the performance he put on against Greece.
Defenders: Kim Dong-Jin, Cho Yong-Hyung, Lee Jung-Soo and Lee Young-Pyo
We have seen enough of Cha Du-Ri's tendency to put defending on the back burner, and Oh! Bum! Suck! proved to be out of his league when the competition gets tough. (I am being harsh on the two, but I do know that they are better than they've shown in the first 3 games)
Hey, did you know? The hardest working Korean player from the Nigeria match, left back Lee Young-Pyo can also play the right back position, and much much better than the afore-mentioned two?!! Since the other left back Kim Dong-Jin who has mostly been unused, can play his position at world-class level (he was part of the 2007 Russian and 2008 Europa champs Zenit St Petersburg), why not take advantage of his availability?
That would be my line up, but I'm sure Huh Jung-Moo knows what he's doing... Right? I thought about switching to a 3-5-2, to take a more defensive approach, but I'm not sure if that is any more effective.
There's no guarantee that this line-up (or any) will work. If there was a formula on how to defeat everyone, then us Asians would have figured that out by now... right?
South Korea's biggest headache will come from the strikers - Diego Forlan (Athletico Madrid, Spain) who recorded 2 against South Africa, Palermo (Italy) forward Edinson Cavani, and scoring machine Luis Suarez of Ajax Amsterdam (Holland). These three must be man-marked at all times. The biggest mistake Korea made against Argentina was concentrating too much on the ball, and not watching the others when the ball was elsewhere. If these three are shadowed at all times, there is hope.
Also, another key is to shut down the midfield. Not that Uruguay's middle is weak, but let's say it's the least strongest area. Diego Perez is a gifted midfielder and also Park Chu-Young's teammate at AS Monaco in France, and he holds the key to Uruguay's balance. If Perez is kept to a minimum, I believe Korea has a chance to control the game.
But in order for Korea to win - they must get past the backline: The fact that they have given up 0 goals in the 3 group matches says something about their defense. They will likely start Jorge Fucile (FC Porto), Mauricio Victorino (Universidad de Chile), Diego Lugano (Febernace, Turkey) and Alvaro Pereira (FC Porto), and it will take very very good teamwork for Korea to penetrate this wall.
Hey, did you know? Center back Diego Godin (Villareal, Spain) who started the first two matches is also a world-class swimmer who set all kinds of records for Uruguay! Just found that out on ESPN SoccerNet - How about that!
Many experts are saying the best strategy for Korea is to drag the fight as long as possible, and try to take it to penalties. That is, IF we can keep the scores even at the 90th and 120th minute... And some are saying to use goalie Lee Woon-Jae as a sub for the shootout, since he has had good results in the past, specifically against Spain. Well... even if we do take it that far, that does not guarantee we will win the coin-flip game. Not to dismiss LWJ's past achievements, but that was 8 years ago, when he was in shape. Now? Not so much.
I say try to win this early. The Uruguayans possess great footballing skills, but also seem to have great football IQ and patience. If we take too much time slowing the game down and try conserving our energy, we might find ourselves in a 2 goal hole in the 80th minute. I think we have to go with attacking football:
1 - Use the formula that has worked so far - Try to win as many free kicks as possible. 3 out of Korea's 5 goals came from set-pieces (trust me, I find free kicks boring as much as the next guy) and it's gotten us here.
2 - Utilize Lee Chung-Yong and Park Ji-Sung's speed to create opportunities on the wings. France had a few great chances created from both sides, and if Park Chu-Young can time things right and is able translate crosses from either sides into goals, Korea has a chance to advance.
I honestly think this is a winnable match-up, despite what the past head-to-head records might say. (And I am SMART despite what my SAT scores might say!!!) South Korea just had the best possible lession/warm-up match against Argentina (and got its butt kicked), and hopefully they have came away with lots of notes and better understanding of South American football.
I say... South Korea 2-2 Uruguay at the end of 90 minutes, and Korea wins in extra time 3-2.
Hey, I'm allowed to dream, right?
As always, feel free to share your thoughts. And remember - please be respectful, but do have fun!