This is South Korea: Asian Cup final 2015 preview – Player-by-player Analysis


With perennial Asian power South Korea set to play hosts Australia in the 2015 Asian Cup final, Tim Lee joins us to preview South Korea‘s Taeguk Warriors with an analysis of every player.

South Korea – Asian Cup Final 2015 Preview

The backline

Kim Jin-hyeon (Goalkeeper, 27 years old)

A relative newcomer to the Korean National Team, Kim won his second international cap in a 3-1 victory against Venezuela in September of last year. After a horrific error in that friendly that led to the sole Venezuelan goal, the Cerezo Osaka keeper has not looked back since.

Capable of athletic saves and strong in one-on-one situations, his confidence is growing with every save he makes; Korea have him to thank for being in the Asian Cup final. Despite his blistering recent form, a word of caution – Kim has also made spectacular errors for his Japanese club team Cerezo Osaka, especially in distributing the ball.

Kim Jin-Su (Left-back, 22 years old)

One of Korea’s youngest players at this Asian Cup, Kim Jin-Su has earned his way to “one of the first names on the teamsheet” status. The skillful Hoffenheim left-back has put in his fair share of excellent crosses and has a fantastic work rate.

He is solid in defence, in the air and under pressure, and supports the attack very nicely. Legendary Korean fullback Lee Young-Pyo called Kim “way better than I was at that age”.

Kwak Tae-Hwi (Centre-back, 33 years old)

Kwak Tae-Hwi isn’t exactly a worshipped player in Korean football. His lack of pace, slow decision making and sometimes rash fouls earned him the nickname “One-Eyed Kwak” among fans and media. However, this Asian Cup, although he has made the occasional individual error, and his defensive positioning sometimes leaves much to be desired, Kwak has been fairly consistent.

He is dominant in the air and threatens from set-pieces, and is generally a cool, experienced head, a key asset to a successful defence. He could be asked to keep an eye on Tim Cahill – who was 100% in aerial challenges against the centre-back in the group stage game between these two sides.

Kim Young-Gwon (Centre-back, 24 years old)

Kim Young-Gwon has received a lot of criticism in the media in times past, and rightly so. Whenever he heads out onto the pitch, you can always expect him to make a horrific mistake, sometimes aerially, sometimes due to miscommunication, that results in you pulling your hair out.

But like Kwak, the Guangzhou Evergrande centre-back has been solid by his standards. He plays the ball well (although not necessarily under pressure) and has even netted a goal in this tournament, a fantastic volley that stunned fans.

Cha Du-Ri (Right-back, 34 years old)

Easily the most energetic and exciting player for South Korea, experienced fullback Cha Du-Ri has been around the national team scene for the better part of 13 years. Son of legendary Korean forward Cha Bum-Kun, Cha Jr. has opposition defenders hopeless with his acceleration and pace.

Although he often tends to leave space behind him, the FC Seoul defender is a rock when in position defensively. He is strong in the air and with two boots on the ground.

Other defenders include Kim Ju-Young, a centre-back who covers a lot of ground and is strong in the air, Jang Hyun-Soo, another centre-back who captained the U-23 side, and Kim Chang-Soo, a more defensively-minded right-back who has the occasional good showing and can also play left-back.

SEE ALSO: Everything you need to know about the Taeguk Warriors

The midfield

Park Joo-Ho (Midfielder, 28 years old)

A versatile defender, Park Joo-Ho has put in consistent showings in defensive midfield for the Korean National Team under new manager Uli Stielike. Park provides excellent cover for the fullbacks and distributes the ball adequately.

He sometimes tends to be a little reckless in his challenges, but that flaw aside, the Mainz 05 player is the long-awaited ideal partner to Ki Sung-Yueng in the double-pivot. The two players understand each other on the pitch and look very comfortable and composed. Park can also play left-back.

Ki Sung-Yueng (Midfielder, 26 years old)

Without a doubt the single most important player to this Korean National Team, captain Ki Sung-Yueng is the puppet master of this national team. For a Korean national team who is keen on possession and likes building up patiently at the back, Ki is key (The pun is unavoidable).

The Swansea midfielder has completed the most passes in this Asian Cup and is among the most successful passers in the English Premier League. His accuracy, calmness and consistency are his most important assets.

Australia coach Ange Postecoglou should attempt to pressure the 26-year-old as much as possible; doing so would cut off Korea’s supply line, so to speak, and force them to resort to a more direct approach.

The front line

Son Heung-Min (Winger, 22 years old)

For someone of just 22 years of age, Son Heung-Min is getting an awful lot of attention. The media pressure and hype around him is intoxicating, and the crowd rises to his feet on his every touch. I called him the “One to Watch” in my preview for this Asian Cup, and that’s not wrong to say, as he is a pacey, skillful, dangerous winger with a blistering shot that has shades of Ronaldo.

Despite this, Son has been largely quiet this Asian Cup, as other teams have tried to cut off his space and have him tightly marked. Still, he has the ability to change a game as demonstrated by his brace in extra time against Uzbekistan in the quarter-finals.

SEE ALSO: Son Heung-Min among the 10 best young players to watch in the Bundesliga in 2015

Nam Tae-Hee (Attacking Midfielder, 23 years old)

Korea’s quest for an effective number 10 continues, as Nam Tae-Hee has continued to underwhelm this Asian Cup. After an injury to apparent first-choice number ten, Koo Ja-Cheol, Nam stepped in.

Known (rather harshly) as the “Middle East Messi”, since he plies his trade for Qatari side Al-Lekhwiya, Nam is usually a creative number ten who is actively involved in the attack. Unfortunately, that form has not carried over in the international stage and Nam can’t seem to find the back of the net to save his life.

Lee Keun-Ho (Winger, 29 years old)

Started the tournament up top, before moving to the left or behind the striker, and now playing on the right, the former AFC Player of the Year has had a decline in form in recent years. The reason for this is simple – instead of making a move to Europe, Lee Keun-Ho had to complete his obligatory two-year military service in the Korean Army.

His only football came with the Army team in the Korean second-tier. Since the completion of his duties for the fatherland a couple months ago, Lee is working hard to return to form.

Now plying his trade in the Middle East, Lee is a tireless runner who loves to roam the channels. His finishing, however, often leaves much to be desired.

Lee Jung-Hyup (Striker, 23 years old)

The Korean media have dubbed Lee Jung-Hyup “Cinderella”, as he truly is the surprise story of this team. Uncapped and virtually unknown before his call-up to this tournament, Lee himself was surprised at his selection to the national team. Uli Stielike had only seen the 23-year-old play in person during an in-house friendly at a training camp.

The soldier currently playing football at Sangju Sangmu, the Army team, is a tall centre-forward being utilised, as was indicated in pre-tournament reports, as a target man. Despite this, he has had his off days in the air, and is neither the fastest nor the most technically-gifted striker out there.

However, as we saw in the semi-finals, Lee’s height can be a major asset, scoring a goal on a set-piece and providing an assist. It is also not by accident that he has three goals already this month for the national team.

He’s adequate position-wise and isn’t afraid to make runs – making him a very unlikely solution to South Korea’s centre-forward dilemma.

For more coverage of the 2015 Asian Cup (and much more), follow Just Football on Twitter:

Tim Lee is a new writer for Just Football covering the Asian game. Follow Tim on Twitter @korfan12. Cover photo courtesy of the Republic of Korea.

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