The South Korean national soccer team (A) ended October’s FIFA A Match Week with back-to-back wins. The A’s hosted Tunisia and Vietnam, and defeated them 4-0 and 6-0, respectively. Head coach Jürgen Klinsmann was pleased with the way October ended. Klinsmann’s squad will face Singapore-China in November’s A Match Week and the second World Cup Asia qualifier, before turning their attention to the Asian Cup in Qatar next January.
Lee Kang-in’s debut A-match goal is Klinsmann’s golden key
The October A squad was the closest to full strength since Klinsmann’s arrival. In September, Lee Kang-in and Jung Woo-young were unavailable for selection, and in June, Kim Min-jae missed basic military training. With their return, the attacking options became more potent. Kim Min-jae, who quickly adapted to Bayern Munich and became an established starter, shut down all opposition counterattacks in Tunisia, as well as sending sharp penetrating passes forward. With so many attacking options at his disposal, Klinsmann opted to rest Son Heung-min, who was nursing a groin injury with Tottenham, against Tunisia.
In his absence, it was Lee Kang-in who stepped up to spearhead the attack. Lee, who hadn’t scored in 14 matches for South Korea, scored his first goal for the national team with a left-footed free kick in the 10th minute of the second half against Tunisia. A frustrating first-half attack that was stifled by Tunisia’s lack of organization – the same team that defeated France at the last World Cup in Qatar with a strong back five – was transformed by Lee’s performance in the second half. Two minutes after scoring his A-Match debut, Lee completed his hat-trick with a smooth secondary move after an aggressive contest with the opposition defense. In the 21st minute of the second half, he delivered the ball precisely to the head of Kim Min-jae on a corner kick, leading to an own goal. With the exception of Hwang Ui-jo’s goal in stoppage time, Lee Kang-in was directly involved in all three goals.
Until now, Lee has not had a clear position and tactical role in the A team, but Klinsmann has at least addressed this issue. He uses Lee on the right flank as an ‘opposite-footed winger’ who dribbles and shoots through the center. In particular, Klinsmann trusts Lee’s precise left-footed kick and has made him the exclusive set-piece kicker, which is a key to breaking down opposing defenses. After opening the scoring against Tunisia with a direct free kick that left the opposition’s defense floundering, Lee Kang-in also helped Kim Min-jae open the scoring against Vietnam with a corner kick in the fifth minute. Lee’s left foot will be the golden key to breaking down dense defenses when opponents employ similar strategies at the Asian Cup in the future.
After being rested against Tunisia, Son Heung-min played the full game against Vietnam. The Europeans stood out on this day. Kim Min-jae opened the scoring, and Hwang Hee-chan, who recently jumped to fourth in Premier League scoring, added a picturesque goal. Cho Kyu-sung induced an own goal, and Son Heung-min was responsible for the fourth goal. Lee Kang-in and Jeong Woo-young found the back of the net later on. The European side’s synergy is evident in the fact that they are all on the scoresheet. With the recent gold medal win at the Hangzhou Asian Games, there is a strong desire among young players who receive military service benefits to make their way to Europe. This creates a virtuous cycle where talented young players can continue to make their way to Europe with the A team or in the K League.
As the Klinsmanns appear to be getting back on track with their overwhelming individual performances, the rivalry between Japan and South Korea, both of which have a “golden generation,” is naturally on the rise. Recently, the Japanese national soccer team has become a global phenomenon. Starting with the A-Match in June, the team has won five consecutive A-Match matches with four or more goals, and in September, the team traveled to Europe and won 4-1 and 4-2 victories against powerhouses such as Germany and Turkey, respectively, and climbed to 19th in the FIFA rankings. Having already caused a sensation by defeating Germany and Spain at the last World Cup in Qatar, Japan has become an unquestioned global powerhouse.
In September, it was frustrating for South Korea to have to watch. With Klinsmann’s controversies both on and off the field, and a stagnant performance, things took an interesting turn in October. Japan continued their September form with a 4-1 win over Canada in their first game of the month, but their prolific scoring came to a halt with a 2-0 win over Tunisia, a team that South Korea dominated 4-0. South Korea, on the other hand, scored 10 goals in two games in October, which opened up the offense. It was a mix of old and new, with players like Son Heung-min and Hwang Hee-chan showing off their peak form at the highest level, and players like Lee Kang-in and Jung Woo-young who have recently perfected their game at the age-group level.
Japan has the depth of A-list stars, but South Korea has the superstars
What would happen if Japan and South Korea, two nations that were considered the class of Asia at the last World Cup with their golden generations reaching the round of 16 side by side, met head-to-head now? Based on recent history alone, Japan is the clear favorite. Back-to-back 3-0 wins by Japan in 2021 and 2022 at the A team level, and back-to-back 3-goal wins by Japan at each age group level, have sent Korean soccer into a tailspin. Recently, the U-20 and Asian Games teams have shaken off some of the trauma with back-to-back wins against Japan.
However, it’s important to look at the recent results between the two national teams in a different light. In 2021, South Korea did not have the full participation of the European side, including Son Heung-min, due to COVID-19. The 2022 meeting was in the East Asian Cup, which also lacked a European squad. South Korea’s powerful spine of Son Heung-min, Hwang Hee-chan, Lee Kang-in, Lee Jae-sung, and Kim Min-jae hasn’t been utilized in recent matches against Korea. As the two October A-Match matches proved, when these Europeans are on their game, the level of play is different.
Japan’s biggest strength is their ability to double-squad with thick Europeans. They fielded a completely different lineup against Germany and Turkey, but both were victorious. They are organized and their attacking tactics, which are based on precise passing, are at a high level. However, the presence of key players such as Mitoma (Brighton), Endo (Liverpool), Gubo (Real Sociedad), Kamada (AC Milan), and Tomiyasu (Arsenal) does not match that of Son Heung-min, Kim Min-jae, and Lee Kang-in. The difference is that South Korea is definitely stronger in world-class superstars, while Japan has a greater depth of A-list stars.
In the end, the closest these two all-time greats can go head-to-head is at the Asian Cup. Japan is in Group D with Indonesia-Iraq-Vietnam, while Korea is in Group E with Bahrain-Jordan-Malaysia and could only meet in the final if they top their group. The two countries, which are clearly separated from their Asian rivals such as Australia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, will be able to be properly evaluated when they meet at the pinnacle of the Asian Cup final. 토스카지노 도메인