Korean national team’s frontline experiment continues

November 18, 2013

Hong contemplates how to use striker Kim Shin-wook against Russia

By Jung Min-ho

Despite his unimpressive performance in international matches, Ulsan Hyundai striker Kim Shin-wook returned to Korea’s national football team. The 1.96-meter forward is likely to be tested again in partnership with winngers Lee Chung-yong and Son Heung-min in a friendly against Russia today. / Yonhap

Despite his unimpressive performance in international matches, Ulsan Hyundai striker Kim Shin-wook returned to Korea’s national football team. The 1.96-meter forward is likely to be tested again in partnership with winngers Lee Chung-yong and Son Heung-min in a friendly against Russia today. (Yonhap)

Let’s get one thing straight: Korea doesn’t have a true, match-winner who can dictate defenses and single-handedly carry the team on world football’s biggest stage.

Still, manager Hong Myung-bo hopes that the combination of speedy wide attackers and towering striker Kim Shin-wook will be good enough to compensate for the lack of transcendent individual talent at next year’s World Cup in Brazil.

Hong’s preparations for Brazil will face what is expected to be a revealing test tonight when the Taeguk Warriors clash with Russia in a friendly in Dubai.

Korea is coming off an inspiring 2-1 win against Switzerland in Seoul, Friday, when Kim linked up decently with wingers like Lee Chung-yong and Son Heung-min, and definitely made some big plays on the pitch.

An impressive showing against the Russians will strengthen Kim’s case he is the answer to Hong’s frustrating striker search, which for both the coach and the player would matter more than the outcome itself.

Kim, a 1.96-meter striker who looks like a basketball power forward, certainly has the looks of a traditional center forward who could man the lone striker position in Hong’s favored 4-2-3-1 formation.

However, the Ulsan Hyundai player has so far failed to extend his prolific scoring streak in the domestic pro league to international competition. Still, Hong seems more comfortable with Kim than other options like Park Chu-young, the struggling Arsenal player whose European football career seems to be winding down in Arsene Wenger’s doghouse.

Hong is hoping that Europe-based players like Lee and Son, who seem fully entrenched in his starting lineup, could make things easier for Kim on the frontline.

National football team manager Hong Myung-bo

National football team manager Hong Myung-bo

Winger Lee Keun-ho, who has scored 18 goals in international matches, adds another wrinkle to Hong’s attack with his direct, bullish style.

Russia, ranked 19th in the world, is expected to give a stern test on whether Kim’s attacking partnership with Son and Lee will be effective enough at the World Cup level.

Russia is at the top of Group F in the European qualifying games with seven wins, two losses and one draw, scoring 20 goals in those 10 matches while allowing just five.

“Coming from behind to beat such a strong opponent showed that our team now has some strength and confidence,” Hong said at Incheon International Airport, Saturday. “Since this will be our last international match of the year, I hope it can help our players build even more confidence.”

Despite his comment, the good news is that Hong learned winning at friendly games shouldn’t be his goal as manager after he saw what happened at the 2002 World Cup after Korea lost big against Czech and France in friendlies.

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