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K League Coach: Korea vs Honduras

South Korea 2-0 Honduras Report K League Coach
With all eyes now on the forthcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, Shin Tae-yong has three friendlies to assess his players and decide upon strategies for the three group games ahead. Having suffered injuries to a number of important players of late there is a lot of work to be done.
(Image via Reuters)

Game Information

Team: Korean National Team
Opposition: Honduras
Date: May 28th 2018
Competition: International Friendly
Number of report: 2

Match Overview


Korea were able to dominate Honduras and ran out deserved winners. Korea dominated the flow of the game and possession and were rarely threatened by a Honduras team with little to play for having failed to qualify for the World Cup. After sitting back in the first half against Poland, Korea turned in a much more impressive second half, pressing higher up the field. This would form the basis of the approach against Honduras. Though to a lesser degree this time, it was Shin's halftime adjustments that were key to helping the team improve their performance and, this time, come away as victors.

Line Up

Starting Line Up
Korea began the game in a 4-4-2 formation, unlike the 5-4-1 used in the first half against Poland. This allowed Korea to not only have more options when playing forward but also to press the Hondurans when they were in possession in their own half.


Korea's starting attacking movement

When in possession, both Lee Seung-woo and Lee Chung-yong, playing on the flanks, would tuck inside. This created room for the Korean full-backs to advance and take responsibility for providing attacking width. Son wants the ball to feet so would drop off and help create numerical advantages in the middle of the park, and give the centre-backs and holding midfielders several forward passing options. Hwang Hee-chan would often stay high and was tasked with running into channels and looking for direct passes through or over the Honduran defence.


A narrow compact high press
Having numbers forward meant that, when there was a breakdown in play, Korea could hunt in packs to regain possession; this strategy lead directly to the second goal. Korea would form a very compact narrow block, sliding across the field. They aimed to recover the ball or force an error as soon as possible, giving up space on the far side with the plan of disrupting Honduras before they had the opportunity to switch and exploit the space.

High Press Outcomes


Footage from KBS and KFA

When we break down the outcomes of Korea's pressure we see how they were able to maintain play in the Honduras half and dominate possession. Korea were winning the ball back early and mounting more attacks due to the success they had pressing from the front. Korea were able to apply pressure in the Honduras half to either create a turnover, a press that resulted in Korea directly regaining possession (marked in green) or a forced error, a press that lead to Honduras misplacing a pass or playing a long inaccurate clearance giving the ball back to Korea.

1st half high press outcomes
The high press strategy resulted in 10 direct turnovers of play, as displayed in green, in the Honduras half, along with 12 forced errors (orange) in the first half. This created sustained pressure for Korea, not allowing Honduras to build any meaningful attacks and allowing Korea more and more opportunities to create attacks of their own.

2nd half high press outcomes
The second half saw nine direct turnovers and three forced errors coming from Korea's press. This reduction in success came from Honduras now taking much less time when on the ball. The first half had put Honduras on the back foot and they now looked to play out long to their target man as soon as possible. It can also be in part to the decreased tempo of the game once Korea went two goals ahead. From then on, Korea were able to manage the game and keep the ball with their on defenders for longer, rather than playing riskier, more creative forward passes that may need to be counter pressed. One of these turnovers by Lee Seung-woo was a huge factor in Son's opening goal.

2nd Half Shape

At halftime, Shin adjusted the team's shape but continued with the high pressing strategy. Initially before making any substitutions. Lee Chung-yong was asked to tuck in from the right-hand side and form a slightly lopsided midfield three. This allowed Lee Seung-woo to push on from his wide left position and play much closer to the striker. It almost became a midfield diamond.

Adjusted midfield shape for the start of the second half
10 minutes into the second half the first, and most tactically significant, substitutions were made. Kim Min-woo came in for a direct swap at left-back, and Moon Seon-min came on to replace Lee Chung-yong. Lee had taken a slight knock just before half-time so it is not clear if this change was planned, a result of the knock, or a lack of match fitness. These changes saw Korea again alter their shape, now playing more of a 4-3-3 / 4-2-3-1 hybrid, letting Lee Seung-woo drift where he wanted.

3rd attacking shape used by Korea
Son, Lee, and Hwang were now rotating roles and provided a fluid attacking threat, with Moon tending to stick more to the left-hand side, though his goal came when he rotated with Hwang.

Selection Analysis:

9. Lee Seung-woo

Many have questioned the inclusion of Lee Seung-woo. While he is undoubtedly a talented young player, he has yet to really show that at a senior level with Verona or the Korean National Team. At the start of the game, he struggled to get involved. He seemed to have an issue getting on the ball when being asked to drift in off the flank and seemed to have little chemistry with Hong Chul at left-back. When he did get on the ball in the first half he was willing to run at players and seemed capable of creating chances. After half-time he played in a much more central role and came to life. He was able to get involved in far more of Korea's attacks and looked a real threat. It takes a brave coach to place a young inexperienced talent at the centre of a team's attack, but it seems that is the role that suits Lee best, and expecting him to adapt to a new role out wide and still have an impact at this level while so inexperienced may be setting him up for failure.

14. Hwang Hee-chan

A willing runner who looks to link attacks and get in behind defences. Hwang worked hard pressing the Honduran back line and showed the ability to beat players one-on-one. Not an out-and-out goal scorer but he has the ability to work well with Son. He did well in creating the second goal.

11. Lee Chung-yong

Lee has hardly featured at Crystal Palace this season but his experience showed in the first half. He was much more comfortable with his his role than Lee Seung-woo on the other flank. Going into a World Cup with question marks over several positions, Lee Chung-yong's experience and tactical versatility could be key.

19. Hong Chul / 17. Kim Min-woo

The left-back spot for the opening game against Sweden seems wide open. Hong played over half the game and showed a willingness to get up and down the flank. He was capable on the ball and understood the role within the system well, as did Kim. However, Hong had a few opportunities to deliver into the box but the final ball was lacking. Kim didn't have the same number of opportunities to impress in the final third so neither player can feel that the game against Honduras really advanced their claims. If Shin uses this system he will want to see quality final balls from the full backs

20. Go Yo-han

It was a similar story for Go on the right-hand side. The FC Seoul man was a very willing runner and comfortable in possession, however never really executed any decisive passes into or around the final third. Within this system the full backs become the spare men in the attack and see a lot of the ball, they must be able to provide opportunities for those in front of goal, and Go didn't do that last night.

10. Moon Seon-min

Moon came off the bench to score the second goal of the night and showed how his speed is not only a threat when attacking but can be very effective in counter-pressing. He reacted well to a turnover in the Honduran third and began the counter-press that resulted in the opening goal. However, it was his poor, chipped pass just behind Son that initially gave the ball away. Moon may find he is best used as an impact substitute during the World Cup.


Moving Forward

  • Koreas World Cup group of Germany, Sweden, and Mexico offers three very different challenges. The game against Honduras showed another tactical approach that can be taken and this flexibility could be key if Korea are to get past the group stage.
  • Shin once again showed his ability to tweak things at half-time and have an impact on the team's performance. He recently stated that Sweden should not feel too comfortable about being able to predict the Korean strategy and this performance reinforced that.
  • The high press system not only reaped its rewards, but it also seems to bring the best out of some of Korea's key players. Korea have struggled to break out of deep defensive positions and threaten opponents. This high press approach gets key players on the ball in meaningful areas and plays to their athletic strengths. This could ask some serious questions of both Mexico and Sweden.
  • The central midfield pairing of Jung Woo-young and Ju Se-jong lacks creativity. Even with more men forward, there were times, especially in the first half, where Honduras were able to sit in a low block and force long. 
  • Honduras asked very few questions of the Korea back line. This fixture did little to answer questions regarding who starts in the back four.
  • Though Korea were able to dictate the game and come out 2-0 victors, they still didn't create a great deal of clear-cut chances against a poor Honduras side with little motivation. Korea must either look to improve service from their full-backs and get more from their centre midfielders or they will need to be deadly in front of goal this summer.


    If you want to hear more thoughts you can now follow the K League Coach on Twitter

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