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K League Coach: Korea vs Bolivia Analysis

K League Coach: Korea vs Bolivia Analysis

As the World Cup draws ever nearer, Korea faced off against Bolivia in their penultimate friendly. With questions still surrounding the shape the team will play against Sweden, as well as a which players will be selected to start, fans of the national team were hoping for insight into Shin's thoughts.
(Image via The KFA)

Game Information

Team: Korean National Team
Opposition: Bolivia
Date: June 7th 2018
Competition: International Friendly
Number of report: 4

Match Overview

The game was ultimately a drab affair, drifting to a 0-0 finish. Kim Shin-wook had the best opportunities for Korea but they would have surely hoped to pose more of a threat to this Bolivian B team. Bolivia offered little going forward and the game lacked any real intensity.

Line Up

The game was used to give an opportunity to some fringe players, most noticeably Kim Shin-wook and Moon Seon-min. It was also a chance for Lee Seung-woo to continue his development and integration into the full national team.

The Intention

Shin Tae-yong decided to return to a back four system that the team has looked far more comfortable with. Ki Seung-yeung returned to midfield and was asked to influence the game from a slightly more advanced position than against Bosnia. Lee Seung-woo and Moon Seon-min were tasked with getting forward and supporting the two strikers and, along with the fullbacks, to deliver balls that would make use of Kim Shin-wook's height.

Attacking Shape

A fairly standard 4-4-2 system was used, with Moon and Lee tucking inside to make room for the fullbacks to advance. Both fullbacks tended to play slightly deeper than the wingers and only occasionally got into the final third and near the by-line. Lee would look to come in from the left and take on defenders and create play as he did against Honduras.

Defensive Shape

Korea opted to sit back in a low block, only pressing once Bolivia reach the halfway line. Two distinct lines of four were created and the strikers would press centrally. Bolivian defenders were allowed a lot of time on the ball with the main aim of the Korean set up to be to deny forward progress and force play wide.

Korea low block in a 4-4-2

Korea struggled during the build-up phase. They dominated possession and territory, with Bolivia happy to give up the ball and focused on defending within their own half, but failed to create real chances of note besides two Kim Shin-wook headers. Part of this issue can be related to Kim's style of play. Looking at his touches during the first half offers an insight into the role he played.

Kim Shin-wook tended to get involved once he was in the final third. Despite Korea sitting deep and defending at the halfway line, Kim only once touched the ball while fulfilling this duty. He also didn't offer much in terms of quickly building counters once Korea had won the ball. One reason for sitting deep is to spring quick counters into the space behind the opposition once they have advanced, Kim offers little when the team sits deep.

The Jeonbuk Hyundai man showed the threat he offers in the box when given good delivery and also working as a target man for long balls into the final third. However, at an international level, having a player who can not get involved in the build-up stage is a big ask for the rest of the team. If Korea face compact deep defences or wish to sit deep themselves and break quickly, Kim Shin-wook may not be able to help.

Little movement to break downthe Bolivian midfield

A regular issue faced during the build-up phase was a lack of movement and threat between the two Bolivian defensive lines. Korea were forced to either play long direct balls to Kim Shin-wook or to play wide to the fullbacks who would then look long to the former Ulsan man. This can be an issue when playing in a 4-4-2 where one striker is only looking for long direct balls and resulted in rather predictable build-up play they failed to trouble Bolivia.

Shin's decision to sit in a low press also caused issues. As with the first half against Poland, Korea struggled to break out of this shape, and though they were able to get on the ball more often than the first half against Poland, they still struggled to capitalise on the space in behind the opponents. Sitting deep also allowed Bolivia to control the tempo of the game and kill any momentum that Korea may have built. It was not uncommon to see the Bolivian back four sitting in their own half playing the ball patiently across the back allowing them to set the tempo.

Bolivia happy to keep the ball and slow the game down

An issue that was not exposed by Bolivia, but would certainly be shown up against better teams at the World Cup, was Korea's poor spacing when sitting deep in a 4-4-2. There was often a large gap between the defensive and midfield line that stronger teams, with more talented attackers, would exploit. Without dedicated defensive midfielders Korea failed to pick up players that drifted between lines.

Koreas 4-4-2 was not that compact and left big gaps for Bolivian players to drop into

Though the game lacked a competitive edge there are a few things that can be taken from the performance. Kim Shin-wook and Moon Seon-min look like they will be more likely to find themselves coming off the bench in Russia. The attacking threat will rely on the excellent Son Heung-min and the unpredictable and inconsistent Lee Seung-woo and Hwang Chan-hee. These are two talented players who still need time to develop but are capable of troubling Sweden and Mexico and helping during the build-up phase of play.

Korea must also do more in terms of setting the tempo and dictating play, they once again struggled to break out from their low press and threaten the opposition and if Korea are to win these sort of games, they can not allow teams to happily run down the clock and conserve energy by playing safe and keeping men behind the ball even when in possession.

Moving Forward

  • Though they were untested, it seems Korea will start with a back four at the World Cup
  • Ki will be in midfield where he has more opportuntiy to help the attack and punish opponents
  • Kim Shin-wook does not help Korea when playing a low press
  • Shin Tae-yong will probably flip between a high or low press by the opponent and in-game situation
  • Hwang and Lee lack consistency in the final third due to their age and experience but have the ability to trouble opponents at the World Cup and are much more suited to breaking out from a low press or applying high pressure than Kim Shin-wook.
If you want to hear more thoughts on Korean's tactical decisions ahead of the World Cup you can now follow the K League Coach on Twitter

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