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K League Coach World Cup Analysis: Korea 2-0 Germany

K League Coach World Cup Analysis: South Korea 2-0 Germany
On Wednesday Korea valiantly crashed out of the World Cup after a 2-0 victory over Germany wasn't enough to see the Taeguk Warriors advance to the Round of 16. But, with the Germany fixture deemed as the most difficult of the three, what did Shin Tae-yong and his players do to ensure of a historic victory to beat and knockout the reigning World Champions. The K League Coach, fresh back from Kazan, takes a detailed look at Korea's tactical approach and in-game adjustments. 
(Image via Reuters)

Game Information

Team: Korean National Team
Opposition: Germany
Date: June 27th 2018
Competition: World Cup Round 3
Number of report: 6

Match Overview

Korea were able to record a great win against the current holders and one of the favourites for this summer's tournament. With Korea on the back foot for the majority of the game they were able to soak up a lot of German pressure, and thanks for their goalkeeper who kept the German's at bay, keeping a cleansheet for the first time this summer in the process. Though Germany took a large number of shots, Korea were able to restrict them to only a few real clear-cut opportunities. In the second half, the game opened up as Germany went looking for that all important goal that would see them through but Korea were able to take advantage on the counter-attack.

Line Up

Shin Tae-yongopted to line up in a 4-4-2 with several selection changes. The first was forced upon him through the injury to captain Ki Sung-yeung and then most noticeably Hwang Hee-chan was dropped to the bench. Moon Seon-minkept his place in midfield after coming in to face Mexico. This time Moon would be asked to play on the left-hand side of midfield and given the task of tracking the advances of Bayern Munich right-back Joshua Kimmich.

Defensive Structure

Though the player selection indicated a 4-4-2, when out of possession Korea actually morphed their shape as they were pushed deeper towards their own goal. Korea tended to set up their initial block just inside the German half in a 4-4-2 shape as seen below.

As they were pushed back by Germany, Koo Ja-cheol would drop into the midfield line making a 4-5-1 shape. This made it more difficult for Germany to penetrate centrally and forced play wide to the opposition full-backs. As shown below this is where Korea would often confront the German advance, trying to use the touchline as an additional defender to hinder any rhythm that was being built up.

The last adjustment would see Korea drop another player back one line, creating a 5-4-1. This was used whenever it looked as if Germany were able to play or carry the ball into the final third. Below, Korea have been able to force playback after defending deep in their 5-4-1 shape.

Koreas defensive movement was very disciplined and restricted Germany to play in areas where Korea felt safe. It could be suggested that Korea also decided to interrupt the flow of the German team through a series of small fouls, often nudging or tripping players so the referee would award a free kick. This break in play allowed Korea to get back into their shape and prepare to defend.

Offensive Shape

The defensive structure set out by Shin, and ability and willingness to retain possession of the German team, meant that in the first half, Korea had few opportunities to establish an organised attack. Though they threatened the German goal, this came through set pieces or counter attacks.

Transitional Pass

As seen in previous games, Korea struggled with their passing in the moment of transition. On four occasions Korea won the ball and immediately returned it to Germany with their first forward pass. A mixture of a low number of players being forward and poor passing hampered Korea's attacking threat and limited the number of times they could threaten in the first half.

Above is an example fo Korea defending in their 5-4-1 shape. They intercept a German ball and quickly look forward to exploit the lack of opposition players back. However, the forward pass is over-hit and Korea return to defensive duties.

Playing Out From The Back

Korea also failed to build attacks when regaining the ball deep and being given the opportunity to start from their goalkeeper. When playing short Germany were able to cause several turnovers due to the Korean back line's discomfort on the ball and lack of movement in front of them to create passing lanes into midfield.

In the clip above, Yun Young-sun takes a poor touch and has an awkward body shape when receiving from centre back partner Kim Young-gwon. The ball gets caught under his feet and he takes several touches to turn. With no option centrally it is clear where he will now play the ball and the German press is able to stop Korea in their own defensive third.

Second Half Change of Shape

For the second half Shin Tae-yong adjusted the team shape to a 4-2-3-1. This allowed players to be better positioned for the counter-attack, rather than being pinned deep in the 5-4-1 that Korea had used when defending their own third. Combined with the Germans' need for a goal and pushing more men further forward, this created a much more open and end-to-end game.

It involved obvious risk and Germany were able to create a couple of very good opportunities immediately. Thanks to a wonderful save from Cho Hyun-woo the score was kept level as Korea adjusted to handling the increased German attacking intensity while in a 4-2-3-1 shape.

The new approaches from both sides helped Korea when trying to break out. Having players further forward at the moment of turnover rather than pinned deep mean players could make much more effective runs to start a counter-attack. The additional space left by the Germans also made it easier for Korea to execute the first forward pass in transition.

As seen above, Korea were able to break out from the edge of their own box and find the run of Moon Seon-min. Though Moon Seon-min has been subject to criticism from some fans, it is this ability to break out on the counter, as well as working the other way tracking runners, that sees Shin select him. There were several occasions in the second half where Korea looked threatening.

It is important to note that, despite being able to transition out and threaten the German defense, Korea struggled with the final ball. This is a criticism that has been aimed at the whole team, but particularly Moon.

For all the improved threat it is telling that Korea's goals came from a set piece and a unique scenario with Neuer caught up field.


  • Korea defended well; disciplined positioning and a willingness to put their body in the way of danger restricted German chances
  • Cho Hyun-woo has the potential to be an excellent goalkeeper and put in a great performance.
  • Korea showed that with a little more time and space they are able to pick out the transitional pass, something they will not always be given at international tournaments.
  • With space to run into, Korea showed they can be an attacking threat.
  • At this level of competition, the final ball is often not good enough. This applies to both penetrating passes and crosses.
  • Korea showed an ability to play different systems but looked much more balanced in a 4-2-3-1.
Disclaimer: All images and footage are included under the Copyright Act of 1976  for fair use such as for purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. 

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