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Preview: South Korea vs Senegal

South Korea and Senegal go toe to toe on Monday the 11th of June in what will be both teams final warm-up game before they take part in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Our Scott Whitelock is joined by Sandals For Goalposts Editor in Chief, Salim Masoud Said, to discuss each nation's squad selection and the deficiencies that have plagued their preparation for Russia. 

Scott Asks, Salim Answers

Scott: How did Senegal make it to the World Cup? Was it smooth sailing or did they encounter problems along the way?

Salim: In the end, it was a pretty simple qualification process. The only problem along the way was a 2-1 defeat to South Africa that was replayed after the referee was found guilty of unlawfully influencing the match and banned for life. Senegal qualified unbeaten with just three goals conceded in six games; two of them coming away to Burkina Faso.

SW: Senegal's squad is full of well established, European based players and contains star names such as Sadio Mane (Liverpool) and Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli). Do you consider this to be a strong Senegal squad or are there some controversial absentees?

SS: I consider this to be a strong squad and it caused very little controversy when it was revealed by Aliou Cisse. The coach has known most of his best XI for a while and there are few Senegal players outside of the ones that are being picked that are causing serious shock waves.

SW: Senegal have now lost one and drawn three of their last four games, only registering two goals in the process. What do you consider to be the cause of Senegal's problems in front of goal?

SS: They just can't find a striker that will nail down that position for the national team. They have a bunch of strikers like Mame Biram Diouf, Moussa Sow, Diafra Sakho and Moussa Konate who all contribute when played but don't really take ownership of that position and make it their own. Another issue is the lack of creative midfielders in the team.

SW: With both teams needing a vital morale boosting victory, how do you think this game will play out?

SS: I think Aliou Cisse will still want to experiment and the players will be a slightly reserved as they want to be fit for the showpiece event. Cisse isn't a coach that panics and I think you always have to take friendly results with a pinch of salt. Winning does breed confidence though so Cisse will be hoping for that.

SW: Score Prediction?

SS: South Korea 1-1 Senegal

FIFA 18 Preview

Salim Asks, ScottAnswers

Salim: Son Heung-Min stands out in this team. Who is the second most important player after him and why?

Scott: Being the biggest names in Korean football, a lot rests on the shoulders of both Son Heung-min and Ki Sung-yueng. Son is the key provider and goalscorer for the team and most (if not all) attacks flow through him. However, having also been a key figure in the English Premier League, Ki is a household name in his native Korea and when the national team fail to perform, much of the blame is heaped squarely on the captain’s shoulders. So much so that following their 0-0 draw against Bolivia on Thursday, Ki was quoted as saying:

“I’ve always said something like, 'you can count on us we’ll do our best'. Now that I feel like I’ve become a liar and it’s breaking my heart”.

Outside of those two big names, much is expected of 25 year old Lee Jae-sung. The 2017 K League player of the year has had a meteoric rise over the last few years, and it is expected that he will complete a long talked about transfer to a European team after the World Cup. Often deployed directly behind the front two for his domestic team, it is likely that the midfielder will have to play from the right hand side for the national team. But opposition sides will still need to be wary of the play maker as he looks to cut in and create chances for his teammates.

SS: South Korea have had injuries to Kwon Chang-Hoon, Lee Keun-Ho and Kim Jin-Su. Does that mean some places are up for grabs in the starting XI?

SW: Shin Tae-yong’s tinkering in the recent warm up games might hint that not even he knows his best starting eleven or what formation they should lineup in.

After a promising, attacking performance against Honduras (they won 2-0) Shin infamously decided to trial a 3 back system, with central midfielder, Ki Sung-yueng, playing in the centre of defence. It was subsequently revealed that the team had only had two days of practicing the formation and it showed, as Korea were humbled at home by Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Son Heung-min, Ki Sung-yeong, Lee Jae-sung and Red Bull Salzburg forward, Hwang Hee-chan, all appear to be certain starters. But outside of those names nobody should be counting their chickens before they have hatched.

SS: Senegal are playing this friendly as they wanted to face opposition that was similar to Japan. How similar is South Korea's style to the Samurai Blue?

SW: They are a little similar in the way that they like to maintain possession and build attacks slowly. However, there are some differences between the two teams. Korea have recently been focusing on defending with a low block, with two banks of four to protect their goalkeeper, whilst Japan have been deploying a more fluid and attacking 3-4-3 formation. And whilst Korea have the star quality in Son Heung-min, this Japan squad is severely lacking in talent that can change a game single-handedly.

Japan's standing in Asian football has slowly been on the wain for a few years now and the common perception among followers of Japanese football is that this squad will struggle to pick up a single point at the World Cup.

SS: What's the most important issue for Shin Tae-yong to iron out in this game?

SW: Now is the time for Shin to stop his experimenting and focus on playing his first eleven that will be stepping out to face Sweden in 8 days time. However, Shin has already suggested that he will be trialing yet another different formation with Son Heung-min playing as a number 10 behind a front two of Kim Shin-wook and Hwang Hee-chan. Whether he does actually do that will never be known as the Korean FA have announced that only the final score and goalscorers will be announced after the conclusion of this behind closed doors friendly.

Korea's preparation has been muddled, poor and uninspiring, and expectations among the Korean public are at an all time low. Shin and his men desperately need to a win in this game to give them some sort of momentum as they edge closer to Russia. They won't get that with yet more needless tinkering and I hope that Shin Tae-yong will also see it that way.

SS: Score Prediction?

SW: South Korea 0-1 Senegal

We would like to thank Salim Said for joining us on this piece. Salim is the editor for Sandals For Goalposts, a website dedicated to African football news. 

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