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World Cup Preview: South Korea Vs Germany

World Cup Preview: Korea Vs Germany
Korea's final match of World Cup Group F will take place this Wednesday when the Taeguk Warriors go head-to-head with current World Champions Germany in in Kazan. Shin Tae-yong's men head into this extremely difficult match bottom of the group and without a single point. However, the Red Devils are still alive and can make it through to the Round of 16 if they beat Germany and if Mexico beat Sweden. Germany also head into this match needing a win and so, with a lot riding on Wednesday's decisive clash, Editor Paul Neat spoke with ESPN FC Columnist Michael Yokhin.

Overview

From Soccerway.com
Both Germany and Korea need to win to advance to the Round of 16. For Germany, a win sees them through; a point against Korea and a draw between Mexico and Sweden would also see the World Champions through if they score more goals than the Swedes. For Korea, if Mexico beat Sweden and Korea beat Germany whilst scoring two goals, Korea will advance.

Team News

Both Park Jooho and captain Ki Seungyeung are ruled out through injury. Ki suffered a calf strain in the defeat to Mexico and is expected to be out for around two weeks. Park, meanwhile, has a hamstring problem after the former Borussia Dortmund defender overstretched whilst trying to prevent the ball from going out for a throw-in.

For Germany, Sebastian Rudy is a doubt. The Bayern Munich midfielder is suffering from a nasal bone fracture which was picked up in the win over Sweden. Rudy's Bayern teammate and central defender Matt Hummels is back in full training and is expected to feature against Korea and will replace the suspended Jerome Boateng who was shown a straight red against Sweden.

Michael Yokhin Asks, Paul Neat Answers

Michael Yokhin: Do Korea really believe they can achieve a result?

Paul Neat: It's all been a bit emotional amongst the players since the Mexico game, the defeat was tough to take. We all saw Son Heungmin's tears but Jang Hyunsoo, the centre back who was at fault for the penalty, was also tearful in the dressing room afterwards. President Moon Jae-in was in attendance that night and gave the players a post-match team talk to lift their spirits; he told them that there is still one more match to play, it's not over and that they can do it. I think his presence will have helped the players to believe in themselves.

The captain, Ki Seungyeung, is injured for the game but he was seen in training rallying the troops ahead of Wednesday's game, reaffirming to some of the less experienced players like Moon Seonmin that it's not over yet. The team know that they have to do absolutely everything to try and get a positive result and until someone tells them t otherwise, they will still believe that they can - World Champions or not.

MY: Do the Korean fans want a revenge for 1994 and 2002?

PN: I think 1994 is seen as ancient history now and instead still cling to 2002, but not in a vengeful way. Korea surpassed many people's expectations by reaching the semi-finals on 2002 and so there are still fond memories of that tournament. The group they were handed was extremely tough, perhaps even more so than Group F in this World Cup, and were seen as heroes for getting out of the group and then to the latter stages.

There's no shame in bowing out to a team like Germany, especially for, at the time, relative minnows. Korean fans still hark back to the glory days of 2002, reminiscing about beating the likes of Portugal, Italy, and Spain. Wednesday's game will be purely about the present and potentially the future of Korean football. If the Taeguk Warriors can pull off a major upset it could be seen as the greatest yeokjeon (역전 - comeback) for many a year, perhaps ever, and should help to reignite the fans' enthusiasm once again

MY: Who could be the secret weapon against the Germans?

PN:  One player in particular who people outside of Asia might not be aware of is Lee Jaesung from Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Jeonbuk are the current K League Champions and Lee has been a pivotal part of Jeonbuk's team. In recent seasons with Jeonbuk, Lee Jaesung has won three K League titles, an AFC Champions League title and was the K League Classic (now K League 1) MVP for last year. At 25 years-old he is primed for a move to Europe and is definitely in the same bracket as the likes of Kwon Changhoon who made the move to Nice in Ligue 1 last year, and Suk Hyunjun who has played for a number of European clubs.

Lee Jaesung can play anywhere across the midfield and is effective wherever he plays. For Korea he is usually deployed as a right winger so, dependent on Shin Tae-yong's system, he could be on the right side of a front three or at right wing in a midfield four.

MY: Score Prediction?

PN: My heart says a valiant 1-0 Korea win, logically, I can't see past a Germany victory: Korea 0-2 Germany.

Paul Neat Asks, Michael Yokhin 1 Answers

Paul Neat: Of course, Germany made their way to Russia as the current World Champions after beating Argentina in extra time in Rio four years ago. ‘Die Mannschaft’ were heavy favourites to top the group once the draw was made, but what about the tournament as a whole? Does Joachim Löw and his team have it in them to go all the way again?

Michael Yakhin:  Yes, Germany can never be underestimated, and clearly have the potential to win the tournament. However, the first two games showed that they have very significant problems, and are arguably in the deepest crisis since Löw took over in 2004 (as an assistant and than as the coach in 2006). They were outplayed by Mexico, and than were very close to elimination before Kroos scored that late winner against Sweden. Tactically, they are in the worst shape for a very long time, and many key players, including Müller, Khedira and Özil are out of sorts. And yet - once again - you must never underestimate Germany, and the drama against Sweden will make them feel very confident.

PN: Tactics and formation wise, Germany tended to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation during qualification but were known to opt for a back three if the opposition were aiming to sit deep and frustrate. With Korea perhaps looking at being tight at the back and hitting on the counter for this do-or-die final group game, how do you foresee Löw approaching Wednesday’s game?

MY: I think Löw will go for a very attack minded 4-2-3-1. Without the suspended Boateng, he can't switch to three centre-backs, but what he can do is field only attack-minded midfielders. He must win this game to qualify for the next round.

PN: Son Heungmin and Koo Jacheol both have Bundesliga experience; both are key players for Korea – Son in particular. Do you think Germany will be wary of Son, especially given how well he has played for Tottenham in recent seasons? Also, how wary do you think Germany will be of the pair given their familiarity with the German style of play.

MY:  Naturally, those are the best known Korean players for the German public, and they are also leading players for Korea - especially Son. Son is the main threat, and will be taken very seriously, regardless of his Bundesliga past.

PN: Score Prediction?

MY: Germany absolutely must win, so any other prediction would be foolish, but we have to remember that France, Italy and Spain went out at the group stage when arriving as World Champions. Korea have an opportunity to write their names in history and send another World Champions home early.

What the Coach Says

"There are two possible options for Shin Tae-yong, but whichever route Korea take it will require 90 minutes of focus and co-ordination from the entire group."
The K League Coach

Mexico Match Analysis: here
Germany Scouting Report: here

What the Pro Says

"Korea has a good team with some excellent players like Son and Koo but I think, especially after Germany's loss in the first game, there is no chance for Korea to beat them because Germany has to win now. I feel really sorry for that because I wanted to see Germany and Korea in the next round."

Full interview: here

What the Media Say

"Everyone thinks "okay, we will win two or three-nil", but I think it will be a very tough game."

Germany Football Commentator Tom Bartels. Full interview: here

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