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2019 U20 World Cup Preview: South Korea vs South Africa

Both South Korea and South Africa lost their opening fixtures, and with a tough final game coming up, their upcoming match is a must-win if either side wants to progress beyond the group stage at the Poland 2019 Under-20 World Cup. K League United’s Korea national team correspondent Steve Price spoke with Joe Crann from Soccer Laduma about the match.

Steve asks, Joe answers

Steve Price: How did South Africa get on against Argentina? What went right and what went wrong?

Joe Crann: South Africa’s opening game at the U20 World Cup didn’t really go to plan, especially after the promise that was shown at the end of the first half. They did really well to fight back from being 1-0 down against a very strong Argentine side, putting lots of pressure on before the break and creating a number of goalscoring chances that unfortunately weren’t taken. The early penalty and the red card shortly afterwards completely knocked the stuffing out of Thabo Senong’s side, and it was then that Argentina really took hold of the game. Amajita weren’t able to get a foot back in it after that.

SP: How are South Africa likely to play against Korea. What tactics and formation are they likely to use?

JC: They’ll have to step out of themselves a little bit because it’s a game that they know that they need to win. Reaching the World Cup was largely based on their strengths from a defensive perspective - they only won once at the U20 African Cup of Nations - but now they will need to get their attacking players into the game more if they’re going to break down Korea. I think it might leave them a bit exposed at the back though, so they’ll have to be sure to take their chances.

SP: Which players should fans look out for? Who is likely to be a star in the future?

JC: Lyle Foster, who scored the penalty for South Africa, is probably the most high profile player in this side having signed for Monaco in France at the start of the year, and he’ll be eager to make an impression after a relatively quiet game against Argentina, even though he put himself about a lot. Promise Mkhuma and Luvuyo Phewa both had decent games in the opener and could well be a threat again, but Khanya Leshabela and Sibusiso Mabiliso could also be ones to watch if they are given a place in the side on Tuesday night.

Joe asks, Steve answers

Joe Crann: How did South Korea get on in their opener against Portugal?

Steve Price: South Korea started their U20 World Cup against one of the tournament favorites Portugal, whose side contained Premier League regulars and players linked with $40 million moves. When Portugal opened the scoring with a lightning-fast counterattack in the 7th minute, the way their forwards tore the South Korean defense apart made it look like Korea could be on the end of a hiding. Portugal had a second goal disallowed for offside for 20 minutes, but given the gulf in experience between the two sides, Korea didn’t look outclassed, and tried to take the game to Portugal. Although Portugal had the majority of the possession, Korea did create chances, whipping in some dangerous crosses and managing 9 shots compared to Portugal’s 11, although just one of those Korean shots tested the 'keeper. But they couldn’t find an equalizer, and will need a result against South Africa to have any chance of progressing.

JC: How will South Korea approach the game against South Africa?

SP: They’ll likely set up the same way as against Portugal with three at the back and a high-line. Portugal’s forwards caused Korea problems but as most of Korea’s talent is at the attacking end of the pitch, this strategy gives them more chances to get their key players on the ball in good areas. Even against Portugal, Korea set out to try and attack rather than sit back too much, so they’ll probably look to do this against South Africa but could be vulnerable on the break.

JC: Just briefly, who would you say are the three most key players for Korea for tomorrow?

SP: The main man to watch is Valencia midfielder Lee Kang-in. To get a result in this match, Korea will need to get the most out of Lee. A top-class performance by Portuguese midfielder Gedson prevented Lee from being able to influence Korea’s opener, but without a world-class midfielder to get past in this match, Lee really needs to show what he can do. Apart from that, Kim Jung-min is a player with a big future ahead of him and has already played for the senior national team. FC Seoul forward Cho Young-wook will be looking to open his U20 World Cup account in this game. He is already a regular at Seoul and is very highly rated.

South Korea play South Africa at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday morning Korea time. 

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