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Preview: South Korea vs Georgia

Friendly Preview: South Korea vs Georgia

South Korea get their Qatar 2022 World Cup qualification campaign underway with an away match against Turkmenistan on Wednesday, 10th September. Before that, they will warm up with a friendly against Georgia in Istanbul this Thursday. Our Korean national team correspondent Steve Price previews this match.
(Image via Daily Sports Hankook)

Last Time Out 

In the final matches before the summer break, South Korea played friendly games against Australia in Busan and Iran in Seoul. Australia used their match in Busan to try out some new faces, and South Korea used it to try out some new ideas, including a new formation. Korea won 1-0 through a Hwang Ui-jo goal, but in all honesty, the match would have been better off being played behind closed doors rather than in front of a sold-out Asiad stadium, with Korea spending much of the time working on their possession and training ground passing routines, rather than trying to entertain.

The match against Iran was a much livelier affair, with some perhaps ill-advised advertising by the KFA helping get everyone fired up for the match. Korea played with a faster tempo and were on top for most of the match. After seven games of shutouts, Korea finally scored their first goal against Iran since 2009 in the 57th minute when Hwang Ui-jo got into a one-on-one situation and lifted the ball over the Iran ‘keeper. The lead only lasted for five minutes before Iran got a somewhat fortuitous equalizer after a corner kick deflected in off defender Kim Young-gwan.

Georgia would prefer to forget their trip to Denmark last June where they were on the end of a five-one hammering. Kasper Dolberg tapped in a corner kick to put the Danes ahead early on before Saba Lobzhanidze equalized through a counter-attack on 25 minutes. Denmark restored their lead five minutes later through a Christian Eriksen penalty before the floodgates opened in the second half. If Georgia lose their upcoming home game against Denmark then qualification for Euro 2020 through Group D looks impossible, but they’ll get a second chance through the Nations League playoffs.

Team News 

Lee Chung-yong was named in the original squad list for Korea but dropped out following the results of an MRI scan on his knee. Ulsan Hyundai’s Lee Dong-gyeong was called up to the national team for the first time with Lee Chung-yong’s injury worries in mind, and as a result, Paulo Bento didn’t need to call anyone up to replace Lee Chung-yong. Ulsan have been flying this season, so it’s no surprise that 21-year-old Lee Dong-gyeong has earned a call-up. He’s played 22 matched for Ulsan this season after a loan spell at Anyang last year.

The other new call up is 6 foot 6 inch forward Kim Shin-wook who is having a phenomenal season with 21 goals and 5 assists in 32 games for Jeonbuk Motors and his new club Shanghai Shenhua.

Lee Seung-woo, who has just joined Belgian side Sint-Truiden, is not in the squad.

[LISTEN: South Korea Squad Preview]

The Adversary 

Celtic fans might not remember the name Vladimir Weiss, but they will remember Artmedia Bratislava, who knocked them out of the Champions League qualifying rounds back in 2005. Weiss coached Artmedia Bratislava before taking his native Slovakia to the 2010 World Cup where they beat Italy 3-2 in the group stages before losing to the Netherlands in the knockout rounds.
He has been in charge of Georgia since 2016 and has won more than he has lost, including a 1-0 win against Spain.

Georgia comfortably won their 2018-19 UEFA Nations League group, beating the likes of Kazakhstan and Latvia to give them a shot of a place at Euro 2020 through the Nations League playoffs. It may be their only shot after recent defeats to Ireland, Switzerland and Denmark put them in a poor position in their regular Euro 2020 qualification group. Georgia will be using this game to hone their defensive skills ahead of a home match against Denmark, and will be aiming for a much better performance in that game than in their 5-1 defeat in Copenhagen in June.

Who To Watch 

If South Korea are going to get anything from this game, they’ll have to get past Solomon Kvirkvelia. The rock at the center of Georgia’s defence lost his place at Locomotiv Moscow this season, which seems a little harsh as he kept twelve clean sheets in the league last season. Korea might have brought Kim Shin-wook along to give them an aerial threat, but Kvirkvelia is just as tall as 'the Wookie', and will deal with crosses better than the Chinese Super League defenders that Kim Shin-wook is used to playing against. Often partnering him in central defense is Shakhtar Donetsk’s Davit Khocholava, who has played in the Champions League for the Ukrainian giants.

At the other end of the pitch, Giorgi Kvilitaia looks to show he’s back after an injury-hit first season at Gent. When he is fit, he scores pretty regularly with 30 goals in 40 appearances for Dinamo Tbilisi and 22 goals in 67 appearances for Rapid Vienna before his move to Belgium.

South Korea take on Georgia in Istanbul at 10:30 p.m. Korean Time, Thursday, September 5th. 

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