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South Korea Looks for Maximum Points Against United Arab Emirates

South Korea hosts the United Arab Emirates in the first of two World Cup qualifiers this month, in need of three points as they sit two points behind Iran in Group A.  A victory will be crucial not only for standing in the group but also because the second fixture is away against Iraq.  Travel to the Middle East may put a bit of a strain on the group, so a win at home should put them in the right frame of mind.  KLU's Branko Belan looks ahead to the match.
(Photo courtesy of The Korea Herald)

Match: South Korea vs United Arab Emirates
Venue: Goyang Stadium
Kickoff: Thursday November 11th, 2021; 20:00 KST

Recent Form

Four Points in October

South Korea picked up a win and a draw in last month's qualifying matches, with a 2-1 success at home against Syria and a 1-1 draw away against group leaders Iran.  Their overall performances during this qualifying cycle have been underwhelming, to say the least, but they shouldn't be in danger of not qualifying outright for next year's World Cup in Qatar, provided that the product on the pitch improves.  

Paulo Bento's tactical decisions have had a lot to do with the lackluster showing from the national team for quite some time now and his tenure as the manager of South Korea could be in question if the unsatisfactory results continue.  With Iraq at home to Syria and Iran facing Lebanon away, the feeling is that both teams will be able to capture maximum points, so anything less than a victory for Korea will be a huge disappointment.

Middle of the Pack

The United Arab Emirates have played fairly well in their first four qualifying matches with three draws and a loss, scoring three goals and conceding four thus far.  Their chances of victory in Thursday night's match may be slim as they are the road team, but if they make use of counter-attacking strategy, they may be able to pull off a surprise.

They face a rather difficult stretch with two of their next three matches away from home after they face Korea, including a trip to Tehran next February.  They know that opportunities to pick up points may be few and far between, but they do have the ability to play spoiler in the group for the teams who are looking to qualify for the finals next summer and should not be taken lightly.

Team News

South Korea

Lee Yong, Lee Dong-gyeong and Jung Woo-young reporting to training in Paju on Monday. Photo courtesy of The Korea Herald.
The squad selection for this month's qualifiers again left questions and concerns with four goalkeepers being selected once again.  Jo Hyeon-woo in particular did not fare well in his last K League start as he allowed three goals in Ulsan Hyundai's loss to rivals Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

The EPL-based players will arrive late to the team's training camp meaning that they will have little time to be involved in sessions with the rest of the group.  This has the potential to be problematic because Son Heung-min's role with the national team under Bento seemingly has yet to be defined.  

The recent injury to Hwang Ui-jo left him unavailable, meaning that Kim Gun-hee of Suwon Samsung Bluewings was called in his place.  Kim has had a decent season in domestic football this year but how that will translate to playing with the national team is to be determined.  The only other striker called up was Cho Gue-sung, but he will only likely be an option from the bench.  

Several observers called for Oh Se-hun to make his senior debut, but he was selected for the U-23 side instead.  The Ulsan frontman has risen through the ranks of the national team quickly in recent years and many feel it is just a matter of time before he makes his full senior debut.

In other team news, defender Kim Young-gwon will also be unavailable due to a calf injury.

Bento has not had a full complement of players since the latest qualifying round began in September but has vowed to prepare the team well for the upcoming matches.

"It is what it is.  We need to manage this in the best possible way.  We'll help (Europe-based players) recover as well as possible (from their weekend action and long flights) and respect their time to recover.  Then on Wednesday, we'll try to prepare the best possible strategy for the game (against the UAE)," he was quoted as saying in a news report.

United Arab Emirates

UAE players train in Goyang ahead of Thursday night's match. Photo courtesy of The National News.
The United Arab Emirates salvaged a draw in their last qualifying match at home against Iraq, a 2-2 draw with Ali Ahmed Mabkhout finding a leveler in the fifth minute of second half injury time.  The current 24 man squad which was called up for this month's qualifiers is headed by goalkeeper Ali Khasif, who is also the team captain.

There are no suspensions or injuries in the squad, so the expectation is that manager Bert van Marwijk will play his strongest eleven against the Taeguk Warriors.

What to Watch

South Korea's Early Approach Could Dictate the Match

South Korea have struggled to score goals consistently against stronger opposition in recent years.  Despite the absence of Hwang, Bento has said that there will not be a major change in how the team approaches the match.  

But, what exactly does that mean?

The team is in need of an offensive spark, and Cho Gue-sung really hasn't convinced with his performances for the senior team in the past, so his callup again seems a bit out of sorts.  Hwang In-beom, who has been playing well for Rubin Kazan in Russia will have to play an important role in linking between the midfield and attack phases for the team moving forward.

The first fifteen minutes will say a lot about how they will operate in all three areas of the pitch and may give some indication as to how they will attack set pieces as well.  Defensively, they should be solid, but the late arrival of Kim Min-jae from Fenerbahçe may keep him out of the starting eleven for the match against UAE.

In order to ensure not only a positive result, but a positive performance as well, Bento's men should prefer to start quickly and carry an advantage with them into the halftime interval.

Who to Watch

Kim Gun-hee - South Korea

Kim Gun-hee received his first call up for the senior national team for November qualifiers.
Kim Gun-hee will be making his senior national team debut during the November qualifiers.  Will he be chosen to start on Thursday night?  The likely answer would be yes, considering he has been on good form in league play this season.  Bento would also like to have a look at what he is working with, to see if Kim can become another attacking option not only in the matches to come but also for the foreseeable future.

Kim's last appearance for his country came back with the U-23 side in 2018 when he made two appearances; one in the group stage against Syria, a 0-0 draw where he played one half, and also in the third place playoff, a 1-0 loss to Qatar, where he played a full ninety minutes.   


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