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South Korea to Meet Brazil in First Knockout Round

South Korea pulled off the improbable defeating Portugal in their final group encounter to secure a place in the knockout phase of the World Cup.  Next, they face Brazil, a tall test, but one they will be ready for, after a string of solid performances in the maiden phase of the competition.  KLU's Branko Belan examines the talking points ahead of the clash.
 


Will Kim-Min-jae Be Fit?

Kim Min-jae did not feature against Portugal, and the hope is that he will be fit for the encounter against Brazil, having played well in the first two matches against Uruguay and Ghana.  He is hampered by a calf injury sustained in the match against Uruguay which consequently had him resided to the bench for Korea's decider against Portugal.  Kim has been a central piece both at club and country level this year, and should he be ready to take the pitch against the five time world champions, would be a welcome addition back into the starting eleven.

He is the engineer of Paulo Bento's defensive scheme, a stable cog in the team's forward progress out of the back as well.  Matching presence with skill will be essential to halting Brazil's high powered attack.  His presence at the back adds a different dimension to the entire setup.  He is adamant about being involved in the clash with the five-time world champions.


“I want to do everything possible to play against Brazil, even if I get a more serious injury doing it,” he said.

Kim Seung-gyu Proving His Worth

Kim Seung-gyu had a profitable performance against Portugal and has silenced many critics with his play in Qatar.  He will be needed once more if Korea have a chance of moving further on into the tournament.  His calming presence between the sticks has allowed Korea to play a more aggressive approach in both thirds.

He was on hand to make several key saves against Portugal and his ball distribution was once again key to Korea's attack moving forward.  There was some doubt prior to the tournament whether he would be able to fill the number one role effectively, but all of those doubts have since been dispelled.  He will certainly need to be on top form as both he and the entire squad face arguably their fiercest opponent in their World Cup history.


The Return of Hwang Hee-chan

Hwang Hee-chan put a stamp on his return with the winner against Portugal.
Match winner Hwang Hee-chan arrived at the right time for Korea, injecting pace into the attack and ended up being the difference at the final whistle.  His ninth goal in 49 appearances for his country proved crucial in getting Korea to the knockout stage.  After spending the first two matches on the bench nursing injury, it looks as though he will have enough in the tank to play from the first whistle, something that should give his compatriots confidence in the face of one of the tournament favorites.

An orthodox finisher with the ability to run between the lines, his pace will be a key factor for Korea's attacking gameplan in the final third.  His maiden World Cup goal should provide him with the confidence for more while providing another option to spice up the attack in a match where it will be needed.



Brazil Spotlight: Thiago Silva

Thiago Silva will be the key man in the back for Brazil.
A veteran of the Brazilian national team, having made 111 appearances for his country, he sat out the final group match against Cameroon after donning the captain's armband against Serbia and Switzerland and will be a major factor in not only the Seleção's defensive scheme but also the overall team setup.  

Playing in his fourth World Cup, his importance along with his technical skill is not to be undermined.  Still performing at a top level, he will be aiming to close out his career as a member of the national team with the ultimate prize - a World Cup trophy, having won a total of 33 trophies at club and international level, including the 2013 Confederations Cup and the Copa América in 2019.  Considered by many as the general of the defensive unit, he will impact the pace of the match given the opportunity to do so.


Belief Remains

Hwang Hee-chan is confident that his group can get the result they need to move on in the tournament.

"Just because we play Brazil, it won't mean we will be just happy to be there in the knockouts," he said after scoring the winner against Portugal.  "We want to play well and win for our fans."

He also reflected on the result after the final whistle.

“The moment the ball went in, I was happy, tired, proud, and grateful.  All sorts of feelings combined.  I saw other players coming onto the pitch as well as fans screaming in celebration.  It really touched me and gave me so much energy."  

"I am so proud to be Korean.  I missed the first two matches due to an injury and it was heartbreaking to see other players running, although some guys were not in the best condition either.  So I wanted to be in the game and help them even if that meant more pain from my injury."  

"I’m very happy.  I knew I would be on the pitch in the second half. I wanted to make a difference for the team.  I’m very happy with the result.  I’m so excited that I scored a meaningful World Cup goal,” he recounted.
.
Lee Kang-in was somewhat reserved ahead of the match. 

"Obviously, Brazil will be tough to handle.  But I think we will have a chance to win if we execute everything we've prepared for.  We're ready to do our best on the field.  I hope our fans will continue to be behind us," he concluded.

South Korea and Brazil will face off tomorrow evening at 10 PM local time.

FNR



  

   

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