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Preview: South Korea vs Chile and Costa Rica

South Korea’s new head coach Paulo Bento takes charge of his first national team games as South Korea take on Chile and Costa Rica. It’s Bento’s first chance to get a close look at the players as he prepares for the 2019 Asian Cup. Our national team correspondent Steve Price takes a look at what to expect from these games.
(image via Yonhap News)

With little time to scout new players, new head coach Paulo Bento has based his squad largely on the team that Shin Tae-yong took to the World Cup. He has also added a few of the players who performed well at the 2018 Asian Games where South Korea won a gold medal after beating Japan 2-1 in the final.

These matches will give Bento a chance to see what the current squad is capable of and where it needs improvement. It is also one of his few chances to work out how best to use Son Heung-min ahead of the Asian Cup this winter as the Tottenham Hotspur forward will be staying in London for the November round of friendly matches and the start of the Asian Cup.


No surprises in nets as Kim Seung-gyu, Kim Jin-hyeon and Cho Hyun-woo take up the three goalkeeping spots. No call-up for FC Seoul’s Yang Han-bin.


Kim Young-gwon and Jang Hyun-soo have been called up (Jang is classed as a midfielder though) and Kim Min-jae makes a return after missing the World Cup through injury. Lee Yong, Hong Chul and Yun Suk-young all make the grade, and Seongnam’s Yun Young-sun also keeps his place, as does Kashima Antlers’ Jung Seung-hyun. Kim Moon-hwan’s impressive Asian Games performances earn the Busan defender his first national team call up. Park Joo-ho and Kim Jin-su are out injured and Kwon Kyung-won hasn’t earned a recall to the national team.


Talks of Ki Sung-yueng’s international retirement may have been a bit premature as he takes the captain’s armband in Paulo Bento’s first South Korea squad. Nam Tae-hee makes a surprise return after missing out on Russia 2018. The Al Duhail playmaker barely featured under Shin Tae-yong. Hwang In-beom also earns his first call up. He was a key part of South Korea’s Asian Games success and looks to have a bright career ahead of him. Lee Jae-sung, Jung Woo-young and Ju Se-jung complete the midfield. Lee Chung-yong, who is still looking for a club, won’t be able to use these matches as a shop window as he doesn’t make the squad.


Son Heung-min, Lee Seung-woo, Hwang Ui-jo and Hwang Hee-chan all played at the Asian Games but have been included in the squad list for these friendly matches. Incheon United’s Moon Seon-min has earned another national team call-up after his strong club form this season. Ji Dong-won completes the squad list. There’s no place for Jeonbuk Motors targetman Kim Shin-wook in the squad.

What to expect

Paulo Bento has usually favoured a back four throughout his career so it’s likely that he will set up South Korea with four at the back. His Portugal side played in a 4-3-3 similar to how South Korea set up against Sweden but with the wide forwards (Ronaldo and Nani) higher up the pitch. However, Kim Shin-wook’s absence from the line up suggests that Bento won’t be copying that system directly. He has also used 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 diamond formations regularly in his career.

The Adversary: Costa Rica

Costa Rica only picked up one point at Russia 2018, scoring in the last minute to draw 2-2 with Switzerland in their final group game. They did manage to shut out Brazil until extra time before conceding two late goals, suggesting that South Korea will have to work hard to find a way through Costa Rica’s defense. Former Arsenal forward Joel Campbell, now playing for Frosione in Serie A, leads the line for Costa Rica. They also have a Korean connection in midfielder Elias Aguilar who plays for Incheon United. Former national team captain Brian Ruiz and Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas haven’t made the squad, with Navas being left out so he can focus on battling Thibaut Courtois for the Real Madrid goalkeeper spot.

The Adversary: Chile

Chile were one of the big names who failed to qualify for the Russia 2018 World Cup. They subsequently sacked Juan Antonio Pizzi who went on to manage Saudi Arabia at the tournament. New coach Reinaldo Rueda has previously been in charge of the Ecuador, Colombia and Honduras national teams during his coaching career. 

Chile’s star player Alexis Sanchez and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo aren’t in the squad. Sanchez is staying in Manchester because United ‘needs him’, and Manchester City ‘keeper Bravo reportedly withdrew after a spat over the choice of the new Chilean goalkeeping coach. 

New Barcelona signing Arturo Vidal is making the trip to South Korea. Along with Vidal, Chile’s squad is full of players from Europe’s top leagues, so it’s a bit surprising that their third choice goalkeeper plays for Swindon Town in England’s fourth tier. Korean fans might remember Chilean defender Gary Medel from his brief spell alongside Kim Bo-kyung at Cardiff City. Medel now plays at Besiktas after spending several seasons at Inter Milan.

With both Costa Rica and Chile’s number one goalkeepers not making the trip to East Asia, hopefully South Korea can capitalize on that weakness and give the home fans something to cheer.

South Korea play Costa Rica in Goyang on Friday 7th September and Chile in Suwon on Tuesday 11th September.

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