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Tokyo 2020 Group B Fate To Be Decided

Heading into the final Match Day of Group B at the Tokyo Olympics Men's Football, Kim Hak-beom's young chargers know it's now or never should they succeed in qualifying for the knockouts. Honduras stand in their way with both nations coming off the back of victories in Match Day 2. (image via the-afc.com)
South Korea Men Vs. Honduras Men - Wednesday July 28th (17:30 KST)

Permutations following Romania Thrashing

A 4-0 victory over opening day victors Romania has changed the mood surrounding Kim Hak-beom's Olympic camp. A brace from Valencia starlet Lee Kang-in followed an own goal and Kwon Chang-hoon deflected strike from range to earn Korea a comfortable win against 10-man opposition. Park Ji-su joined the dominant Jeong Tae-wook in central defense for this one as the Taeguk Warriors looked much more assured in defence, while Lee Dong-gyeong started in place of Lee Kang-in. While Valencia's diminutive playmaker may grab the headlines, Daegu FC's Jeong was a colossus at the back who took the lead in team talks and organisation.

Jeong Tae-wook in action for Daegu FC in May

With all four teams currently sat on three points, defeat for Korea would mean certain elimination. However, due to having the best goal difference in the group, a draw would also ensure their progression. Finishing top of the group would see them face the runners up in Group A, while a second-place finish would see them take on Group A's winners. Mexico currently sit top of that group, having easily dispatched of Korea's friendly opponents France 4-1 on opening day. Neutrals may clamour for an intriguing match up with hosts Japan, whose starlet Takefusa Kubo made the difference in a narrow opening game win over South Africa before scoring again in victory over Mexico.

Honduran Hopes

With the Honduran nation wrapped up in the knockout stages of the CONCECAF Gold Cup, their fans could have been forgiven from having their attention taken away from their youngsters' performances in Japan. The Olympic side's preparation for Tokyo hit controversy as their warm-up game with Germany was cut short due to alleged racism directed at a 23-year-old German player in Wakayama. The Honduran FA deemed it a 'misunderstanding'. 

Losing in their opening game to Romania, Olympic boss Miguel Falero was prepared for a physical game and saw an inswinging corner forced home via an own goal. However, they bounced back on Sunday with a 3-2 win over New Zealand courtesy of Rigoberto Rivas' late winner. Reaching the semi-final of Rio 2016 before being beaten comprehensively by hosts Brazil, Korea were knocked out by Honduras 1-0 in the quarter finals. An incredible run from Romell Quioto set up the counter attack goal after a misplaced Son Heung-min pass. Then managed by Shin Tae-yong, only Kwon Chang-hoon remains from the side that lost in Belo Horizonte.


Showing consistent form at the Olympics having made the quarters at London 2012, key men this time around include 23-year-old captain Denil Maldonado who plies his trade for Everton in Chile and Rigoberto Rivas who features for Italian Serie B side Reggina. Rivas netted five in a prolific two-month spell from late February this season and primarily operates on the right wing. On the bench at Inter Milan at just 18, Rivas is starting to fulfil his potential, ranking 20th for assists in the 20/21 Serie B season and being successful in three of his four dribbles against Romania. Defeating USA on the road to qualification, Honduras need both of these to shine against Korea.


Time to Step Up

Korea need their undoubted attacking talent to shine in what could be their final appearance at Tokyo 2020. Looking fairly blunt in attack against New Zealand, Kim Hak-beom turned to his bench with a triple change as early as the 59th minute with new Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors signing Song Min-kyu joined by Ulsan Hyundai's Lee Dong-gyeong and Lee Dong-jun from the bench. It would seem that these two players in particular need to have a good game should Korea progress.

Lee Dong-jun


Ulsan's winger brimmed with confidence against Romania, perhaps stemming from being most influential from the bench against New Zealand, causing problems for the OlyWhites with his direct running and balls into the box. The sixth top scorer in K League 1 this season, the former Busan IPark winger has one of the best shot conversion rates in the division. While Kim Hak-beom is spoilt for choice out wide with fellow wingers Song Min-kyu and Um Won-sang vying for two starting positions, Lee has that explosive pace from a standing start that could unsettle the Honduran defence.

Hwang Ui-jo

Kim Hak-beom has shown belief in a striker he certainly has a great affinity with as far back as the 28-year-old's time at Seongnam FC in K League. As the only out-and-out number nine in the squad, now is the time for Hwang to repay that faith. 12 goals at Bordeaux last season should give Hwang confidence as will his brace against Turkmenistan for the National Team in World Cup Qualifying as recently as June. On a similar stage, Hwang also enjoyed prolific form at the Asian Games and hopefully can build on tepid performances in the first two games. He did show more promise against Romania, coming close with a front-post header. 


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