The South Korean national soccer team, led by head coach Jürgen Klinsmann, will face Saudi Arabia in the round of 16 of the 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Qatar Asian Cup at Education City Stadium in Alayyan, Qatar, at 1 a.m. on the 31st (Korean time).
Korea advanced to the round of 16 by ranking second in Group E with one win, two draws, and five points. Saudi Arabia ranked No. 1 in Group F by posting two wins, one draw, and seven points to advance to the round of 16. Korea ranks 23rd in FIFA rankings, while Saudi Arabia ranks 56th.
South Korea’s three group games were far from acceptable, but the most shocking game was against Malaysia in the final match.
South Korea, which challenged for the top spot in Asia for the first time in 64 years by shouting “the best power ever,” played a rough game against Malaysia, which is more than 100 spots apart in the FIFA rankings.
He had an overwhelming 81 percent share of the ball, 18 shots (seven malays) and seven shots on target (four malays), but the result was a 3-3 draw. Klinsmann put forward 11 best players, but failed to beat Malaysia.
Coach Klinsmann again stepped up in a 4-4-2 formation. Cho Kyu-sung and Son Heung-min were at the forefront, while Jung Woo-young, Hwang In-beom, Lee Jae-sung and Lee Kang-in were at the center. Seol Young-woo, Kim Young-kwon, Kim Min-jae, and Kim Tae-hwan formed a four-back structure, and goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo defended the goal.
It is a lineup that changed two to three digits from the last game, but Korea has set up the starting list with the best. Coach Klinsmann, who has already confirmed the round of 16, tried to make up for the 2-2 draw with Jordan in the last two rounds and sought to advance to the round of 16 for the top spot in the group.
Korea’s frustrating performance was still there.
Although they won the first round with goals from Bahrain, Hwang In-beom, and Lee Kang-in, they were shaken by giving up a run. In the subsequent Jordan match, it was hard to break through as Jordan defended the back door well. It was easily shaken by Jordan’s attack.
The match against Malaysia was even more serious. The team’s offense, consisting of Son Heung-min, the captain of Tottenham Hotspur, and Lee Kang-in, the starting member of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), was sluggish and its defense was helplessly penetrated by Malaysia’s counterattack. Only Kim Min-jae, the main defender of Bayern Munich, struggled.
As previously pointed out, the Korean team is strong enough to be called the strongest ever. In addition to the players mentioned above, there are also a number of players who have played key roles in the European team, including Hwang Hee-chan, the Wolverhampton Wanderers’ top scorer this season, Jung Woo-young, VfB Stuttgart’s No. 10, and Lee Jae-sung of FSV Mainz 05.
Despite the disappointing group stage performance, South Korea was still “second in the probability of winning.”
On the 26th, soccer content production center “Score 90” reported the probability of winning the championship of countries that succeeded in advancing to the round of 16, with Korea ranking second overall with 18%.
Japan still tops the list. Japan was projected to win the title with a whopping 31 percent chance. Saudi Arabia will play against Korea in the round of 16 strongest teams at 8 percent.
Meanwhile, Korea begins the tournament with regret. As it moved up to second place in the group, the opponent team is Saudi Arabia, the powerhouse in the Middle East, which is a tough match. Saudi Arabia boasts a stable defense and sharp side attacks under the leadership of its great coach Roberto Mancini. It did not concede a single goal in the three group matches, and as the country is a country close to Qatar, it was seen that many fans supported it.
“Opta,” a soccer statistics media outlet, also predicted a tight race that would not be strange to whoever wins. According to the results, Opta calculated using a supercomputer, there is a 51.8% chance that Korea will beat Saudi Arabia to advance to the quarterfinals, and 48.2 percent that Saudi Arabia will advance to the quarterfinals, which is only a 3.6 percent chance. This is the smallest gap among the eight matches that will be played in the round of 16.
After the match against Malaysia ended, Hwang Hee-chan said, “It’s a shame that it was an unexpected result. Still, we made it to the tournament that we first wanted. I don’t know how they would react to say that they are satisfied with advancing to the round of 16, but I think they did a good job.”
“From now on, we have to take care of the results unconditionally. Players are also aware of it. I can confidently say that I can show a better performance in the round of 16,” he said, vowing to show a different performance from the round of 16.