Korea needs its best defense to beat TogoSouth Korea has a simple task tonight: Beat Togo. If it doesn’t, the team probably won’t reach the next round. Experts say France will probably win Group G, with South Korea and Switzerland battling for second place. Togo is considered one of the weakest teams in the World Cup.
Togo is known for its star player, Emmanuel Sheyi Adebayor, who plays for Arsenal of the English Premier League, and for the confusion over who will coach the team. Togo’s head coach resigned suddenly Friday, citing disputes over bonuses to players, and his replacement is still unclear. The assistant coach, Kodjori Mawena, will lead Togo tonight.
Togo won four of its five exhibition games prior to the World Cup, but lost the only match against a team that qualified for the Cup. Togo lost 1-0 to Saudi Arabia, although Adebayor didn’t play. The rest of the exhibition games were against inferior German club teams or small countries such as Liechtenstein, making it hard to gauge where the team's real strengths and weaknesses lie.
South Korea's main question is its defense and the formation that skipper Dick Advocaat will employ. In its team practice on Sunday, Advocaat employed both a 3-4-3 and a 4-3-3 formation. Until then, the team practiced mainly with a 4-3-3 system. However, recent exhibition games showed that under a four-back based system (4-3-3), Korea’s defense was vulnerable to quick passes and defenders had trouble covering fast players. Advocaat indicated he could change his formation during the game depending on the situation, but a three-back system will be likely his choice, hoping to block Adebayor, who enjoys creating havoc in the middle.
The switch from a four-back system is also likely due to the tendency of the referees at this year's World Cup to be more lenient in applying the offside rule on attackers, due in part to a minor change in the rules to favor offenses. In a three-back system, the defensive back in the middle plays closer to the goalie, which makes the defense less vulnerable to attempts by opposing attackers to expose the offside trap.
Who will be used in the game as the lone striker in the formation is also another key question. Ahn Jung-hwan, who plays for MSV Duisburg of the German Bundesliga, failed to score in the last exhibition games, as he was often isolated by tall defenders. Togo employs tall defensive backs, such as Dare Nibombe, who is 196 centimeters (6.4 feet) tall and has a tremendous height advantage over Ahn, who is 177 centimeters. Cho Jae-jin of the Japanese J-league’s Shimizu S-Pulse might get the nod, with Ahn coming off the bench if Cho fails to score.
The key for South Korea is that its midfield and defensive line cooperates, and that it does not give space to Togo players with superior individual skills.
If a defender is left alone in one-on-one situations near the penalty box, it could get dangerous for South Korea. Against Togo players with superior individual skills, maintaining a superior number is crucial.
by Brian Lee