National team ready to test new defense

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National team ready to test new defense

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Korean national football team player Lee Seung-hyin, front right, goes past Park Chu-young, as Jung Jo-gook, back left, and Kim Jae-sung look on during a practice session at Seoul World Cup stadium yesterday. [NEWSIS]

National team head coach Cho Kwang-rae has struggled to find the right players to replace two national-team retirees - Park Ji-sung and Lee Young-pyo - but he may now have a more difficult task in front of him as the team goes up against world No. 16 Serbia tonight at Seoul World Cup Stadium.

In announcing the 27-man national team squad last week, Cho said he would try to build a solid defensive line through this and another friendly match against Ghana in Jeonju on Tuesday.

The 57-year-old has been training the national team since last Tuesday at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi, where he emphasized the team’s new back line, comprised of Lee Jung-soo, Hong Jeong-ho, Cha Du-ri and Kim Young-kwon.

Korea, ranked No. 31 in the world, had a shaky defense in the Asian Cup in January, conceding seven goals in six games. The team gave away four goals through penalties, suggesting the players were defending their opponents by fouling.

Cho’s coaching staff said during training that if the four defenders perform well against Serbia tonight and Ghana on Tuesday, they could be the starting defenders for the entire 2014 World Cup Asia Qualifier campaign in September because there is no time left to find new players and practice different defensive tactics.

“This is the first time these players will be together on the defensive line,” Cho said to Ilgan Sports after Tuesday’s training session. “But if our defense holds against teams like Serbia and Ghana, I think we will perform well at the World Cup Qualifiers.”

Lee Jung-soo, a 31-year-old who plays for Qatar club Al Saad, will be the leading defender in tonight’s game with his solid marking and command skills. The center back is also strong in set pieces and knows how to score. He scored twice in the 2010 World Cup.

Lee will partner up with Hong Jeong-ho, whose position is coveted by many other players on the team but Hwang Jae-won, Lee Sang-duk and Lee Jae-sung could replace the Jeju United defender at anytime if he fails to impress. Hwang, who was paired up with Lee Jung-soo during the Asian Cup, could be a particular threat to Lee if he fully recovers from a knee injury.

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Meanwhile, Hong, 22, has his own style to show off.

“Hong has a good physique and good passing skills,” Hong’s teammate Lee Jung-soo told Ilgan Sports at a Wednesday training session. “He has a style that you rarely see in Korea, like mine.”

Celtic FC defender Cha Du-ri, who has played 58 international matches, more than any other defender on the team, will defend his usual right flank, while Kim Jae-sung of the Pohang Steelers, who is usually a defensive midfielder, will be his backup.

Cho has frequently said that he wants to see some attacking from the fullbacks. The coach said their role is important in the team’s tactics because Korea could switch to three center backs during the game depending on their movement.

But what may have Coach Cho the most worried is the left back position, where Lee Young-pyo used to play and which is now filled by Kim Young-kwon of Japanese club Omiya Ardija.

“Kim is not great on offense but does provide a stable defense,” Cho said to Ilgan Sports at yesterday’s training session. “I like him to move to the center while he’s defending because it makes our central defense stronger.”

The left midfielder position, where Manchester United’s Park Ji-sung used to play, is another problem for Cho but is on its way to being solved.

Cho has had some success with his post-Park problem with Bo-Kyung and Koo Ja-cheol, while frequent position switches among his attackers have also proved somewhat successful. Cho told reporters, however, that he is still working to find the best solution for the left back.

The defensive gap left by Lee Young-pyo is proving more difficult to solve. When Cho first got the national coaching job last year, he selected Hong Chul, a Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma defender, to replace Lee but his performances were less than stellar and he later joined the Olympic team with Yoon Suk-young, another candidate for the left back position.

Kim Young-kwon, 21, is not a natural left back but he was given above-average scores from Cho in March when Korea met Honduras in a friendly. If the coach thinks Kim isn’t performing well, he will test Park Won-jae of Jeonbuk Hyundai, who is a better offensive player than Kim.

Meanwhile, Serbia is expected to harass the Korean defensive line from the middle with veteran Dejan Stankovic of Inter Milan and Zoran Tosic of CSKA Moscow. The European team did not call up striker Nikola Zigic nor Marko Pantelic. Still, their 22-man squad will be packed with talented young players.

For Cho, the friendly will hopefully help restore some of the trust lost by fans through the recent match-fixing scandal within the K-League.

“I know fans and the media are disappointed with Korean football but I will present fun and exciting football in this game,” said Cho. “I am also telling the players that we need to restore the reputation of Korean football.”


By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [일간스포츠]

공격적인 수비, 세르비아전 조광래 팀의 화두

‘공격적인 수비.’ 3일 오후 8시 서울월드컵경기장에서 열리는 세르비아와 평가전을 앞두고 있는 조광래 A대표팀 감독의 화두다.

조광래 감독은 결전을 하루 앞둔 2일 최종 훈련에 앞서 열린 공식 인터뷰에서 “유럽의 공격진을 우리 수비진이 어떻게 버틸 지 기대된다”고 말했다. ‘승부 조작 파문으로 축구팬들의 실망이 크다. 화끈한 공격 축구를 펼쳐서 분위기를 바꿔주길 원하는 팬들이 많다’는 질문이 이어졌다. 이에 조광래 감독은 “수비를 강조하는 건 더 좋은 공격을 하기 위한 것”이라고 알쏭달쏭한 말을 했다.

조광래 감독의 선문답은 대표팀 훈련을 통해 해법을 찾을 수 있었다. 주전과 비주전 팀으로 나눠서 실전처럼 치른 훈련에서 조광래 감독은 전체 운동장의 3분의 1 정도만 사용했다. 흔히 축구 해설가들은 ‘3선의 간격’이라는 말을 한다. 여기서 3선은 수비라인-미드필드 라인-최전방 공격 라인을 의미한다. 축구장의 규격은 골대와 골대 사이가 100m지만 30m 정도로 좁혀서 훈련한 것은 3선의 간격을 줄이기 위함이다. 수비 뒷공간을 크게 열어두고 최대한 콤팩트하게 경기를 풀어나가 숫적 우위를 차지하며 아기자기한 패스 축구로 유럽 축구에 상대하겠다는 출사표다.

문제는 드넓은 수비 뒷공간이다. 수비 조직력이 갖춰지지 않으면 날카로운 킬패스 하나에 치명적인 위기를 맞는 시스템이다. 조광래 감독에게 “대표팀이 함께 모여 훈련한 날이 이틀밖에 안되는 데 너무 위험한 전략을 쓰는 것 아니냐”고 묻자 조 감독은 “선수들에게 전술적 움직임을 A4 용지에 자세하게 설명해주었다”며 “그걸 이해할 수 없다면 대표 선수가 될 자격이 없다”고 말했다.

조 감독이 이런 모험적 전술로 나가는 것은 세르비아전 승리가 아니라 이번 평가전을 2014년 브라질 월드컵으로 향하는 첫걸음으로 인식하고 있기 때문이다. 그는 “9월부터 예선이 열린다. 8월에 한·일전이 있지만 그 때는 해외파를 활용할 수 없다. 이번 평가전은 월드컵 예선을 앞둔 마지막 시험무대다”라고 의미를 부여했다. 조 감독은 “세르비아와 평가전은 이란 등 아시아 강호를 대비한 좋은 평가전 상대가 될 것”이라고 덧붙였다.

세르비아는 국제축구연맹(FIFA) 랭킹이 16위로 한국(31위)보다 15계단이 높고 역대 월드컵에서도 두 차례나 4강에 진출했던 동유럽의 '전통 강호'다. 한국은 세르비아와 2009년 11월18일 친선경기에서 한 차례 맞붙어 0-1로 졌다.
이번 방한하는 세르비아 대표팀은 박지성(맨유)의 팀 동료인 '철벽 수비수' 네마냐 비디치와 브라니슬라프 이바노비치(첼시)와 밀란 요바노비치(리버풀), 니콜라 지기치(버밍엄시티) 등 핵심 선수들이 빠진 1.5진으로 구성된다. 그러나 주장인 데얀 스탄코비치(인터 밀란)와 '세르비안 카카' 조란 토시치(CSKA 모스크바)를 비롯해 유럽 프로축구 리그에서 뛴 선수들이기에 방심할 수 없다.

조 감독은 베스트 11을 묻는 기자의 질문에 시원스럽게 선발 출전 선수 명단을 불러줬다.(그래픽 참조) 이 역시 승패보다는 대표팀 전력 끌어올리기에 방점을 찍겠다는 것을 말해주는 대목이다. 조 감독은 정조국, 구자철 등은 후반에 투입해 기량을 점검할 방침이다.

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