Korea looking to end winless streak in football friendly vs. Morocco

By Yonhap
  • Published : Oct 9, 2017 - 17:43
  • Updated : Oct 9, 2017 - 17:43

South Korea will try to end their winless streak in international football when they take on Morocco this week.

South Korea, ranked 51st in the latest FIFA rankings, will face No. 56 Morocco at Tissot Arena in Biel/Bienne in Switzerland on Tuesday. This is the second friendly match for South Korea after they qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup last month.

South Korea have not collected a win in their last five matches. Since they beat Syria at home in the final Asian World Cup qualifying round in March, the Taeguk Warriors have racked up three draws and two losses. The victory against Syria is South Korea's only win in 2017 so far.

South Korean head coach Shin Tae-yong is also eyeing the possibility of his first win since he took the helm in July after Uli Stielike's ousting. Under Shin's control, South Korea had scoreless draws with Iran and Uzbekistan, and their latest friendly against the World Cup hosts Russia in Moscow on Saturday ended in a 4-2 defeat after giving up two own goals. 

South Korea`s national football team players leave the pitch after suffering a 4-2 defeat to Russia in a friendly match at the VEB Arena in Moscow on Oct. 7, 2017. (Yonhap)

Morocco are coming off a 3-0 win over Gabon in their World Cup qualifying match Saturday. Although they have yet to secure their spot at the 2018 World Cup, Morocco are currently leaders in Group C in the third round of the African World Cup qualifying tournament with just one match left to play. In Africa, only the group winners earn a World Cup berth.

South Korea have played Morocco once. In March 1996, the two sides played to a 2-2 draw.

Shin has called up 23 players for friendlies in Europe, but none of them are from domestic K League clubs. This is the first time that a South Korean squad has been made up entirely of overseas-based players. The 46-year-old coach previously said he would only select players from outside South Korea because the K League-based players are not available due to their club schedules.

Due to limited player selection, Shin had to use an unconventional three-man defense system against Russia. Without a natural left back, he deployed left-footed center back Kim Young-gwon on the left, while starting Crystal Palace midfielder Lee Chung-yong as a right wing back. Center back Jang Hyun-soo also moved like defensive midfielder on some occasions, allowing South Korea to switch from a back three to a back four during the match.

Shin is expected to take a similar tactical approach against Morocco, but with different personnel. Shin previously said he plans to test all the field players in friendlies.

Shin tested 17 players in the friendly against Russia, leaving six members -- goalkeepers Gu Sung-yun and Kim Jin-hyeon; defenders Rim Chang-woo, Kim Kee-hee, and Song Ju-hun; and midfielder Kim Bo-kyung -- on the bench. 

Shin, who previously managed South Korea's under-23 and under-20 squads, is mostly likely to make a change in the back three system. Against Russia, Kwon Kyung-won, Jang Hyun-soo and Kim Ju-young were at the back, but they failed miserably by surrendering four goals, with Kim putting the ball in his own net twice in a two-minute span.

In the midfield, South Korean captain Ki Sung-yueng will likely play, but it's uncertain whether he will play the full 90 minutes. The Swansea City anchorman played about 30 minutes as a second half substitute against Russia and saw national team action for the first time in nearly four months. He had knee surgery in June after South Korea's World Cup qualifier against Qatar.

Shin's side will also expect Tottenham Hotspur attacker Son Heung-min to score goals for the national team. The 25-year-old has been quiet in South Korea's last eight matches. He last scored a goal for South Korea on Oct. 6, 2016, in a World Cup qualifying match against Qatar.

Morocco will likely provide tough test for South Korea, but the head coach, Frenchman Herve Renard, might not field their best players since they have to be fully ready and injury-free for a crucial World Cup qualifying match next month. Morocco are scheduled to face second-placed Ivory Coast away on Nov. 11 and the winner of this match will advance to the World Cup in Russia.

The South Koreans will have to be aware of Khalid Boutaib, who scored a hat-trick against Gabon on Saturday, and will have to unlock a defense led by Mehdi Benatia, who plays for Italian giants Juventus. (Yonhap)