SPORTS

Looking for turnaround, Korea to take on Mexico in crucial 2nd match

By Yonhap
  • Published : Jun 21, 2018 - 16:31
  • Updated : Jun 21, 2018 - 16:34
SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia -- South Korea will try to upset Mexico to keep alive their hopes of advancing to the knockout rounds at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

South Korea, ranked 57th in the latest FIFA rankings, and Mexico, world No. 15, will go head-to-head at Rostov Arena in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Saturday for their second match in Group F, where they are also paired with Sweden and Germany.

The teams are in different situations after their first matches, but one thing is for certain: neither South Korea nor Mexico are going to be satisfied with a draw.

Mexico find themselves in a good position to qualify for the round of 16, which they've been done for the last six World Cups, after collecting a stunning 1-0 win over defending champions Germany on Sunday. South Korea, on the other hand, are facing elimination with a 1-0 defeat to Sweden on Monday as stronger opponents await them.

South Korea national football team players train at Spartak Stadium in Lomonosov, a suburb of Saint Petersburg, Russia, on June 20, 2018. (Yonhap)

For Shin Tae-yong's team, another loss means they are likely out of contention for the round of 16, so they'll hunt for the victory, no matter what. And the sense of urgency is the same for Juan Carlos Osorio's Mexico, as they can get one step closer to a knockout berth with a win.

South Korea and Mexico have met 12 times, with Mexico collecting six wins, two draws and four losses.

The two teams last played each other in a friendly match in 2014 in which the South Koreans suffered a 4-0 loss.

In the under-23 level, the two nations most recently met at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and South Korea collected a 1-0 win under Shin's guidance. Four players from that South Korean team are at the World Cup -- Son Heung-min, Hwang Hee-chan, Jang Hyun-soo and Jung Seung-hyun.

For Mexico, Alfredo Talavera, Carlos Salcedo and Hirvin Lozano faced South Korea at the Rio Olympics.

The teams are expected to use different lineups from their World Cup opening matches.

Against Sweden, South Korea deployed a 4-3-3 formation, with towering striker Kim Shin-wook serving as a target man. But they failed miserably in attack, posting only five shots, none of them on target.

With their surprising tactical choice having blown up in their face, South Korea are expected to return to their familiar lineup with 4-4-2, with Son and Hwang serving as the two forwards. Against Sweden, both players played on the wings, and with South Korea defending too deep, their runs didn't provide much threat.

Lee Jae-sung, who was quiet against Sweden, is likely to get a chance to impress on the right flank. Hellas Verona prospect Lee Seung-woo, who played about 20 minutes as a second half substitute against Sweden, and Moon Seon-min, who wasn't used in that match, may also feature on the wings.

South Korean captain Ki Sung-yueng will likely start as the team's orchestrator in midfield as usual, with defensive midfielder Jung Woo-young as his possible partner.

Change is inevitable for South Korea's four-man defense as left back Park Joo-ho is out of the tournament with a hamstring injury he sustained against Sweden. His position could be filled by Kim Min-woo, who replaced Park against Sweden but ended up fouling an opponent in the box for a costly penalty kick.

If Kim is still reeling from his performance from the last match, the national team can turn to Hong Chul, another attack-minded left back.

Kim Young-gwon and Jang Hyun-soo are likely to be starting center backs. On the right, Shin may use Go Yo-han instead of Lee Yong, as the former is known for his tireless runs to cover the pitch.

Jo Hyeon-woo, who made an impressive World Cup debut against Sweden, could be back in net, but if Shin opts to rely on experience, Kim Seung-gyu, who played at the 2014 World Cup, may start.

Mexico used a 4-2-3-1 formation against Germany. This set-up was rarely seen throughout their World Cup qualifying campaign but was so effective as to make the Germans helpless on the pitch. With their quick transitioning from defense to offense, Mexico also pressed well in the open field to contain the world's top ranked team.

But Mexico may just come up with a more aggressive lineup, such as a 3-4-3 or 4-3-3 formation.

Osorio is known for variation in his tactics, and he should have a few options for attacking the South Koreans. The 56-year-old Colombian is likely to emphasize attack this time, so that Mexico can gain an edge in a goal difference tiebreaker, if it comes to that.

Osorio's team have star striker Javier Hernandez, who is also known as "Chicharito." The former Manchester United and Bayer Leverkusen man is a natural goal poacher, but he has also shown abilities to make space for teammates and set up goals. Lozano, who became a national hero with his goal against Germany, is also an attacker to watch for his pace and skills.

It's the versatility of the players that also enable Osorio to play chameleon-like tactics. From Sevilla's utility man Miguel Layun to veteran team captain Andreas Guardado, most of the players can play in multiple positions.

South Korea will also need to find ways to get past central defenders Hector Moreno and Hugo Ayala, as well as goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.

Rostov Arena can accommodate up to 45,000 fans. One of the fans on match day will be South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who will visit the stadium after a summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. (Yonhap)