Uzbekistan – South Korea: Selection dilemmas on both sides
Mr. Qosimov, do you go back to your benched veterans Server Djeparov, Timur Kapadze & Sanzhar Tursunov before the start of the knockout stages? Or do you stick with those exciting youngsters – Jamshid Iskanderov & Sardor Rashidov – who’ve actually got you there in the first place?
That’s our main question ahead of yet another game in Melbourne; a city which has already overseen an impressive portion of 22 goals in only five matches. And given to some unwanted inconsistency on either side, it’s both hard and easy to imagine this trend will continue on Thursday.
For Uzbekistan, the key seems to be to find the right offensive balance. In the first two matches, they looked to be a bit uninspiring, slow. On both occasions, Sardor Rashidov took to the scene as a breath of fresh air coming from the bench – and he was also their main difference maker in the crucial Uzbekistan win against Saudi Arabia. So the speedy right winger definitely has to stay in the line up in place of Tursunov, but what about the other guys?
Last time out, Odil Akhmedov was at his best for the first time in Australia, as he absorbed perfectly the increased pressure on his back, while wearing a captain‘s armband on Djeparov’s behalf. He struck me as someone more combative and responsible, and hence I’d perhaps keep him in that deeper role rather than going back for Kapadze.
As for the insipid left-footed magician Server Djeparov, I quite fancy him to step in since Iskanderov more or less failed to impress. Only if there are no troubles in the dressing room, of course.
Uli Stielike, the coach of South Korea, is on the other hand being forced to make some changes over and over again. In the opener, he lost Lee Chung-yong; and now he’s without Koo Ja-cheol, too.
Therefore we will likely see a different attacking midfield for the 4th time in a row, which obviously isn’t helping anything. Especially since the German coach is still searching for his first choice striker.
One sign of hope, though, might be the most recent and promising performance from the forward-cum-winger Lee Keun-ho. His tireless nature, as well as the midfield backbone provided by Ki Sung-yueng & Park Joo-ho, could prove to be key for South Korea.
Tomas Danicek is a regular contributor to Sandals for Goalposts, and can be found on twitter @TomDanicek