Kim the battering ram or Park the scalpel for Korea?

Sat Jun 14, 2014 11:19am EDT
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By Peter Rutherford

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - In their final World Cup warm-up against Ghana earlier this week, South Korea wore different shirt numbers from their official squad list in a bid to outfox observers from Group H watching the match in Miami.

The only people who looked confused were the South Koreans, however, as the 'Black Stars' tore them to pieces in a 4-0 rout that has further dampened the mood ahead of their opener against Russia on Tuesday in Cuiaba.

South Korea, the first Asian side to reach the last four of a World Cup when they finished fourth on home soil in 2002, have limped into Brazil losing four of their last five games.

Coach Hong Myung-bo, who took over from Choi Kang-hee after a dismal World Cup qualifying campaign, has pledged to tighten up his defense for the group opener but simply focusing on a dysfunctional back four may not be enough.

Against Ghana, the Koreans were overrun in midfield, leaving the defense exposed time and again, with much of the blame put on the poor tackling and tardy backtracking of central pairing Ki Sung-yueng and Han Kook-young.

However, the truth about solid teams is that they defend from the front with the coach favoring lithe little forward Park Chu-young over towering target man Kim Shin-wook.

Center back Hong Jeong-ho alluded to that on Friday when he told Korean media the entire team should be held accountable when they concede several goals, while his defensive partner Kim Young-gwon said attackers were now starting to show more willingness to pitch in on defense.

While coach Hong is right to be concerned about the form of his defenders, he must also look at the performance of his strikers in terms of who gives more to the team.   Continued...

South Korea's Kim Shin-wook jumps for a header during a training session at the Sun Life stadium of Miami June 8, 2014.    REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay