Asian Cup Preview: Kuwait v South Korea

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Looking to bounce back from the humbling received at the hands of host nation Australia on the opening day of the competition, Kuwait will not be able to settle for anything but a win in their second outing. 

The might of the Korea Republic will have a bit to say about this after a perfect start to their campaign. Shaun Moran dissects what will happen when sparks fly in the continent’s capital.

Kuwait will play the Korea Republic at Canberra Stadium on Tuesday January 13 at 6:00pm AEDST.

Head-to-head

Played 22: Kuwait 9 wins, Korea Republic 10 wins, 3 draws

The two sides met a regularly throughout the 70s and 80s before coming head to head in four FIFA World Cup qualifiers in the last decade.

Korea Republic have asserted their dominance winning two but Kuwait will be boosted by the fact that they have held Tuesday’s opponents to two draws in their previous two encounters.

The Game

Korea looked their most threatening when they used the flanks and moved the ball quickly in transition against Kuwait. Uli Stielike’s influence was there to see as his charges caused a number of problems in advanced areas of the pitch.

They will look to use the same width that Australia used so well to open up Kuwait and will seek to make the most of their goal-mouth openings this time round.

Nabil Maaloul will be encouraged by Oman’s ability to rattle Korea when they eventually threw off the shackles and attacked them. Whether they will persist with sitting back in three lines with only one man upfront remains to be seen.

They will instead need to involve their midfielders and wing-backs up earlier to provide support for their forays forward if they are to have any chance of piercing Korean lines.

The big issue:

Kuwait’s methodology and mental strength

Tipped to be their most questionable facet, the scarcity of any mental steel was made available for everyone to see following the path of least resistance they took after conceding against on Friday.

When the team is firing on all cylinders, they can pose a danger to most teams in the tournament. Yet, they will need more resolve to help buffer them through difficult periods of the match.

Moreover, their approach will be the key. The fact that they need three points should support a more opportunistic style, which could work in their favour. Korea Republic demonstrated vulnerabilities when Oman took the game to them and Maaloul’s men will want to take a leaf from their book.

If the same caution and pragmatism taken in their recent matches against Oman and Australia is repeated, they may find themselves on the end of a similar trouncing.

The game breaker

Koo Ja-cheol exhibited a myriad of the very attributes against the Omanis that made him a key target for German side FSV Mainz.The 25-year-old had a big hand to play in the opening goal, drilling a searing shot that ultimately led to Cho tapping home moments prior to the interval.

His directness signalled his intent to attack the defensive minded Omanis in contrast to most of his teammates who were happy to sit back. Top scorer in the last edition in 2011, Koo will need close guarding if Kuwait are serious about shutting out the talented Koreans.

Prediction

Having tasted defeat in their last four matches, this is not the right time for Kuwait to have to deal with a poised Korean outfit, who probably should have put five way on matchday one.

Confidence will be at a low for Al-Azraq and it will take a stirring performance to tame a Korean team hungry for another three points and a healthy goal difference ahead of their clash with Australia.

Expect a resounding victory for one of the tournament’s favourites.

Kuwait 0 Korea Republic 3