After the two friendly matches with Lebanon and Brazil for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Paulo Bento, the manager of the Korean national football team, said he will stick to his style of build-up strategy. Experts say that the Portuguese manager must cover up his loopholes exposed throughout the test matches. There are broadly four areas.
First is to figure out how to utilize Hwang Hee-chan, the 23-year-old forward of Red Bull Salzburg. So far, Bento has typically put Son Heung-min and Hwang Ui-jo as two tops with Hwang Hee-chan backing them up from side. But Hwang Hee-chan showed a weakness in side defense when he showed up as midfielder against Brazil or wingback in the match with Georgia. This put a significant burden to his team as a whole. In his team Salzburg, Hwang played as a striker and drew attention from across the globe with his impressive performance in the Champions League. Against this backdrop, Bento must come up with ways to bolster Hwang’s strength while mitigating his weakness. Some say Hwang Hee-chan needs to compete with Hwang Ui-jo for the position of a striker.
The second task lies in midfielder combination. The gist of Bento’s signature build-up play lies in the key passes delivered from midfield to the top. Hwang In-beim, the 23-year-old midfielder of the Vancouver Whitecaps, has proved his versatility, but his forward passes were the subject of criticism. Many want Lee Kang-in to fill in his shoes instead, but Lee has a weakness in defense. To fully capitalize on Lee’s creative plays requires a combination of midfielders with more enhanced defense. A competitive edge in the midfield is necessary to prevent Son Heung-min and Hwang Ui-jo, the two main goal-getters, from being isolated from the middle.
Third is to break the predictable patterns of side attacks. Bento often relies on the overlapping and surprise attacks by side defenders. The same patterns of side crosses are easy to preempt. It is crucial to build a strategy specific to side attacks.
The fourth task has to do with the speed. The increase in the number of side and back passes in the build-up processes meant the speed of attacks grew much slower than before. The pace of build-up itself needs to be cranked up, and the mobility of the entire team must be enhanced as well.
If the team’s speed should remain sluggish in the qualifier matches of World Cup next year, the public opinion about Mr. Bento could deteriorate dramatically.
Won-Hong Lee firstname.lastname@example.org