The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team is only one day away from facing the Korea Republic in its first game of the 2003 FIFA Under-17 World Championship on August 14. The match will take place at 5:30 p.m. local time / 10:30 a.m. ET and will be broadcast same-day delay on Galavision at 1 p.m. ET. Fans can also follow the match live at 10:30 a.m. ET on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics. Prior to the match, U.S. assistant coach John Hackworth took a moment to break down South Korea in this scouting report.
Playing South Korea in our opening match of the World Championship is going to be an extremely difficult task. Similar to the U.S., Korea has risen in terms of world football the last couple of years, which was evident last year when their men's national squad advanced all the way to the semifinals of the World Cup. The biggest reason both the U.S. and Korea have been able to emerge onto soccer's world stage is their dedication to developing youth players, and Thursday's match will pit the next generation for both countries against each other in a classic match-up.
As a team, South Korea is very tactically organized and disciplined. It is difficult to outwork the Koreans as they will put a team under immediate and intense pressure from the opening whistle. While they are well known for their tremendous work rate, I also feel Korea is much more technical than the soccer world gives them credit for.
In general, they usually play a 4-4-2. However, when the Koreans are on the attack, they get numbers forward and look to be in a 2-4-4 alignment. They push the outside backs and midfielders forward in an effort to stretch the defense high and wide. The mobility of the Koreans is definitely something that we will have to deal with in order to be successful.
While they may bring numbers into the attack, they don't get caught to often in counter-attacks as they are diligent about getting the ball back immediately if they lose it. On defense they like to put immediate pressure on the ball and aren't shy about being physical if it's deemed necessary.
The biggest thing we will have to make sure our players do a good job of is not getting caught ball watching. The Koreans are an unselfish team that creates good rhythm in possession and then quickly changes the point of attack. They look to play the ball up, back, then up the field to a streaking player. Because of this you can't get caught ball watching or they will be able to find the open man and penetrate.
We saw this first hand when we played South Korea at the Busan International U-17 Youth Tournament in Busan, South Korea in late May. During the match, they broke us down with some good ball movement and our guys got caught ball watching. Even though they never scored on those chances, they were able to get good looks. We ended up losing that game 3-0, giving up all the goals in the second half. While the first goal was off a penalty kick, the next two were due to poor clearances from our backline. Against Korea you can't give them any additional opportunities because they will take advantage every time.
At kickoff nears, we feel that we have prepared well. We have played several warm-up matches against teams that have similar styles of play to the Koreans and worked hard on correcting our mistakes from our previous meeting. The boys are focused and ready to play. Hopefully, this time we will be able to get a different result and put ourselves in a good position to advance out of our group.