International Friendly: Poland vs South Korea – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Both sides have suffered losses already in the international break, and another defeat could derail their World Cup preparation.
19:45 BST, Tuesday 27th March, Silesian Stadium (Silesia, Poland)
Poland’s decision to play just one friendly during World Cup qualification was vindicated as they received a pot one ranking during the draw. A hand group for the finals in Russia followed, but it does mean they are behind other teams in preparing their side. Since qualifying, the Poles are yet to record a victory.
South Korea were shaping up brilliantly for the finals, but an eight-game unbeaten streak was broken by Northern Ireland. Poland are the best side South Korea will face until the World Cup, so a positive result is needed in Silesia to get back on track.
Last time out
Poland 0-1 Nigeria (International friendly)
After going 180 minutes without a goal in November’s friendlies (0-1 vs Uruguay, 0-0 vs Mexico), playing Nigeria in Wroclaw should have cured their goals scoring problems, especially with Robert Lewandowski up front.
The Bayern Munich striker hit the post in the first half and Grzegorz Krychowiak had a header cleared from the goal mouth which may have crossed the line. Nigeria weathered the storm and stole the victory when Victor Moses took a tumble in the penalty area and slotted the resulting penalty.
Northern Ireland 2-1 South Korea (International friendly)
On an eight-match unbeaten run, South Korea were shaping up well for Russia, but they were caught cold by Northern Ireland in Belfast. Chang-Hoon Kwon broke the deadlock after a superb move down the right-hand side, but the Northern Irish were let back into the match through Min-Jae Kim’s own goal.
Northern Ireland have proved to be a tough nut to crack under Michael O’Neill, and a late strike from Paul Smyth gave the home side the victory at Windsor Park, despite just having one shot on target.
It’s a tough call for Poland Adam Nawalka coach as he needs to find the balance between settling on a starting lineup and seeing the whole of his squad. For that reason, talented duo Robert Lewandowski and Grzegorz Krychowiak may not start. The 97-capped Jakub Blaszczykowski is currently out injured but he should return for the World Cup finals.
South Korea lineup
Expect South Korea to keep with a strong lineup as they look to return to winning ways. Crystal Palace’s Lee Chung-Yong and former Middlesbrough man Lee Dong-Gook are surprise omissions from Shin Tae-Yong’s squad.
Key battle: Lukasz Piszczek (Poland) vs Heung-Min Son (South Korea)
Of course, Heung-Min Son will be South Korea’s key man at the World Cup, with 18 goals netted for Tottenham this season. He will look to target the ageing Lukasz Piszczek on the right-hand side of the Polish defence, and if Son can use his pace on the counter-attack, there will be nothing Poland can do to stop him.
Piszczek is an experienced cookie however, with close to 300 appearances for Borussia Dortmund and picking up two Bundesligas and two German cups along the way. Kamil Glik, a world class defender, will be alongside him, and if they use all their defensive nous and experience, they may just be able to stifle the high-flying Son.
Milik means business
When Poland helped host Euro 2012, they lined up with a pair of strikers, Robert Lewandowski and Arkadiusz Milik. The latter’s injury problems since has thwarted him, but Milik is likely to get the chance to start against South Korea.
The Napoli striker has featured just eight games for his club this season, but in his final season at Ajax in 2015/16 he bagged 21 goals in 31 games. If can even show a glimmer of that sort of form, it will take some of the pressure off Lewandowski this summer.
Holding the Ki
Heung-Min Son may be the talisman for South Korea, but he needs service. This should come from Swansea midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng who is has so many skills to his game. Consistency has often been the 29-year-old’s downfall, but as his nation’s captain, a lot will be expected.
Ki has the capacity to win the ball back and spread the play, and if he can get Son in behind the Polish defence on Tuesday, the winger won’t have to be asked twice to score.
Prediction: Poland 1-0 South Korea
Poland’s more balanced squad should see them over the line against South Korea, especially on home soil. With Robert Lewandowski likely to come off the bench, a tiring Korean defence will struggle to keep him quiet.
Can either of these sides cause a shock at the World Cup? Let us know int he comments section below.