‘Son Heung-min to play’ Korea vs. ‘Legendary first team’ Japan…
Junghoon Nam and Sungmin Lee= Who would win if South Korea and Japan played their best 11?
South Korea and Japan have an iconic rivalry that is often referred to as the Korea-Japan game. Pride is at stake for both countries, and the outcome of the match can change the mood of a nation.
At the senior national team level, South Korea has won 26 games, drawn 16 and lost 16, but in the last 10 games, South Korea has won three, drawn two and lost five. This is largely due to the fact that the quality of Japanese soccer has risen considerably in recent years and many of their players have gone on to play in Europe.
However, Japan and South Korea have yet to play each other at full strength recently, so many fans are looking forward to this matchup. With the Asian Cup in Qatar less than a year away, we take a look at both teams’ best lineups to see who has the edge in each position. We’ve compared their records from the 2022/23 season with their records from the 2021/22 season.
South Korea: Cho Hyun-woo (31) – Since joining Ulsan Hyundai, Cho has been the club’s starting goalkeeper. Last season, Cho made 33 clean sheets in 36 games in the K League 1, helping Ulsan win the league title. He kept 10 clean sheets. For his performance, he was named to the Hana OneQ K League 1 2022 Best 11.
Japan: Kosuke Nakamura (28) – The goalkeeper for Portimonense in the Portuguese League started 30 games in the 2022/23 season and kept six clean sheets. He has an xG (expected goals against) of 54.10, but he led the team with 46 fewer conceded goals. He also led the Portuguese league in saves per 90 minutes last season.
While Choi has conceded fewer goals, Ulsan is the top team in the K League and Portimonense is in the relegation zone, so I’ll give them some leeway and call it a draw.
Left-right fullback (Japanese dominance)
South Korea: Kim Jin-soo (31) – Currently plays for Jeonbuk Hyundai in the K League 1. Last season, Kim had 2 goals and 3 assists in 31 games in the league. His cross success rate was 36% and his tackle success rate was 47% in the regular season in the K League 1. According to soccer statistics site FotMob, he had a rating of 7.11.
Kim Moon-hwan (28) – Kim currently plays for Al Duhail in Qatar. He scored 1 goal and provided 3 assists in 28 games in the K League 1 last season. His cross success rate was 33% and his tackle success rate was 59% in the regular season, excluding the K League 1 final round. FotMob gave him a rating of 6.95.
Japan: Takehiro Tomiyasu (24) – Playing for Arsenal in the Premier League, Tomiyasu is a right fullback for the Gunners. In the 2021/22 season, he was a regular starter and started 20 games. He had a 42% cross success rate and a 49% tackle success rate. He totaled 0 goals and 1 assist for an overall rating of 7.04.
Yukinari Sugawara (23) – plays for AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch league and is a right fullback for the club. In the 2022/23 season, he was a regular starter in 26 games, winning 27% of his crosses and 61% of his tackles. He totaled three goals and eight assists for an overall rating of 7.29.
Since Kim Jin-Soo and Kim Moon-Hwan played in the K League and didn’t win, we decided to go with the Japanese fullback who performed well in the Netherlands and England.
center back (draw)
South Korea: Kim Young-kwon (33) – Kim plays for Ulsan in the K League 1. Last season, he made 36 league appearances and helped Ulsan win the K League 1 title. He had a 71% tackle success rate and 71 interceptions. Kim was named to the Hana OneQ K League 1 2022 Best 11 for defenders. FotMob gave him a rating of 7.10.
Kim Min-jae (26) – Kim is currently the heart of the South Korean national team’s defense. This summer, he joined Bayern Munich from SSC Napoli for €50 million ($72.2 billion). Last season, Kim finished with 2 goals and 2 assists in 35 games. According to FotMob, he had a 55% tackle success rate and 122 interceptions. As SSC Napoli won the Serie A title, Kim won the league’s best defender award.
Japan: Ko Itakura (26) – Itakura plays for Borussia Mönchengladbach in the German Bundesliga and is a center back for the club. In the 2022/23 season, he was a regular starter in 22 games, winning 59% of his tackles, making 92 clearances and 27 interceptions. He totaled 0 goals and 2 assists for an overall rating of 6.96.
Hiroki Ito (24) – He plays for VFB Stuttgart in the German Bundesliga and is a center back for the club. In the 2022/23 season, he was a regular starter in 29 games, winning 73% of his tackles, making 84 clearances and 40 interceptions. He totaled one goal and one assist for an overall rating of 7.13.
Kim Min-jae is Asia’s best defender, and Kim Young-kwon was a key part of the team’s championship run the previous season, so I considered the Bundesliga’s center back duo a draw with Japan.
Midfield (Japan dominant)
South Korea: Lee Kang-in (22) – The midfielder is considered the future of the South Korean national team. He left Mallorca this summer to join Paris Saint-Germain. Lee scored six goals and provided six assists in 36 games in La Liga last season. His passing success rate was 80% and his dribbling success rate was 73%. FotMob gave him a rating of 7.19.
Hwang In-Beom (26) – A former favorite of former coach Paulo Bento, Hwang has been a regular in the squad under Jürgen Klinsmann. For Olympiakos in Greece, he scored three goals and provided four assists in 32 games in the Greek Super League. His passing success rate was 88% and his dribbling success rate was 73%. He has a FotMob rating of 7.63.
Lee Jae-sung (30) – Formerly of Jeonbuk Hyundai and Holstein Kiel, Lee currently plays for Mainz 05. He had seven goals and four assists in 34 games in the Bundesliga last season. His passing success rate was 74% and his dribbling success rate was 81%. FotMob gave Lee a rating of 7.06.
Japan: Hidemasa Morita (28) – Morita plays for Sporting Lisbon in the Portuguese league and is a central midfielder for the club. In the 2022/23 season, he was a regular starter in 21 games, completing 87% of his passes and 45% of his dribbles. He totaled six goals and three assists for an overall rating of 7.32.
Wataru Endo (30) – Playing for VFB Stuttgart in the German Bundesliga, Endo is a central and defensive midfielder. He is a regular and captain, having started 33 games in the 2022/23 season. He completed 80% of his passes and 58% of his dribbles. He totaled five goals and four assists for an overall rating of 7.36.
Daichi Kamada (27) – He plays for Lazio in the Italian Serie A and can play as an attacking midfielder, central midfielder, or center forward. In the 2022/23 season, he was a regular starter in 25 games, completing 83% of his passes and 44% of his dribbles. He totaled nine goals and six assists for a 7.21 rating.
In the midfield, both teams have good members that are comparable to the top teams in Europe. However, Japan has the edge because their midfield is better organized and has good stats at higher levels.
Forward (South Korea dominant)
South Korea: Son Heung-min (31) – The symbol of South Korean soccer and ace of the national team. He also plays the main role for his club Tottenham Hotspur. Last season, he was disappointing in the EPL with 10 goals and six assists in 36 games, but in 2021/22 he became the first Asian to lead the EPL in scoring with 23 goals in 35 games. Son has scored double-digit goals in the EPL in seven consecutive seasons since the 2016/17 season.
Hwang Hee-chan (27) – Currently plays for Wolverhampton Wanderers. In the 2022/23 season, he scored 3 goals and 1 assist in 27 league games. He had a shooting accuracy of 39%, a dribbling success rate of 50%, and a cross success rate of 20%. His FotMob rating was 6.45.
Cho Kyu-sung (25) – The Danish defender joined Mittwilan this summer. He played for Gimcheon Commerce and Jeonbuk last season, finishing as the top scorer in the K League 1 with 17 goals and five assists in 31 games. This earned him a spot in the top 11 K League 1 strikers. Currently, Cho has scored in three consecutive games since the start of the Danish league, setting a new club record.
Japan: Kaoru Mitoma (26) – Mitoma plays for Brighton in the English Premier League and is a left winger for the club. In the 2022/23 season, he was a regular starter in 24 games, winning 50% of his shots, 52% of his dribbles, and 7% of his crosses. He totaled seven goals and five assists for a rating of 7.32.
Takefusa Kubo (22) – Kubo plays for Real Sociedad in Spanish La Liga, where he can play as a right winger or right midfielder. In the 2022/23 season, he was a regular starter in 29 games, completing 53% of his shots, 49% of his dribbles, and 25% of his crosses. He totaled nine goals and four assists for a 7.14 rating.
Daizen Maeda (25) – Maeda plays for Celtic in the Scottish League, where he plays as a left winger. In the 2022/23 season, he was a regular starter in 23 games, with a 47% shot on target, 42% dribble success, and 15% cross success rate. He totaled eight goals and five assists for a rating of 7.14.
Both teams have offenses that are on par with the top teams in Europe, but Son has the dominant stats and Cho Kyu-sung was the top scorer in the 2022 season. Japan has always been criticized for its lack of decisiveness, so South Korea has the edge.
When broken down by position, South Korea is favored with 1 win, 2 draws, and 2 losses. Considering the overall stats and the level of the league, Japan was stronger in the defense and midfield. Korea, on the other hand, has a strong offense anchored by Son Heung-min and Cho Kyu-sung. Overall, South Korea has fewer players playing in Europe than Japan. This is especially true in defense, where Japan has all of its players playing in Europe, while South Korea has three K League players. 꽁머니지급
Both nations have a golden generation, with South Korea reaching the round of 16 at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. South Korea has players like Son Heung-min, Lee Kang-in, and Kim Min-jae performing well in the top tier of European soccer. Japan, on the other hand, has a good balance with all of its players playing in the top European leagues. South Korea, with Son Heung-min, and Japan, with their legendary first team, have yet to meet. Here’s hoping for an Asian Cup final between Korea and Japan next year.