Because this is a World Cup year, I have decided to countdown to the tournament by providing a short soccer/fitness related preview of each of the 32 participating nations. In this installment, I will look at the Korea Repubic, the Asian team with the most-ever appearances at the World Cup, whose qualification for this year’s tournament marks their 9th total appearance, dating back all the way to 1954 in Switzerland. Korea Republic have been drawn in Group H, which includes Belgium, Russia, and Algeria, and they play their first match against Russia on June 17th.
Having just recently returned from the 4th World Conference on Science and Soccer in Portland, Oregon (June 4th-7th, 2014), there was one presentation that stuck in my mind when I researched the Korean Republic team. Ricardo Duarte, PhD., a professor at the University of Lisbon and consultant with Manchester City FC in the English Premier League, presented his study on “social networks” in soccer, on Saturday, June 7th. Without getting into all the details, basically professor Duarte has developed a mathematical model for analysing attacking passing and movement combinations and sequences that occur during games, which he has termed “social networks”, and has been able to predict the likeliness of certain outcomes, such as total shots, shots on goal, goals scored, and even matches won, using this model. Among the key predictors of a team’s success in their social network is the consistency of their starting line-up; that is, the more they use the same starting-11, the more likely it is that they will have successful passing and movement sequences that will lead on shots on goal and goals scored.
In the case of the Korea Republic National Team, they have struggled in this regard. During the team’s 2014 World Cup qualification campaign, they never found a consistent starting-11, and used a total of 32 players over the qualification period. The lack of consistency in the Korean roster has led to some poor results on the pitch, as they first struggled In the 3rd round of the Asian qualifiers, losing 2-1 to Lebanon ( a result which cost coach Cho Kwangrae his job) and requiring a 2-0 win over Kuwait to progress to the last phase. In that round, Korea Republic did not fare much better, as they dropped points in several games, including 2 defeats to Iran, and required a 5-1 defeat of Qatar to confirm their direct qualification over Uzbekistan on goal difference.
While there has obviously not been any research done using the “social network’ model on the Korea Republic’s 2014 World Cup team, it is clear that the lack of consistency in their line-up has led to some poor on-field performances. With a new coach in Choi Kanghee, and a wide-open field of competition in Group H, they may have an opportunity to find the right starting-11 and improve the success of their social network on the pitch. We will have to wait and see what happens in 2 weeks’ time.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.