South Korea and China put their perfect records on the line in Asian Cup Group C when they meet on Wednesday to determine who tops the pool.
Marcello Lippi’s side go into the game with the advantage, having beaten Kyrgyzstan 2-1 and Philippines 3-0. Meanwhile, South Korea have negotiated those fixtures by a single goal margin.
A draw, therefore, would be enough to leave China in first place and open the door to a potentially more straightforward second-round match-up against a third-placed finisher in the round-of-16.
|Game||South Korea vs China|
|Date||Wednesday, January 16|
|Time||1.30pm GMT / 8.30am ET|
TV Channel, Live Stream & How To Watch
In the United States (US), the game will not be broadcast.
|US TV channel||Online stream|
In the United Kingdom (UK), the game will not be broadcast.
|UK TV channel||Online stream|
Squads & Team News
|Position||South Korea players|
|Goalkeepers||Kim S-G, Kim, J-H, Jo H-W|
|Defenders||Kim Y-G, Lee Y, Kim J-S, Hong C, Kim M-J, Jung S-H, Kwon K-W, Kim M-H|
|Midfielders||Ki S-Y, Lee C-Y, Koo J-C, Son H-M, Lee J-S, Jung W-Y, Hwang H-C, Ju S-J, Hwang I-B, Lee S-W|
|Forwards||Ji D-W, Hwang U-J|
Tottenham attacker Son Heung-min has arrived to bolster South Korea’s squad after being allowed to play for his club side.
South Korea boss Paulo Bento otherwise expects to have a full squad to choose from.
Possible South Korea starting XI: Kim S-G; Lee Y, Kim M-J, Kim Y-G, Hong C; Hwang I-B, Jung W-Y; Hwang H-C, Koo J-C, Son H-M; Hwang U-J
|Goalkeepers||Yan, Zhang L, Wang D|
|Defenders||Liu Yiming, Yu, Shi, Zhang L, Feng, Zhang C, Liu Yang|
|Midfielders||Zhao X, Zheng Z, Hao J, Chi, Wu X, Jin, Yu H, Piao|
|Forwards||Wu L, Xiao, Wei, Gao, Yu D|
Wu Lei shrugged off an injury he sustained against Kyrgyzstan to score twice against the Philippines last Friday and is able to go again on Wednesday.
Marcello Lippi has no other serious selection concerns, though he has hinted he could be tempted to rotate his squad.
Former Charlton and Celtic player Zheng Zhi, who is now 38, is liable to start in midfield.
Possible China starting XI: Yan; Zhang, Shi, Feng, Liu Yang; Zhao X, Zheng; Wu X, Hao, Gao; Wu L
Betting & Match Odds
South Korea are hot 11/20 favourites, according to bet365. China can be backed at 13/2, while a draw is priced at 5/2.
The biggest game of the Asian Cup 2019 to date takes place on Wednesday with South Korea meeting China.
The Koreans are the favourites for the title but have failed to impress in their opening two matches, in which they have recorded two 1-0 victories.
However, the arrival of star man Son Heung-min to bolster their squad should boost morale, and with qualification already secured head coach Paulo Bento is optimistic that his side can overcome the challenge of China.
“It will not be an easy game,” he said. “They’re also a good team, but if we make good training from tomorrow I think we will be OK because we have a lot of good players and coaches.
“I’m really proud of our team and it will be an exciting game. Both teams have already passed the group stage, but they are first and we are second and who knows how it will be after the third game.”
China have only defeated South Korea twice, but one of those victories came in 2018 World Cup qualifying, making Bento wary.
“Many things have changed but they won the last match against us, so it will be a tough game,” he said.
Meanwhile, Marcello Lippi has talked about the importance of the attitude his China side have shown.
“The mentality of our team is also crucial, and it is currently very strong. We know this does not mean that we can win every match, but we feel we can play anyone and have a good chance of winning,” the 2006 World Cup winning coach said.
Still, he will approach this match in a pragmatic manner, aware that the worst possible outcome would be a second-round encounter with Thailand, a side 118 in the FIFA Ranking – 42 spots below his men.
“Of course, we will try our very best to beat Korea Republic, but as a coach, you must be smart and take absolutely everything into account,” he explained.
“The players who are either injured or who are not fully fit will be changed. I really need to sit down and analyse the situation in order to see what exactly is best.”