South Korea vs. Japan: Key Battles in Men's Bronze Medal Match

Ed Wyman@@edwymanCorrespondent IAugust 8, 2012

South Korea vs. Japan: Key Battles in Men's Bronze Medal Match

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    South Korea and Japan will do battle this Friday after both sides lost in their respective semifinals. With a bronze medal at stake, this third place playoff has a far greater significance than it might otherwise have.

    The all-Asian clash is a rematch of the Asian Cup semifinal last year, which Japan won on penalties

    Whilst this is a U23 match and that encounter was a full level international, you can be sure that South Korea will be hoping to exact revenge on their fierce rivals. 

    With little to choose between two of Asian football's powerhouses, there are going to be decisive battles all over the pitch as both teams try to avoid leaving London empty-handed.

    So, here is a summary of the most important of those confrontations that will take place this Friday at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

Shuichi Gonda vs Dong-Won Ji

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    Shuichi Gonda has only conceded three goals so far this tournament, all of which came against Mexico, with there being little he could have done about any of them.

    Dong-Won Ji, meanwhile, has only found the scoresheet once so far, scoring with a long-range drive against Great Britain.

    Sunderland's striker will be looking to improve on that record, but Gonda has been improving since looking less than secure in Japan's opening fixture against Spain and performed well against Mexico, despite the goals he conceded. 

    If his South Korean opponent doesn't look more threatening than he has for much of this tournament, South Korea are going to be hard pushed to come away with a bronze medal.

Beom-Young Lee vs Kensuke Nagai

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    Forced into action after Sung-Ryong Jung suffered an injury whilst playing against Great Britain, Lee made a vital penalty save from Daniel Sturridge. However, he was beaten all too easily at the near post for the opening goal of his side's 3-0 loss against Brazil.

    The 23-year-old is a virtual unknown outside the K-League, but he has a chance to play a central role in his country's fight for an Olympic medal as he squares up against Japanese striker Kensuke Nagai.

    Nagai has scored twice so far this tournament and will be hoping to add to his tally against a goalkeeper whose confidence will not be particularly high heading into the match.

    A hard worker with a good turn of pace, Nagai could cause Lee some real problems. However, the young goalkeeper will have something to prove heading into the biggest match of his career so far, and he has already shown that he operates well under pressure. 

Tae-Hee Nam vs Yuhei Tokunaga

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    Right-sided midfielder Tae-Hee Nam fared well against Brazil, showing that his game has an attacking side to it in addition to his defensive ability, which he had already displayed against Great Britain. 

    Yuhei Tokunaga has been a vital defensive cog for Japan at left-back. The 28-year-old has had some tough battles against the likes of Spain and Mexico, but he has proved himself to be defensively competent. 

    If Tae-Hee Nam is able to get past Tokunaga with anything approaching regularity, South Korea will have a fantastic channel of attack to exploit, especially with his excellent delivery into the box.

    The contest, however, looks to be pretty even and could well be decided by a single mistake. 

Maya Yoshida vs Chu-Young Park

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    Arsenal's Chu-Young Park has a hard task ahead of him as he comes up against Maya Yoshida, arguably Japan's player of the tournament so far. 

    The Japanese centre-back has been fantastic during the Olympics, keeping Juan Mata at bay and turning in big performances against Mexico and Egypt.

    Chu-Young Park has not experienced the same level of success; he has played well without being overly threatening. The Arsenal striker has worked hard throughout the tournament, but he has managed just a single goal so far.

    His form will need to perk up significantly if he is to seriously trouble VVV Venlo's Yoshida, a young but relatively experienced defender.

    However, there is a reason Arsenal signed the South Korean; he has an impressive record for his country at the full international level and was consistent for Monaco. He will need to draw on the experience that has given him if he is to make a difference against Japan. 

Ki Sung-Yueng vs Hotaru Yamaguchi

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    The battle for control in the centre of midfield is always important, and this match will be no exception. 

    Celtic's Ki Sung-Yueng was very impressive against Great Britain with an impressive passing display complemented by defensive grit. He continued his hard work against Brazil, although it proved to be in vain.

    Hotaru Yamaguchi, like Ki Sung-Yueng, has looked great on the ball, especially against Spain and Egypt, and will be hoping to continue his good form on Friday.

    The two central midfielders will both be looking to distribute the ball and get attacks started. If one of them can get control of play earlier on it will allow his side to dominate play and gain a potentially crucial early advantage.