Football/Soccer

5 talking points ahead of Wales' first-ever meeting with South Korea in Cardiff

Tottenham teammates Ben Davies, left, and Son Heung-min could line up against each other in the Wales v South Korea friendly on Thursday (John Walton/PA)
Phil Blanche, PA Sport

Wales warm up for Euro 2024 qualifying action in Latvia with a Cardiff friendly against South Korea on Thursday.

While Monday’s trip to Riga holds greater importance to Wales, the South Korea game takes on special significance for Rob Page’s Dragons after a difficult 12 months.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the main talking points surrounding the first meeting between the two nations at senior men’s level.

Rob keen to write new Page

Wales Training Session and Press Conference – Vale Resort – Wednesday 6th September
Rob Page is looking for a positive result against South Korea after a run of only one win in 12 games for Wales (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Exactly 12 months ago manager Rob Page signed a new four-year contract and everything in the Welsh garden was rosy. Wales were on their way to a first World Cup for 64 years under Gareth Bale’s captaincy. Following a miserable time in Qatar, Bale and other senior players retired and June defeats to Armenia and Turkey have left Wales with an uphill task to automatically qualify for Euro 2024. After one win in 12 games, the pressure on Page is growing.

Together Stronger?

Wales v England – FIFA World Cup 2022 – Group B – Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium
Wales football fans are expected in far smaller numbers for their friendly with South Korea (Nick Potts/PA)

Wales has been bound tightly by its ‘Together Stronger’ mantra since Chris Coleman’s side blazed a path to the semi-finals of Euro 2016. With sell-out games at their Cardiff fortress and thousands of voices present on away days, the passionate fan-base became known as ‘The Red Wall’. But that ‘Wall’ will be missing a few blocks this week with the 33,000-capacity Cardiff City Stadium in danger of being half-empty for the visit of South Korea.

Come on you Spurs

Tottenham fans will have more than a passing interest in the game should Brennan Johnson, Ben Davies and Son Heung-min be involved. Spurs spent £47.5million on Johnson on deadline day as the 22-year-old Wales forward arrived from Nottingham Forest to help make up for the departure of Harry Kane. Great friends Davies and Son could be in direct competition against each other, with the Spurs and South Korea captain high on confidence after his weekend hat-trick at Burnley.

Keeper crisis

Wales Training and Press Conference – Principality Stadium
Wales goalkeepers Wayne Hennessey (right), Danny Ward (centre) and Adam Davies (left) are not currently playing first-team football (Nick Potts/PA)

Page took the unusual decision to name four goalkeepers in his squad for this week’s double-header – Danny Ward, Wayne Hennessey, Adam Davies and Tom King. Yet none of them are first-choice at their clubs and only Davies has had any game-time this season, for Sheffield United in the Carabao Cup. It is a big problem that Page has no control over and the Wales boss is likely to give number one Ward much-needed minutes on Thursday.

Klinsmann bother

Kilmarnock v Celtic – cinch Premiership – The BBSP Stadium Rugby Park
Former Germany striker Jurgen Klinsmann has got off to a difficult start as South Korea boss (Jane Barlow/PA)

Page is not the only manager under pressure. New South Korea boss Jurgen Klinsmann has felt the heat after just six months in the job, not just due to results on the pitch but because of issues off it. Four home games have yet to produce a win, with draws Colombia and El Salvador and defeats to Uruguay and Peru. The USA-based former Germany striker and World Cup winner has been criticised for spending so little time in South Korea since his appointment and naming his squad for September games against Wales and Saudi Arabia in the form of a press release rather than holding a press conference.