Korea has a great record at the AFC U19 Championships – we’ve won the tournament way more times than any other country (12) and perform well in the U20 World Cup. In 2014, however, Kim Sangho failed to make it past the group stages after a disappointing loss and draw to Japan and China, respectively, despite some top talents in Kim Gunhee, Hwang Heechan, Baek Seungho, and an in-form Seo Myungwon. This time around we are playing in the tournaments expecting to host next year’s 2017 U20 World Cup, and we yet again got knocked out of the group stages – at the hands of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Thaliand. As a side note Ahn Iksoo STILL ended up never playing Baek SH – what’s the Barca man gotta do to get minutes with his youth teams? More after the jump:
Before I start rehashing all of AIS’s criticisms a lot of people have been wondering why we didn’t get past the group stage despite having six points and having the second highest goal difference. Well, the AFC rules are highly unconventional to say the least. According to Wikipedia:
- Greater number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned;
- Goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned;
- Greater number of goals scored in the group matches between the teams concerned;
The key phrase here, which literally no other federation aside from Asia uses, is “between the teams concerned.” This means that in tiebreaking the Thailand matches are completely irrelevant – we’re only going off of Korea 3-1 Bahrain, Bahrain 3-2 Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia 2-1 Korea. All three teams got 3 points against each other; goal difference is also 0 for all three teams. However, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia scored 4 conceded 4 while we scored 3 and conceded 3. Thus, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia advance.
It’s a slightly unconventional rule, yes, but don’t we only have ourselves to blame? First off with the team of our calibre the loss to SA should never have happened. That match, which I fortunately didn’t get to watch, was reportedly “god-awful” according to pretty much all the comments on Naver. If Ahn Iksoo stays on as coach the chances of us advancing from the group in the U20 World Cup don’t look very good either.
To be honest something like this was going to happen sooner or later. Ahn Iksoo had been getting criticism left and right since he took over two years ago. His ultra-conservative style of play and crazy sense of tactics come to mind quickly. What kind of manager in their right mind plays a long-ball 4-4-2 with two short, agile half-FW half AM players as the two top (Lee SW and Baek SH)? A five year old who watches football could probably tell me that’s a disaster. Granted that only happened once but overall, AIS teams don’t have the best offensive chemistry. Moreover, for a team that plays so defensively (to the point where other managers borderline complain about it), the defense made a surprising amount of mistakes throughout the tournament. Take a look at the goals we conceded:
The freekick was admittedly a really good one that was really hard to save, the second goal, and the response to the second goal, really don’t make sense to me. On the second goal you’ll see that Han Chan Hee (#8) is initially guarding his man (the goalscorer #5), but completely loses his marker and gives away a free header. Even worse, NOT A SINGLE KOREAN JUMPED. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen a team defending a corner make no attempt to jump period. Like, I have to make a GIF out of it because it’s so mind-boggling.
The second disappointing thing is the response. Typically when Korea falls behind we start amping up our attack and increasing possession (well it usually doesn’t amount to anything meaningful and we end up either flubbing all our chances or not creating chances at all / backpassing), but this time you’ll see that we kind of let the opposition continue attacking. These kinds of decisions should be up to the managers, but it seems that the substitutions made didn’t have any effect either.
What did we learn from this tournament?
- AIS is a very stubborn kind of guy. We’ve seen at numerous small tournaments that this guy just doesn’t cut it. The KFA arranged a TON of friendlies for him to figure something out that works, but he seems to have squandered both Suwon Cups, all three of the Germany friendlies, the tournament in Russia, everything. We went through all that … to get knocked out by Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. With a pretty good team at that. Surely by now the KFA must realize that there must be someone more suited? The obvious answer here would be Lee Gwangjong… RIP to the best youth coach Korea has ever seen.
- Song Siwoo is pretty good – I did get to watch parts of Thailand and Bahrain and it seems that this new LW has been quite promising. Kim Jung Hwan, famous for turning down Atletico Madrid B, also played his part quite well.
- Cho Youngwook is REALLY good – he’s the new Hwang Heechan of this generation and will be looking to carry Team Korea’s attack force when we host the U17 WC.
- Park Hanbin + Kim Gunwoong need evaluation. Throughout the tournament we had a pretty bad midfield presence and some horrendous pass misses, which is a little odd considering that the midfield was actually quite solid in the past Suwon JS Cup. Speaking of which…
- The defense has gotten noticeably worse – the defense was surprisingly solid against Brazil, France, and Japan, but we leaked four goals to Asian minnows this time around. Could it be the University effect? Where the 18 year olds are the top dogs in their high school teams and are on top form but as freshmen in the Uni Leagues, are getting much less playing time?
I do not know if there are any more high profile friendlies left before we host the 2017 U17 WC (there must be, we have a whole year left), but even this late in the game I have a suspicion replacing AIS with a better tactician is the way to go if we’re to make a deep run on home turf.