Sometimes in football, a draw feels like a loss. Other times, it feels like a victory. In today’s case of the 2-2 draw between Paulo Bento’s senior men’s national team and Kim Hakbum’s U23 Olympics squad, the feelings are probably complicated.
For the fans, this was a victory. Getting our beloved Taegeuk Warriors back after months of COVID19 postponements to international matches was a huge victory. What about for the players? Well, I imagine the U23 squad feels that this draw was a loss, as a lapse in concentration late in the match allowed an easy equalizer to Bento’s squad. For the senior team, well, it probably also felt like a loss. They had led 1-0 at the half, but fell behind 2-1 after being outworked by the U23 midfield and attack.
In the end, 2-2 was a fair result for all involved. Both Bento and Hakbum will now have to prepare for Round 2 on Monday. Let’s take a look at some winners and losers from this match while looking ahead to Monday.
Lee Donggyeong – This one is easy. Bento turned heads by selecting Lee Donggyeong as one of his 3 “wildcards”, the 3 U23 players he could select from Hakbum’s squad. Lee Donggyeong was creative throughout and showcased great vision to spring Lee Juyong free for the first goal. While Bento’s squad lacked creativity overall and missed Europe-based players like Lee Jaesung, Hwang Heechan, Kwon Changhoon, etc., Lee Donggyeong took the opportunity to prove he’s ready for the senior team right now. He’s been getting looks from European clubs and had a deal to transfer to Boavista FC break down recently, but it’s clear he won’t be staying in the K League long term.
Song Mingyu – Song Mingyu has burst onto the scene in the K League for Pohang Steelers, occupying a spot as their LW consistently. He was not in the U23 picture enough to be selected for January’s AFC U23 Championship. However, it’s clear he will be in the conversation for Tokyo 2020 (to be held in 2021). He has dribbling technique that allowed him to drive by the senior defense before deftly shooting past Jo Hyeonwoo for the equalizer.
Cho Youngwook – Opposite Song, Cho Youngwook was also a menace in a strong second half performance from the U23 attack. He also was left out of the AFC U23 squad, but made a forceful statement that he is worth a look for his pressure and dribbling ability. He has pace, drives forward, and makes opportunity for his teammates. He will most likely have to start adding goals to his arsenal since he struggles for that a bit at FC Seoul, but he proved that he will contribute to the squad’s high press.
Kim Jaewoo / Jeong Taewook – The CB pairing that Kim Hakbum went with just didn’t work today. They are both aerially competent CBs, but they do not have the pace or confidence as defenders just yet. Lee Juyong was allowed far to much freedom and space to run at them and score his goal. On the equalizer, they continued to backtrack as Kim Insung raced towards them on the break. Neither player stepped up quickly to cut off the pass to Lee Jeonghyeop or to force Kim Insung into a shot. They showed their inexperience and Kim Hakbum most likely will rotate one of them on Monday.
Jung Seunghyun – It says a lot about what Bento thinks of Jung Seunghyun that Won Dujae was given a start over him. The tactical idea from Bento was to have a transitional 4-1-4-1 and 3-5-2. In the back four, Won Dujae was asked to partner Kwon Kyungwon. In the 3-5-2, Won was asked to sit in front of Kwon and monitor the space. Won Dujae performed both roles pretty well. However, the fact that Jung Seunghyun wasn’t chosen to start probably signals that Bento rates a younger player like Won Dujae over him. Kim Younggwon and Kim Minjae weren’t eligible for this K League-only squad, which makes it even worse that Jung couldn’t crack the starting lineup.
These were the five players that really stuck out to me while watching the match. Overall, it was just fun to have the national team back. Round 2 on Monday will be quite the match. In my opinion, Kim Hakbum should rotate his CBs and really go for a dominating victory to send a message that his U23 squad will be ready for Tokyo next year. Take a look at the highlights below:
Also, if you want to watch the full match replay, the KFA has opened up a Twitch channel. Here’s the link: https://www.twitch.tv/korea_national_team
When: Monday, Oct. 12, 8PM KST, 7 AM EST
Where: Goyang Stadium
How to Stream: MBC Sports+, Twitch
Let us know in the comments the players that stuck out to you.