Yes ya’ll, in case you missed it (and in the US where the physical Tavern resides – many did with it’s morning kickoff) you heard it right -Lebanon, deadly dust storms and laser beams failed to derail a surging Korea squad as they defeated the hosts 0 : 3 – a place that has been for many years unforgiving terrain for Korea.
Let’s summarize quickly before belatedly basking in the highlight goals reel – Korea has been tearing it up with a 11-0 goals scored/allowed record in this international pair of games (including Friday’s 8-0 romp over Laos). Note: some brevity here as I had a poor stream quality – I got to see the match but it was a bit fuzzy).
On paper, Lebanon should be a team that Korea could handle –and yet since 1993, a trip to Lebanon has been like a voyage on a cursed pirate ship – only 2 draws and a spectacular 2-1 loss in November 2011 that led to Cho Kwang-Rae sacking as KNT manager.
Tuesday Uli Stielike fielded a starting XI that was solid on both sides of the pitch.
South Korea Starting XI (v Lebanon) pic.twitter.com/kQ9Wqm9oGI
— Korea Football News (@KORFootballNews) September 8, 2015
ICYMI: Korea's starting XI for tonight
Koo JC – Kwon CH – Ki SY – Lee CY
Kim JS – Kim YG – Kwak TH – Jang HS
— Jae (이재혁) (@ArmchairRegista) September 8, 2015
Personnel changes: Koo Ja-Cheol (newly transferred from Mainz back to Augsburg) and Park Joo-Ho (Mainz to BVB) joined the squad in Lebanon while Son Heung-Min, who netted a hat trick vs Laos, stayed back in Korea to complete paperwork required for his transfer to Tottenham.
The only head scratcher: why was Park Joo-Ho on the bench, newly transferred LB/DM to Germany’s table topping Borussia Dortmund? He flew over (and missed a friendly with Choi Kyong-Rok’s St Pauli) just for the game.
There was concern prior to kickoff as a deadly sandstorm swallowed the middle east and shut down many countries on Tuesday.Two people in Lebanon reportedly died from dust inhalation. The storm cleared up just enough and just in time for the game to kickoff. Still, it didn’t entirely clear out and players seemed visibly irritated and had to flush dust from their eyes.
From the onset, Korea looked boss. Ball possession, moving, grooving…like a sex machine (all respect to James Brown).
Captain Ki Seung-Yeung got the shooting gallery started with a well hit strike, the keeper having to work to save it. Those early chances created were but one indication of Korea’s ease in which they took control of the game. One hip shot observation: Korea stretched the field well; consequently Lebanon struggled to keep up.
Ki, doing a masterclass job distributing and finding players up field, in the 20th minute found Vitoria Setubal’s Suk Hyun-Jun (in good form for his club lately). Suk charged into the box and immediately crushed by 2 Lebanese defenders Youssef Mohamad and Walid Ismail – that foul drew the penalty. Jang Hyun-Soo (playing right back) took the PK. The keeper leaped to his right, Jang’s shot crashed against the left post and bounced it in for Korea’s first goal.
A few minutes later, Korea found the back of the net again, a nice bit of grit and defensive panic by Lebanon that put Korea up 2 goals. After losing the ball on the right, Koo managed to ply the ball loose from Lebanon, allowing Kwon Chang-Hoon to counter quickly upfield. Koo kept pace and received the pass from Kwon. With Koo racing toward goal and about to take the shot, Haman closed in from behind, but knocked into his own net.
And yes, other than regional surprise sandstorms, laser beams from the Lebanon support crowd was trained on Kim Seung-Gyu, particularly during set pieces.
Iron man was found at yesterday's match in Lebanon. pic.twitter.com/vht4kDA1i5
— Korea Football News (@KORFootballNews) September 9, 2015
Note the dust still lingering, which allowed for a more pink floyd-esque laser show. Kim, to his credit, didn’t let the beams on his face bother him and handled the dust AND lasers AND still managed to keep the ball out of the net.
To the lazer beamers in that crowd: Stay classy! Say, isn’t that meriting a penalty handed down from FIFA on Lebanon or their FA or something? [Tavern Intern – look into that right away, and get me some coffee. Yes, I take it black…shaken, not stirred].
Team Korea did not relent in the 2nd half. Captain Ki, working in conjunction with Suk Hyun-Jun kept the ball flowing in Lebanon’s half – found Kwon Chang-Hoon at the edge of the area. A lightening wicked turn and the Suwon man nailed his 19 yd shot into the right corner of the net – the outstretched body of the keeper too late to stop it from going in.
and here’s a highlight reel of all 3 goals
Korea did have a few scares, but lack of quality in Lebanon’s finishing minimized the concerns. Kim Seung-Gyu, while he didn’t as much to do, displayed a few quality saves -mind you -with lasers working against him. The only critical note: there might have been some shots that he parried that looked as though he could have gloved instead. The CB pair of Kim Young-Gwon and Kwak Tae-Hwi were largely untested, but did enough to preserve the clean sheet.
1st Half in it’s entirety above
2nd half in it’s entirety above
Uli’s squad, as mentioned before, managed 11 goals in the past 2 WCQ matches. What we learned:
- Suwon’s Kwon Chang-Hoon is a beast (and rumors circulating regarding interest from German clubs may not be too off base). Beastly dribbling + excellent positioning x hard fucking work = 3 goals in 2 games. Whoa!
- The European higher profile based players synced well with their domestic Korean, Japanese and Chinese based teammates. Domestic focus: Lee Jae-Sung, while he only featured against Laos, did score in stoppage time Friday – advanced his KNT case further. He came in the 2nd half to give Crystal Palace’s Lee Chung-Yong a break. Jae is a wickedly wonderful option in right, and dare I say, Jeonbuk’s interpretation of Lee Chung-Yong.
- …Which leads us to this: Uli may be experiencing quite an interesting good problem (if there are such things as good problems for the KNT) with some depth at certain positions, esp. at LB and various midfield positions. A nice selection of European and domestic players into the KNT mix is not a bad problem at all.
- Piggybacking off the last point, Borussia Dortmund’s Park Joo-Ho didn’t get onto the pitch. There’s speculation on why Uli didn’t select Park even appearing in substitution – could it be an unreported minor knock (note- absolute speculation & not verified…but remotely possible)? Have positions been locked up (ie. Hoffenheim’s Kim Jin-Su at LB and Vissel Kobe’s Jung Woo-Young as the defensive mid worked so-why-mess-with-it hypothesis)? If you ask me, Park should have played – no reason for Uli to call him up, bring him all the way from Germany from his new club that he’s trying to integrate with, for mere bench time – that is unless he had a minor knock…back to circulating speculations.
- Ki is Key. I cringe when I hear this kind of homophone overused by practically every English sports writer, but it’s very true, especially Tuesday. Ki, back from early EPL season injury, established himself as boss of the midfield. Playing further up the pitch, he distributed with superb class and aplomb that led to teammates being in the right place at the right time to make deadly impact.
- Has the forward problem been solved? Both games started with a 4-1-4-1 with Suk Hyun-Jun doing what I saw as a very decent job. Over 2 games, (1 goal scored against Laos), against Lebanon Suk earned the PK to set up goal #1. Ball control and movement looked good (especially for one as tall as him). No, he isn’t on a high profile European club, but he is on form and scoring more consistently for a midtable squad in Portugal’s top flight. Seems to work well but going forward, what about Suk up top vs the Brazil’s or Belgium’s of the world? Meanwhile Seongnam’s Hwang Ui-Jo, while he did well in ACL, didn’t show much in substitution on Tuesday. Thank goodness for Suk’s opportunity to shine, hopefully will pressure Stielike to give up on his Lee Jung-Hyup dream/project.
- Remember the days when tracking European based Koreans was easier – like when it just seemed it was only Park Ji-Sung and Lee Young-Pyo? We’re starting to see the fruition of ‘the dream’: more players in the KNT with quality European clubs, making impact both for club and country. Of the 23 man squad, 8 are Euro based, all in top flight. 3 EPL players, 4 Bundesliga players, 1 Portugal Liga player. It’s important to emphasize that domestic players should not be overlooked over their higher profile teammate, they also showed up and impressed me greatly (see Kwon Chang-Hoon & Lee Jae-Sung). Point being however, looking at the big picture, that mix isn’t too shabby and gives Stielike options to work with. Glass half empty perspective: taking look at Brazil’s dismantling of the US on Tuesday night, the visitors’ club pedigrees gave boss Dunga a much more dangerous arsenal to work with. Brazil fighting back from World Cup disgrace is incredibly dangerous, watch out.
- Multi goal games. Rewind a year ago, the days when the KNT created a million chances, only to squeak by with a goal, maybe 2? Against minnows, multiple goal games, with kind of firepower on paper that the KNT has -should’ve resulted in more goals; those past few years, that simply hasn’t happened. These pair of games vs Laos and Lebanon look and feel significantly different. There’s flow. There’s clean sheets. There’s Uli’s new look 4-1-4-1 and 4-3-3 formation that’s a departure from the run of the mill 4-2-3-1. More importantly, chances are being converted more regularly, more consistently. When you have a player like Son with the headline news making £22 million transfer to Tottenham, one should expect results. This weekend we got it in spades.
I’m starting a limited crowdfunding campaign to cover the Tavern web hosting costs. It’s not too heavy – $119.40 to be precise for the year (yes I am that kind of nerd). I don’t think I’m going with indie gogo or kickstarter, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in helping with the hosting costs. When we know all the good people who want to help out, via paypal, you can contribute what you’d like. The more people who help out, the better to spread out the costs. This allows the Tavern to be blissfully free of ads (and I won’t have to prostitute myself -Buddha forbid). Any help is INCREDIBLY APPRECIATED and your fellow Tavern goers will shout your name in respect! If I have time, I’ll make a good college try to make a European style football song to echo respect (disclosure: no guarantee that a song will materialize). Show your support for Non-profit Korean football news/analysis in English language format and email me. I’ll be continuing the campaign until further notice -or we get funds right away.
BTW there will be a calendar of upcoming KFA events, seeing as U17 World Cup is around the corner in October –and I believe some Olympic qualifiers for both men and women’s squads. Stay tuned…
Speaking of the KFA … ex writer/contributor and still friend of the Tavern, Jae Chee was able to get a KFA gig! Very excited for him as he translated the game summaries for both Laos and Lebanon wins for the KFA’s English site. See his translation for Tuesday’s game here. I’m with him – hope this spurs the KFA to continue to expand their KFA English website as it’s sometimes updated –but not always.
There’s been so many cool stuff I’ve been reading and hearing about, last week Barca B’s Paik Seung-Ho training temporarily with Barca’s first team (keep away with Luis Suarez amongst others!), an
erroneous report that La Masia ejected Jang Gyeol-Hee as Barca was hit with further FIFA punishments ( that earlier report was wrong and Jang is still with Barca and La Masia fortunately – though in a new twist, he’s training in Korea until November and expected to return to Barcelona then!? Que?!), UPDATE: whoa, this thing is happening too fast – Jang was let go from La Masia to comply with FIFA punishments -but still has a relationship with Barca – they may be trying to find a Catalan youth club for him -but there’s unconfirmed reports that Barca will seek to reinstate Jang when he turns 18. Lee Seung-Woo meanwhile will not return to LaMasia until he turns 18 in January, but hasn’t been jettisoned. More on this soon. Kim Bo-Kyung returning to the J-League, but not with Cerezo Osaka, but there’s just not enough time at the moment to cover all this. Me, I’m still working on my own personal projects – including filming a documentary on my family and their escape from North Korea. Still, at some point, perhaps we will get to read further about it here at the Tavern in the near future. So many interesting stories – it’s hard to keep track of it all.
Dae Han Min Guk: Go Korea –FIGHTING! RAAAAWWRR!
(rawwwrrr? Where the fuck did that come from –what is this, pro wrestling?)