As a KNT fan there are a number of matches, especially in recent memory, you just don’t want to hear about ever again. For me they have included 3-0 China, 3-0 Japan, 2-1 Lebanon, the Honduras game, the entire 2014 WC, and pretty much every match of the 2014 WC qualifying campaign last time around. I am now officially adding today’s (yesterday’s) Syria match among them – to everyone who woke up early/stayed up late to watch, I am very sorry, and to everyone who couldn’t (*cough* *Tim*), consider yourself lucky. Twitter was filled with expletives/superlatives today from people who usually don’t resort to expletives or superlatives, which gives you an idea of how bad the game was.
Though AFC WCQ Second Round went swimmingly with 0 goals conceded and all, our final round of qualifying has started quite poorly. The team isn’t playing like it used to, Stielike has made some baffling decisions, and unless Stielike makes some big changes we’re looking at a repeat of the incredibly shaky final round of WCQ from 2013 *shudder.*
The Starting Lineup:
The FW-MF lines were essentially the same. Since Son HM returned to Tottenham early, the only change made was Lee JS for SHM, which I approved of. The defense was rotated fairly heavily, with Oh JS starting alongside Kim YK, Jang HS (as CB!), and Lee Yong as RB. Kim Seung Gyu was substituted as the keeper, and without him we’d be looking at an incredibly embarrassing loss to Syria.
Overall I thought this would work just fine. We played our usual meaningless possession – take it out wide – backpass approach (worked fine against China!), and found ourselves unable to convert some decent chances. Koo JC almost scored early on thanks to a throughball from Ji Dongwon, but his shot was saved by the legs of the Syrian keeper. This time he didn’t fall to the ground clutching his leg (more on this later).
Of course our opponents got a chance or two as well. After breaking down the left flank, Syria’s #9 received the ball right in the middle of the park (very reminiscent of Massimo Luongo’s goal actually..) and took a touch and volleyed it on target, which Kim Seung Gyu barely saved.
Right afterward, Korea botches a counterattack once again (would someone PLEASE remind me the last time we scored a proper counterattack? PJY’s Gaksital goal against Japan in 2012 aside I can only think of 2010, no joke). After a Syrian freekick that is cleared, KSY and KJC find an onrushing LCY who throughpasses to JDW on the right flank (overhit but JDW is in a lot of space). JDW has all the time in the world to get in a low cross to onrushing Korean attackers but instead he floats it over the top … which is cleared easily by the Syrian defenders.
Ki, later in the half, nearly got himself on the scoresheet breaking down the right side of the penalty box, a scenario very much like Son Heungmin’s goal vs. Leicester last year. Only this time Ki hit the side netting.
Honestly despite the disappointing fact that we couldn’t score against Syria I was pretty optimistic that we could find a winner based off the first half alone. There were more longballs than I would have liked and it was quite boring aside from the chances I described above, but still – this is Syria we’re talking about.
But that second half came around and it was starting to look quite hopeless. The team tired out very quickly, and when subs were direly needed, subs were not provided until quite late into the match (75′). Korea ran out of ideas, and Syria just kept defending – despite some good looks on goal from Lee Chungyong (a great cutback cross from Lee Yong sees LCY’s shot saved by the GK) and Hwang Hee Chan (got very close to sending in a cross that beat the keeper), the match ended 0-0.
Of course, this is a West Asian team we’re talking about here, and grassrolling was once again the story of the day. It all started when the goalkeeper made a save (quite a routine save at that…) and fell down with an injured hand. This cycle repeated like 10 times over the course of the second half. The outfield players would also fall down in agony randomly, getting the ref to award 6 minutes of extra time. Of course, half of the 6 was spent waiting for the goalkeeper to get up, but I bet even without the grassrolling and the timewasting we wouldn’t have scored anyway. Because that’s how lacking the offensive creativity was in this game.
Now, I’ve seen a good deal of grassrolling in my life, and the world got a taste of it in 2014 when Iran took to the World Stage, but oh my this was some real next-level grassrolling on display. Have you ever seen a goalkeeper get injured so often? AND STILL STAY ON THE PITCH? Like I understand the Syrians just really want o go for that draw but to stoop so low and so shamelessly… this is why Asia gets made fun of (also for the fact that with Korea/Japan sucking really hard as of late but I digress). Some of the grassrolling is caught in the HL video below.
Stielike and Ki both complained post match about the grassrolling – who wouldn’t? Ki even called it out as something Asia should be embarrassed about. But it almost sounded like an excuse from the both of them – more on Stielike criticisms later, and this time, not even the most optimistic of fans will be defending Stielike.
“It’s not a satisfactory result,” Stielike said after the match. “Our goal was to collect a victory.”
On the other side, the Syria coach stated that their keeper was actually hurt. 1. This might b e the first time I’ve seen a keeper get hurt from a tame shot and 2) this would also tbe the first time seeing a coach deliberately keep in an injured goalkeeper?
I think the most frustrating thing about Stielike is his player selection – we’ve been complaining about this ad nauseum, especially having survived the CKH/HMB eras, but here we go again: Anyone who watches the K League right now will know that Jeonbuk and Seoul are miles ahead of most teams. Jeonbuk is carried by their formidable midfield while Seoul boast the feared across Asia attack trio 아대박 – Adriano Dejan and Park JY. Stielike, having supposedly watched so many K League games in person, should also know that the once in form Hwang Eui Jo, despite having scored 8 goals this season, is pretty far from “in-form” at the moment. Even Kwon Chang Hoon has hardly featured for Suwon since coming back from the ill-fated Olympics. But instead, Stielike chooses Hwang Eui Jo to replace SHM instead of someone who’s been playing much better, and regularly snubs much more deserving players like Kim BK or Park CY.
Honestly with teams like China and Syria a Jeonbuk + Seoul XI would get the job done.
Park Chu Young
Yoon Il Rok Lee Jong Ho Kim Bo Kyung
Lee Ho/Jang Yunho/Joo Se Jong Lee Jaesung
Ko Kwang Min Kwak Tae Hwi Choi Kyu Baek Choi Chul Soon
Kwon Sun Tae
And that’s taking from literally two teams in the K League – replacing CKB with Hong JH, for example, would make for a pretty good starting lineup. These players are in form, and most importantly, know how to shoot and finish. Every single one of the five attacking players, except for Lee Jaesung actually, have scored some great long range goals for the KNT at some point in the past and are playing very well for their respective clubs. The European players, meanwhile, just got started with their season and LCY + KJC aside aren’t even playing regularly for their teams.
Also, what kind of coach only chooses 20 players when 23 are allowed? Does he intentionally want to snub Park Chuyoung/Kimbo or something? Stielike was looking pretty good after the AC but something isn’t going right anymore clearly..
Stielike has a habit of sticking to one game plan (in fact, I don’t really know what plan B is aside from putting in Kwak Tae Hwi as a target man up front). While I don’t like to see us reverting to long balls to Wookie as plan B, it’s also really frustrating when this team obviously cannot create chances due to the opposition bunkering down hard. If plan A isn’t working, why not shift formation to something more forward-heavy? Do we really have to rehash the same old ineffective ideas with players who clearly can’t do anything and are clearly super tired? Why does Stielike sub players on so late, usually in the mid-70’s or 80’s? Isn’t it common sense for coaches to sub players MUCH earlier if things aren’t working too well? It just doesn’t make sense..
Also I thought when Stielike came in we’d start playing differently than we used to with HMB and CKH, but for some reason it looks all the same, and all so predictable. Why can we still not create anything down the middle? Why do we still start every attack from the fullbacks (in the words of Tom Danicek, Cruyff would roll over in his grave)? Why do we literally backpass all the time even with great options in front of us? You would think the apparent problems Korea has had since the retirement of PJS/LYP would be some of the first things managers would work on. I know NT managers don’t get much time but still, why do these problems still exist 6 years later? Is it just ingrained into the Korean psyche? (don’t think so, it’s been more of a problem as of late and the youth teams aren’t this bad).
Middle Eastern Teams..
Everyone in East Asia seems to hate playing Middle Eastern teams. I think sandalsforgoalposts put it best:
Look, stereotypes are awful, but there's just no way Middle Eastern goalkeepers are not taught how to time-waste from the very beginning.
— SandalsForGoalposts (@Sandal4Goalpost) September 6, 2016
Amen – while we can’t generalize to say middle eastern teams are taught to grassroll why is it that every time we play them, if we are not in a winning situation in the second half, the grassrolling breaks out in full force? Surely it must be a tactic ingrained in the mindset of middle eastern football? It actually kind of is:
@Sandal4Goalpost I can vouch for this, you're told "don't hurry" in football academies by coaches during the games. It's a norm
— Sina Saemian (@Sinaa_sa) September 6, 2016
Which would explain why middle eastern GK’s take a sweet long time whenever it comes to any sort of throw-in or goal kick…
You also have to wonder if this is the ref’s fault. Literally every friendly/tournament/WCQ we see instances of AFC refs proving themselves to be some of the most incompetent in the world. In the context of this match, the problem is that the AFC condones the serious grassrolling that the middle east is famous for. Normally, blatant timewasting and grassrolling gets punished with yellow cards – see Iran vs Argentina in the last World Cup. But not in the AFC! Where teams can grassroll all day…
That being said, KSY/Stielike really don’t have a right to blame the grassrolling because even if we had 20 minutes of extra time I bet we wouldn’t have scored anything. We only have ourselves to blame, which skimmilk summed up in a concise five words:
We deserve to be grassrolled
— Korean Footballers (@KoreaFootAbroad) September 6, 2016
Kim Seung Gyu 8 – without two very crucial saves we’d be looking at a 1-0 or 2-0 loss. It’s great to see a goalkeeper play so well for once, the last time I was really impressed by a GK on the senior level KNT was in the Asian Cup…
Oh Jaesuk 6.5 – I think OJS offers quite a bit going forward, and will be a solid option in RB once one of Kim JS / Park JH / Yoon SY find their form again. Made a mistake (missed interception) that fortunately went unpunished though.
Kim Young Kwon 6 – Did his job well enough?
Jang Hyun Soo 6 – see above.
Lee Yong 5.5 – was ehh going forward (nothing to note despite 1 really good cross to LCY) and nearly conceded a goal by getting lazy, failing to properly block a cross that led to a header that Kim SG just barely saved.
Ki Sung Yong 5.5 – this guy needs competition, because right now he is in some real abysmal form.
Han Kook Young 5.5 – “tidy” and can win balls but oh my god he cannot pass for the life of him. Also got pushed around too easily today..
Lee Chung Yong 6.5 – started brightly, created all game, but faded towards the end. The best outfield player in my opinion (not saying much really), despite some overweighted throughballs and failed dribbles.
Koo Ja Cheol 6 – similar to LCY
Lee Jae Sung 5 – maybe this is a little harsh because he had his moments, but of all the attacking players I would say LJS was the most anonymous. I rarely saw him touch the ball at times!
Ji Dong Won 6 – for someone who hardly ever plays for Augsburg and has like 5 goals in the past couple seasons, he played decently well. I give him a 6 because he exceeded very low expectations.
Hwang Hee Chan 6 – Positive impact as soon as he came on – should have been put on much earlier.
Kwon Chang Hoon 5 – I usually don’t give ratings to late subs but KCH was so poor and lost the ball on so many occasions that I had to give him this rating.
Son Heung Min (whatever Tim rated him last game + 1) – yes, I am rating SHM because despite his rather disappointing performances a guy like him was sorely needed today. Shooting was very very poor all game and that is, in theory, something that SHM provides well…
Do Koreans overreact?
I mention this because of the netizen meltdown / insultfest going on (which makes sense given how bad the team was today). On the TV show “Talents for Sale,” hosted by Kim Jong Gook, Lee Seo Jin, Noh Hong Chul, and Kim Se Jeong (fantastic show by the way), Lee Young Pyo was the recent guest. And at one point, Lee Seo Jin mentions how in soccer, the average Korean viewer/citizen turns into a coach – shouting instructions from the couch, etc. He also mentions how in good performances the player gets revered as a God, but in bad performances the player (or the team) becomes chewed out by netizens. A very very accurate observation regarding Korean public opinion.
Lee Young Pyo stated that this reality is something a player must accept. A player called up to the national team especially must take responsibility for the times when they will be criticized, especially if they are to enjoy the moments when they play well and get idolized. Truly wise words from a very wise man (also, I highly recommend checking out Lee Young Pyo’s segment on the show – search Talents for Sale on YouTube and look for the channel KBS World TV, the full episodes are online).
- Online commenters all talked about LSW + Baek Seung Ho. TBH I don’t think they would have been able to do much either against a 10-men behind the ball Syria. LSW would probably just get outmuscled while BSH… actually… might have been useful in terms of creativity because we didn’t have any of that today. But BSH has yet to play a single Barca B game and is clearly not match fit..
- If we play like this against Iran, we’re not going to have a good time. If today the opposition was Qatar and not Syria, we could have been looking at a loss.
- If our KPA still aren’t playing for the clubs, Stielike needs to find a K League XI. There’s a reason why we played so well vs. China in the East Asian Cup. But of course, he’s probably going to find a CSL/J League XI instead…
- If KSY still isn’t playing for Swansea, KCH is still out of form, and Stielike still keeps not calling up KBK, I do think Hwang In Beom is ready for the NT. If he’s playing well in the Challenge and has proven himself in the Classic as well, and is doesn’t struggle with the physical side of the game, a playmaker like him who can provide midfield presence (something KSY couldn’t do today or vs China) would be huge. Also Hwang In Beom can shoot..
- Stielike surely knows his limitations, but October will tell if he’s as stubborn as HMB and won’t change his ways / learn how to be flexible.