Roy just put up his piece so I’m going to write another one, and I’m going to let you all know that I was PISSED pretty much all game. And tbh I’m still pissed. Roy can tell you about catharsis and feeling calm but not me, though like Roy I won’t be doing a proper match review, and instead post some thoughts organized according to the following:
1. Pre-game Expectations
2. LSW’s controversial(?) comments
3. The Match Itself
4. Post Game Explosion
5. Responses to Roy’s Post
Expectations: As fans we had very high expectations for this group, especially coming off a fantastic (? I’m going to question this notion in a bit) group stage campaign but ironically getting Belgium over New Zealand for placing first instead of second. Hell we were even missing our starting RB and CB, and made some makeshift changes that ended up working out miraculously. Park Dae Won, our starting RB got injured so we stuck a winger there and he (YJG) played very well. Our starting CB Choi Jae Young got injured and we stuck a defensive midfielder in LSM in there and he played very well. We were even missing Jang Gyeol Hee but PSH and KJY were among our best players in the group stage. Still, we had topped our group.
So the question is, were we right to have such high expectations? It’s debatable, but to me, the answer is yes.
I said I would question the “Fantastic.” Think about our matches vs. Guinea and England. Yes, we had an unquestionably fantastic match vs Brazil but was Guinea and England all that good? I honestly think we should’ve lost to England had it not been for some great last ditch defending, and Guinea we won on luck, and in both matches we saw that these horrendous pass misses wouldn’t go away. You have to admit that our performances got weaker and weaker. I was really hoping it was just a result of changing up the starting XI in England’s case, but the pass miss – the ONE that led to the Belgium goal – really killed us. As the Belgian coach put it, it forced us to change the way we play and allowed Belgium to control the match. Had that early goal not happened we arguably could’ve won the match – LSW’s failed PK was really the highlight of how demoralized and shaken we were in the first half and even in the second. Or at least I’d like to think so. Because I watched highlights for Belgium’s group matches and they weren’t that special, to the point where some of the smaller Korean news sites went completely overboard with their headlines, announcing that Belgium’s slow defenders won’t keep up with LSW or how our defense would be able to hold them back. Now, you can’t put up those kinds of headlines obviously but I think all the fans would agree that Belgium was a very beatable opponent. And that’s why it sucks that we lost like this.
The other reason why we were right to hold high expectations is that despite the whole group stage transition from great to ok to poor, our defense still stayed damn strong to the point where we allowed very few shots on target, despite conceding most of possession. Belgium had only 2 goals in the group stage and against a hyperoffensive Brazil and Guinea, we subdued them very well. Even England, despite Willock and Da Silva’s exploits down the left we still shut them down right? I really never had imagined Belgium would end up winning by 2, making me wonder if that error in the 11th minute really was the catalyst that led to our demise.
Lee Seung Woo’s comments before the match:
Now a good friend of mine (well I’ve never met him but I have talked with him online many times and very much appreciate pretty much everything he posts) posted the following regarding Lee Seung Woo before the match:
Lee Seung-woo: “We’ve been watching videos of Belgium’s matches [in the U17 World Cup]. I didn’t see anything special from them.”
This was a translation from the interview LSW had a day before. This caused a bit of a debate on internet forums – is it okay to say things like this? Some people denounced it, saying he’d better back it up, while others loved the cockiness of it, a stark contrast to, in the words of an Italian coach, our biggest weakness that is respecting our opponents too much. And perhaps something like this was needed – we can’t be fazed by big names like Brazil and Belgium – even as “minnows” in the eyes of many other countries (*USA* *cough*) we should never give in and tell ourselves that we are every bit as capable of beating Brazil/Belgium as is Germany/Argentina. But before the game a couple of guys on BSK were questioning the translation… did Lee Seung Woo really mean to take a jab at Belgium?
Here’s the original quote:
“전력 분석을 해보니 특별한 것이 없었다”면서 “자신 있게 맞서 싸우면 벨기에를 이길 수 있다”
Now I posted this on the Tavern Twitter feed, but comment below – is this really a jab at Belgium? The whole time Lee was talking about preparations for the Belgium match. And the subject of his sentence is “Analysis” (as in watching videos of Belgium). So although I can see how this could be a jab at Belgium as “nothing special,” it is just as possible that LSW means that their preparations for Belgium is nothing special compared to how they’ve prepared for Brazil, England, and Guinea, especially considering that the later half of the sentence is “If we fight with confidence we can win.” It really depends on the inferred subject – the preparations themselves or the team itself. But considering that not a single media source in Korea called him out for taking a jab at the team (remember how the news went crazy after LSW said A team of Japan’s level should be a piece of cake?)… I suspect most people interpret it as the latter. And to be honest, I don’t sense any sort of arrogance or cockiness in that sentence.
Another confounding factor is how you take the word 전력 – because although I initially took it to mean the past (so 분석 of Belgium’s past games, past records, history, etc.), I looked up the term on Naver and realized there’s a second definition that is also used – the 력 means strength, so 전력 can also mean fighting power, or 경기력, which is the more widely used form of expressing how strong a team is. So… it’s really up to interpretation. But as Steve said, this would’ve been completely irrelevant had we won… (we won vs Japan and so we can laugh about it but imagine had we lost LSW would’ve gotten a lot of shit. He’s not getting shit from the media RN, and most sources seem to be very understanding of his sorrow and even his PK miss so… I’m leaning towards “innocuous”)
The Match Itself
To me it’s incredibly sad that we lost because we didn’t play like ourselves. The immense potential that was there really just went to waste in the end. Ok, the pass misses were there and killed us early and it’s something I expected Choi Jin Chul to work on A LOT before going into the Belgium match. But remember that even against England and Guinea we carved out nice chances early on, and we our counterattacks looked really good. Today? We had nothing. Absolutely no midfield presence, no attacking threat to speak of, etc. I also want to question the subs – yes we looked better in the second half, but was it really the result of subbing in Oh Se Hun for Jang Jae Won and putting Lee Seung Mo in midfield? It wasn’t a big change, and I feel that we would’ve come out of the tunnel with our asses on fire anyway. And not to mention that Oh Se Hun was at fault for the second goal – he go straight up turned by the Belgian guy, making me wonder if Lee Seung Mo would’ve gone straight for the tackle. Moreover, literally the same minute Oh Se Hun was pushed up to ST, he won our penalty and got the defender a red card. Who knows.
Not only that, our star player LSW had a REALLY bad game today. He lost the ball way too many times, got pushed around too much, was trigger-shy pretty much all tournament… man. The scene where he receives the ball but stands still and gets the ball taken just irritates me still right now, and I remember the same thing happening to PMS and KJM. I’m glad he got some playing time but he REALLY needs to step it up if he’s going to make it to Barca B and beyond.
And I don’t want to harp on this any more than I have but I really believe that if that initial blunder didn’t happen we would have seen a completely different game. We’ve survived bad turnovers from pass misses before! But given how defensive our style has been for the past three games, I just don’t think CJC knew how to get his team out of the situation. Instead of just going for the shot way too often we saw ourselves trying to walk the ball into the net despite a wall of like 6 defenders clumped in the box. The fact that this loss was just as mental as it was just getting outplayed, if not more so, just makes it worse.
I’m also pissed because it seemed like a divine power was working against us so that we wouldn’t score. Starting with the LSW PK miss. Because after that Belgium showed absolutely zero will to attack, and we just kept attacking after attacking. We even had a decent amount of time after the PK to make it up. But somehow nothing just worked. Not even a freak bicycle kick from Kim Jung Min that was actually perfectly placed would go in. After that I was just wondering… what the hell do we have to do to score? Obviously I can’t blame a divine power, and a lack of creativity in offense was certainly presence, but you can’t deny that bad luck played a hand in our defeat.
“Allow room for failure”
Absolutely, you need to fail to taste success in the long run, but I was hoping the loss to North Korea, and the failure that was the Suwon Continental Cup, was the failure that would spark these guys to life. And the group stage, despite the faltering performances, seemed to indicate that now was the time we finally come to life. But instead we just fell flat on our face against Belgium. And Lee Seung Woo was so hyped for this tournament – he told reporters how he’d been so looking forward to the U17 WC for the past year, and how it is a once in a lifetime opportunity (I mean you are 17 only once right? Though if I’m not mistaken, Kim Jung Min could feature in the next one if if we make it since he’s still 15). So to see him exit at 0 goals and 0 assists no less still breaks my heart.
I’ve read many pieces on how failed La Masia talents faced little failure and setbacks making them unable to cope with the realities of professional life, such as Bojan in the past and Gerard Deulofeu right now. Perhaps it’s for the better that we lost in a more emotionally traumatizing way? Could be, but this is no excuse for losing 2-0 to what should’ve been a very beatable side.
More thoughts to come, but it’s late and I have a ton of work to do – to be updated!