Jung Jungyong = God: KNT U19 Infinitely Improved Post-Ahn Iksoo

In the wake of Ahn Iksoo’s sacking/resigning (there are slightly differing accounts according to Naver), the KFA appointed Jung Jungyong and arranged yet another Suwon Continental Cup (I believe this is the 5th) with Iran, England, and Nigeria. JJY had a history of success at the youth level. He was the head coach just before the 2014 AFC U16 Championship before stepping down and making way for Choi Jincheol. Lee Seungwoo has always spoken very favorably of JJY in reviews as well – he was the Barcelona starlet’s first KNT coach.

Jung was tasked with the job of delivering results after a huge hit in morale. Just weeks before the Suwon Cup took place, Ahn Iksoo’s lack of tactical acumen and rather boring style sent Korea U19 – the hosts of the 2017 U20 World Cup – crashing out of the GROUP STAGES of the AFC U19 Championship. This time it was especially embarrassing, not only because of our host status, but also because Korea U19 is the most successful team in the tournament (12 titles to Myanmar’s 7) yet didn’t qualify out of the group for the second edition in a year.

What the fans wanted to see from JJY was any semblance of offensive presence and any semblance of fluidity (two things that HMB, Stielike, and Ahn Iksoo all lacked). Nobody expected Jung to beat all three teams or treat the fans to some serious footballing eye candy.

But that’s precisely what he did. On 11/07/2016, Jung JY ranked “somewhere-down-there” in my list of favorite Korean coaches. In the space of just five days, he literally became my favorite Korean manager (tied with Lee Gwangjong, who I still respect the most, may he rest in peace) (is it telling that all my favorite coaches are youth coaches? JJY, LGJ, STY…). Incredible build up and movement? Check. Nearly flawless transition from defense to attack? Check. Actually passing without missing a good number of them? Check. Creativity in playmaking and taking chances when needed? Check. Quick, very direct attacks with the ball moving more vertically than horizontally? Check. Defensive organization? Ehh maybe that one eeds work but it wasn’t any better or worse than it was under AIS. But either way. If you REALLY want to feel good about the future of Korean football, watch the three highlight videos below + Lee Seungwoo’s individual ball touches. 

In my eyes, Jung Jungyong REALLY should have continued into 2017, but alas – he stepped down to further his career elsewhere. Now Shin Taeyong is the U19 coach – but more on that later.

The squad JJY took is as follows:

jjy

There are very little surprises in this list. The same three goalkeepers and basically the same players everywhere else were called up. The interesting thing was the return of the 2015 U17 players (they’re a year younger than the rest of the 19-year-olds) like Yoon Jonggyu, Jang Jaewon, Kim Jinya, Lee Sangheon, and Park Sanghyuk – even 17 year old Kim Jungmin was called up (and played amazingly well). I was a little surprised that Park Hanbin and Lee Sangmin wasn’t called up – idk about the status of PHB, but LSM he isn’t injured and as of today (11/24) got called up to a 4-nations U18 tournament – leaving Woo Chanyang and Jung Taewook as the undisputable starting CBs for this tournament.

Vs. Iran:

iran-u19

Jung Jungyong is very clearly a fan of the 4-3-3, and I must say he uses it quite well. The highlights don’t show this, but even from the start, the passing was on a whole different level compared to when AIS was around, and the players interchanged positions much more fluidly – the ball MOVED FORWARDS instead of stalling or going backwards all the time. You know how satisfying it is when all the players are running forward but by pinging the ball around you create a chance? That’s what we were treated to against Iran, and that satisfying movement came back against England and Nigeria as well (I wish the HL reel would have captured more of it).

I am going to point out the individual performances of LSW (for juking 4 defenders at once then nutmegging another guy to set up BSH’s goal), Cho Youngwook (he’s the next Hwang Heechan / Kim Seungdae / young Park Juyoungwith his movement/linebreaking, I can’t believe a 17 year old can be this good in a U19 league), Lee Yoohyun (great offensive play from our RB who wasn’t tested all that much), and Kim Jungmin (did amazingly well anchoring the ball down in CM and getting involved in basically every play).

I also want to point out that almost every goal scored by the U19 team under Jung Jungyong was built up from the back. The first goal against Iran started with our RB and after some amazing interplay between the wingers and the CMs, ended with the same RB scoring the goal (the GIF limit is 10 seconds – that shot at the end resulted in the first goal btw).

iran-1

The final goal also started out from the back (second was a PK):

Maybe Iran U19 isn’t as relatively good as their senior team, but we played very convincingly as you’ll see in this HL vid. The media called it a “near-perfect performance.” But just wait – England and Nigeria got EVEN better.

 

Vs. England

This happened, and this alone makes me happy.

oh-my-kang-ji-hoon

But Kang Jihoon wasn’t the player who stole the show. This match was all about Song Bumkeun the goalkeeper. Because he single handedly kept us alive when the defense was getting torn apart by the English talents (who beat Nigeria 8-1 in the first match). Fortunately, we also had very talented attackers in CYW, LSW, and KJH who in turn tore the English defense apart.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here… here’s the XI. It stayed pretty much the same, except the 2 wide FW’s and Kim Jungmin were rotated out for 2 new wide FW’s and Han Chanhee.

u19-england

Unsurprisngly, England was a much tougher opponent than Iran. They had us on the backfoot early on and although they scored from a very lucky deflection, the reason why we only conceded one was because of SBK’s heroics. It’s pretty evident from the highlights.

N0tes from this game:

– Lee Yoohyeon does it again – apparently he’s really good at free kicks too. An RB to look out for (although if he doesn’t already, he will inevitably end up playing RW for Dangook Uni / his future clubs). It’s also interesting that his goal vs. Iran came from his left foot, but this free kick came from his right. Ambidexterity is so important, and it’s especially useful as a fullback – I hope Lee Yoohyeon sticks with the RB position because we all know there is 0 competition on the NT for that spot.

fk

– Is this team is better than the senior team? That’s what a lot of netizens were commenting – much better plays, much better passing and linkups, much better .. everything! I felt like these kids were enjoying themselves more, exercising their creativity more, attacking from all different angles and approaches… everything just felt better about this. So refreshing compared to watching Korea under Stielike… did you see useless backpasses in that HL vid? My god JJY is the best..

– That moment when England kick off at halftime and Lee Seungwoo intercepts the ball and dribbles past two players to shoot (weakly unfortunately) at the keeper? This kid is shedding the rust every day! There’s a video of LSW ball touches later in this post – it’s a must watch.

 

Vs. Nigeria:

u19-niger

This time JJY went for a more Barca-esque 4-3-3 in which we see a false 9 (BSH) with two creative, attacking CAMs (LSW, HCH) with a traditional DM in Jang Jaewon. The result? Although Nigeria threatened our defense just as much as England did, I agreed with the media assessment of “near perfection,” though I’m not sure if it was because of the slight tactical change – it was more of Nigeria not playing nearly as well as they should have. In fact, I was surprised to see the team play so well even after all the personnel changes in the starting XI.

My favorite moment of the match was the following:

cho-gg

This is the match that really allowed CYW to shine – beating the offside trap multiple times for

 

Lessons learned (aside from JJY = God and how good our players can play under this new system)

  1. Textbook example of the insane difference a single manager can make. Ahn Iksoo took this same group of players and lost to SAUDI ARABIA and nearly lost to Bahrain. Jung Jaeyong took the same group of players and beat Iran, England, and Nigeria while treating fans to some of the highest quality football we’ve seen since… dare I say 2010? I’ve never felt this refreshed before, to be honest. It may be youth football, but it feels so good watching a Korean team so well drilled in teamwork, communication, and coordination. I have 0 regrets about waking up ridiculously early even before a midterm. #worth.
  2. Koreans just can’t play possession football / tiki taka: Cho Kwang Rae and most recently Stielike have been trying to get us to play the sexy Spanish style but it just doesn’t work, and managers need to realize that they need to do something different instead of trying to fit a square into a circular hole (is that how the idiom works?) Jung Jaeyong, as did Shin Taeyong during the Olympics, showed us that a speedy, direct style works best for Korea. When Korea plays as a unit, where we man mark and close down space in defense / open up space with smart movement in offense, we play our best. We don’t need the intricate stuff of Spanish teams – we tried twice (thrice if you count Hong Myungbo) and it doesn’t work.
  3. A single manager can solve the backpassing problem. In our senior NT, for pretty much the past 5 years we’ve moved the ball up only to backpass 90% of the time. These U19 kids, on the other hand, passed their way out of trouble or bravely took on the defender 1v1. It wasn’t just LSW who attempted takeons – it was across the attack.
  4. We have an excess of talent in central midfield – so many players could potentially partner / replace KSY in the near future. Kim Gunwoong, Kim Jungmin, Han Chanhee, Lee Seungmo, and Jang Jaewon have all emerged as CM powerhouses (add Park Hanbin, Baek Seungho, and Hwang Inbeom in there) – and we’re set in the CM deparment for a LONG time.
  5. You’ll notice that I didn’t put BSH in the first list – BSH is horribly out of form right now having played basically 0 minutes for Barca B. He played pretty poorly when he started against Nigeria, and his rust was painfully evident. However, with his level of talent, I’m sure he’ll get back into things quickly.
  6. Lee Seungwoo is close to his level before the FIFA ban:

 

 

The Aftermath: Shin Taeyong

To be honest I don’t have too much to say about Shin Taeyong, but I will say the following:

  1. The style will be similar to what we saw against Iran, England, and Nigeria. I don’t expect STY to be as good – JJY made this team look almost flawless – but he knows how to play the style that works for Korea. The offense will be revitalized, and we’ll see more of the “storm the box” offenses and perhaps even 3-5 goal games. I’m very curious to see how STY utilizes LSW – will he be the focal point of the offense, or will he be the creator who draws defenders and lets others into space? (I guess those two aren’t mutually exclusive though)
  2. Shin Taeyong parted ways with Stielike twice to fill a youth team vacancy. This means a number of possibilities, and I’m curious as to which of the following possibilities are true
    1. The KFA is simply grooming STY as the next KNT coach – anyone can tell you this is the case, but is one this the only true statement of the three?
    2. STY has a bad relationship with Stielike / STY lost his respect for Stielike? – he’s willing to part ways so quickly ahead of a crucial time in World Cup Qualifying.
    3. STY sees himself as useless on the senior KNT – STY’s influence on the KNT is clearly not very high. Uli calls all the shots and their philosophies differ drastically.
  3. Hopefully STY has learned from his mistakes in the Olympics. We saw that STY, while a good coach by Korean standards, still had his flaws that led us getting knocked out of the Olympics by Honduras. My hope is that STY will 1) be more flexible than coaches like CKR, CKH, HMB, and Stielike and let go of his stubbornness to actually improve, 2) find that coaching at the U20 level is easier than the U23 level, and 3) take notes from what Jung Jungyong did – STY knows that every friendly he plays, he will be compared to JJY’s exploits.

 

Conclusion:

Though things were really going downhill during the Ahn Iksoo days. Even when the team was beating teams like France and Uruguay and Brazil, the team just didn’t feel right and it felt like the players were being stifled in some way. Enter JJY and the kids start playing free flowing attacking football – it feels like this team is alive again. From the fan’s perspective we can really get excited about this team. It’s too bad that JJY stepped down, but hopefully STY can extend the good form from this talented U17-19 generation.

7 Comments

  1. This is the best website there is on Korean football, at least in English. Thanks for the keeping it going, I look forward to more write-ups and analysis after every match as well as updates on all the players.

    • I agree with this comment. They’re all busy people but they always dedicate their time to post about Korean football regardless. I appreciate them and the site due to that. They don’t even get paid and they do it because they enjoy it and want others to be informed and enjoy it as well.
      Thanks to this site I’ve learned more than I ever could.

  2. Thank you everyone for your kind comments – we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date Korean footy news in English, and it’s your enthusiasm and viewership that keeps us going!

  3. I just want to say that this was so refreshing to read. After reading many articles on this site that expressed countless disappointments after another, this very positive/optimistic news and tone about KNT was something we all needed 🙂

    South Korea is not a soccer powerhouse in global scale (yet), but this U19 team’s performance at Suwon Cup left me smiling and giddy about what could be possible for South Korean National Football Team.

    … Can you imagine Germany, Argentina, Brazil, or Spain being intimidated to play against South Korea in the World Cup level? 😀 2022 World Cup might get very interesting if this U19 team starts a trend from this recent performance.

    Well done.

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