A surprisingly packed stadium at Goyang at 38,000 strong celebrated Chuseok by watching an entertaining friendly; Korea had a number of tantalizing opportunities to break the deadlock, eventually falling to Uruguay 0-1. Experiments continued with interim manager Shin Tae-Yong’s last game in charge as incoming manager Uli Stielike watched the Taeguk Warriors hold off the 6th ranked Uruguay and their high powered offense scoreless until late in the 2nd half.
The recap is going to be brief as the stream I was going with was glitchy, but I’ll give my best attempt. I divvied up the recap in these storyline segments:
Uruguay pressed early in the match but held off successfully
Much chatter before the match: Ki Sung-Yeung switched to centerback, at times part of a 3 man backline, a formation that also morphed from 3-4-3 / 3-6-1 and later a 4-2-3-1 with Han Kook-Young subbing in the 2nd half to allow Ki to move higher up. Normally a holding midfielder, Ki was occasionally called to be a CB with Swansea, notably in the League Cup final in 2013. Ki along with Kim Young-Gwon and Kim Ju-Young and did their job relatively well; passes were cut off, crosses into the area were headed and cleared. Cavani and company were frustrated in their inability to penetrate Korea’s defense in the final third. To be fair, a Luis Suarez-less Uruguay was missing it’s bite (where’s the drum rolls? Come on!). Nevertheless, Uruguay still had a good deal of firepower at it’s disposal, which kept Korea busy, particularly as they caused danger by created space out wide – and causing a bit of havoc from there.
One notable change: Lee Bum-Young got the call to mind the net. With Kim Seung-Gyu preparing for Asian games and Kim Jin-Hyeon benched (probably for his spectacular giveaway gaffe leading to Venezuela’s only goal last Friday), the Busan IPark keeper did not disappoint. Uruguay had a sure goal brilliantly swept away by Lee in the 2nd half, his reflexes and his judgement on field seem to look assured.
Chances missed for team Korea and (what else?) a set piece breakdown
Korea’s offense was slow to get started, but got their gears in motion, particularly towards the end of the first half. Son Heung-Min led the offense, creating opportunities and aggravating the Uruguay defense with his swashbuckling ways. Meanwhile Lee Dong-Guk, the hero of Friday’s match, looking uninspired and absent for his 101st cap. The lone forward, he often congested the area, was ineffective and failed to link up with his teammates. He was subbed off for Lee Keun-Ho finally in the 71st minute.
There was a similar pattern with Friday night. Lee Chung-Yong, while carrying on with his usual good workrate, was missing a bit of form. Similar to Friday, there were some less than stellar passes that led to more frequent turnovers from the Bolton midfielder. His decision making at the final third just didn’t have that (what do you call it, sparkle?) to be as effective in the final third. There will be undoubtedly a more thorough reflection on his performances given that this seems to be a carryover from his lackluster World Cup performance.
Son Heung-Min looked to be the engine driving the offense. He had all the best opportunities to score – and there were ample shots fired by the Leverkusen man. However, despite showing off world class form in getting the ball to the final third, Uruguay’s keeper was able to fend them off his shots. Form without finish today? Several times today he was so close, so close to breaking the deadlock.
No cigar, and Son’s best chance of the night at the 67th minute on a brilliantly timed breakaway was extinguished -the keeper blocked his direct shot (with a last minute help from a defender to muddy the shot) haunted Korea only 2 minutes later when Uruguay scored from (what else?) a set piece breakdown. After Ki fouled near the area, Benedetti’s short distance free kick found Chema, his header just beyond Lee Bum-Young’s hands. Kim Ju-Young missed his mark, a glaring mistake from an otherwise decent night for the defender.
One note as Korea pressed for the equalizer, in the 88th minute Ki got elbowed in face while jostling for position during a corner kick. The ref signaled like he would give a penalty kick, but kept his card in his pocket. After a little drama + consulting with the line refs, he recalled his decision, saying there was an offsides called.
It’s hard to be truly unhappy with the result however. Uruguay is a quality South American side and Son may have been a bit unlucky to not net one tonight -result could’ve gone either way. And one can’t read too much into a friendly like this. Even had Korea won (or more practically drawn), confidence of similar consistent results against top 10 teams or top 20 teams in actual tournaments is far away from being assured. For further context, this isn’t the full representation of the KNT squad.
- Kim Bo-Kyung, Hong Jeong-Ho, Kim Jin-Su and Ji Dong-Won wasn’t in the squad (or recovering from injuries). Koo Ja-Cheol had a minor knock and didn’t appear at all in these friendlies. Kim Shin-Wook, Kim Seung-Gyu and Park Joo-Ho are preparing for the Asian games. Park Chu-Young isn’t on form, but at age 29, possibly could be a potential striker for team Korea if certain things finally go right in his career.
- It is only the 2nd friendly since the World Cup, and it’s under the confusion + turmoil as Korea was without an official head coach. Of course, Uli got a quick glance at some of what he has in his disposal as new incoming head coach of the KNT – I’d imagine he probably isn’t too unhappy with what he saw, a slightly better result than Japan’s 0-2 loss to Uruguay only a few days ago.
However we have learned some things from tonight:
- Jung Sung-Ryong is no longer goal keeper #1 for Korea. The indications are more than clear that his ship has sailed.
- Lee Bum-Young can be a contender for KNT netminder along with Kim Seung-Gyu. He looked very steady tonight. Good competition from the two can only be an asset for the KNT going into the future.
- Interim manager Shin Tae-Yong short time as interim manager was largely commendable. Given the personnel at his disposal, he made the experimental call ups and formations fairly appropriate. 1 win vs Venezuela / 1 loss not conceding until late and almost scoring against Uruguay -with only a few weeks to cobble it all together – not too shabby. I’d only question his subbing decisions. Not subbing Son in the 2nd half vs Venezuela and having him go 90 minutes today with important fixtures for his club – very dubious. Ki Sung-Yeung also heavily used – 90 minutes today with Chelsea this weekend doesn’t do favors for him. More perhaps to do with the lack of depth in the squad. Could Shin Tae-Yong be a future choice for KNT manager?
- Ki’s stock is rising. I shudder to think what the KNT would be without the Swansea midfielder – and now we saw him competently take on the role of centerback for the KNT. Even playing that deep, Ki’s vision and accuracy was instrumental in starting devastating counter attacks. Ki can be effective with his occasional forays up front as well, his versatility an absolute asset. Ki is starting to = total football. Here’s his 50 yard pass that zeroed in on Son in the 2nd half:
- Lee Dong-Guk, while showing he still is capable of scoring last Friday, also showed his potential liability and continues the narrative that there is a striker crisis for Korea. Clogging the area tonight, Lee’s role with Uli’s squad may be limited.
- Despite his old age, Cha Du-Ri is starting to turn me into a believer. But why should I be surprised, he is after all the son of the legend, Cha Bum-Kun, who was productive well into his 30’s in Germany. Had senior Cha not been drafted into the military at an earlier age, what more could he have done in Germany? Cha Jr is having his KNT renaissance at age 34, and his exploits bombing down the wings and delivering pernicious crosses makes the only veteran of the 2002 World Cup a surprising bright spot for what has been a problematic RB position.
- I didn’t get a chance to see all of Lee Myeong-Joo’s touches today, but the few I did looked quality. Late in the match in the hunt for an equalizer, he pulled off a Ki Sung-Yeung-esque pass – that is a long distance beauty that a particular Korean player nearly latched onto behind the Uruguay backline. Ki would’ve been proud, if it weren’t for the fact that he was the one failing to latch onto’s Lee’s pass. Another opportunity missed.
- Some of the substitutions were not convincing. Nam Tae-Hee and Lee Keun-Ho both have exhibited well in their past KNT outings, but looked flat tonight. Lee Keun-Ho, who will transfer to a Qatar club later when his military duty is up, was all energy, but didn’t link well.
- We must wait some more time before getting an opportunity to avenge Uruguay’s 2-1 victory in the 2010 World Cup that knocked Korea out at the round of 16.
A few more observations…
Mascot Baek-ho sitting on the sidelines was hit by an errant ball. I’m beginning to like Baek-ho, his antics were hilarious as the mascot writhed in mock pain from the collision.
Over to Thailand for the U16 Championship, earlier today Lee Seung-Woo returned from serving a one game suspension and helped secure a narrow 1-0 group stage win against Malaysia.
— RIP Tito (@messileftfoot) September 8, 2014
Here’s a video highlight of Lee Seung-Woo’s touches on Monday
Last group match, Korea faces hosts Thailand on September 10 Wednesday at 9am EST / 10pm Korea Time. Korea beat Oman in the first group match 3-1 on Saturday.
Full Video recap Korea vs Uruguay: