The plan was this: with a C+/B- Bolivia side that lost to American teenagers 3:0 a week and a half ago, Korea was looking to paper over some deficits, rest some players while bringing in others who’ve been out of commission, and enjoy a morale boosting win by knocking in a few goals as Shin Tae-Yong gets in one last chance to tinker with his roster in the last public World Cup tuneup in Austria. With some heavy conditioning workouts in recent days, Korea instead would grind out a miserable scoreless draw – not the confidence booster he and the KNT were looking for in the run up to the last (closed door) tuneup against Senegal next Monday.
This will be short as I’m on the run, we’ll get to things we learned from the match, but let’s look at this odd starting XI ( and stay tuned – there’s a video recap of the game later on):
A few things about the XI to note – as promised, Shin Tae-Yong would revert back to the 4-4-2 and ditch the 3-5-2 (though he stated tactical lineups for Senegal would be a secret). Son Heung-Min and Lee Jae-Sung with some deserved rest, while Moon Seon-Min with the surprise start out wide right. Lee Seung-Woo wide left not a surprise, but eyebrows raised with the Wookie, Kim Shin-Wook starting top along with Hwang Hee-Chan. The CB pairing as expected was Kim Young-Gwon and Jang Hyun-Su, the latter missed all the recent tuneup matches recovering from injury and still made it into the final 23 man squad. No Kim Jin-Su – who will be missed – Park Joo-Ho back to his old LB position and Ki thankfully back to a central mid position and Jung Woo-Young partnering with him at deep/defensive mid. Lee Yong, who did well against Bosnia, continues on at RB.
On the outset: Lee Seung-Woo displayed some sublime footwork, combining with Hwang Hee-Chan to cause headaches for Bolivia’s defenders. Lee did well to link up with Kim Shin-Wook – who did well to turn the ball and get a shot in, forcing a save (however in replays, he either didn’t see or didn’t opt for Lee Seung-Woo who ran behind the defenders hoping for a return pass. Lee might’ve been in a better position to score). Korea dominated possession, allowing Park Joo-Ho and Lee Yong to go forward often – both finding joy driving down their respective sides of the field. It left Kim Young-Gwon and Jang Hyun-Su to cover behind, but they were hardly troubled by a very defensive minded Bolivia.
At this point, there’s not much point in a traditional recap. If one can sum up the game in twitter format: Korea created some chances – couldn’t finish them well enough – and otherwise had difficulty with incisiveness in the final third for a number of reasons and factors – chief among them Kim Shin-Wook (we’ll get to that later). Defense looked competent, yet hardly tested by Bolivia.
I’ll opt for some talking points at this time – might be more instructive on what to look out for when Korea lines up against Sweden on June 18th.
- Starting with Lee Seung-Woo – mostly a good 60 minute shift for him. He moved the ball well, switched the field impactfully with Lee Yong ready on his right, and combined well enough with Park Joo-Ho on the left side of the pitch. While he had a few wayward touches – mostly he looked dynamic, aggressive to win back the ball, and had some of the best video reel highlights with some fantastic footwork. I’ll rattle off a few of his highlights my notes: in the 29th minute- nutmegs a Bolivian on the left flank, gives it to (Hwang? Jung Woo-Young?) who unfortunately shoots directly at the keeper. In the 55th minute, with a ball looking like it was going out of bounds on the left touchline, magically (yes I did use that word) manages to bring down the ball and moved it forward, combining with Ki (however unable to return the pass back to Ki and the drive fizzled out). Lee Seung-Woo partnering without Son in the field was not as effective as Hwang Hee-Chan didn’t have his dribbling boots on today – more on that later.
- Kim Shin-Wook -the good, the bad and the ugly all in one player. The good: able to get on the ball to head some shots toward goal. The bad: clogged up the area so that Korea lost a decisive edge in speed of passing play. There might be a place for Choi Kang-hee hail mary crosses to the top of the Wookie’s head, but only in a time of absolute desperation toward the end of a game. The ugly: if you’re going to get into a position to get onto crosses and play the Peter Crouch/Andy Carrol role of knocking them in with one’s head – get them on target. Three good crosses led to 3 head shots wide of net. The Wookie starting looked like an experiment of Shin’s. It didn’t work. I want to like the Wookie, I like him in his role for Jeonbuk, but he leaves a lot to be desired in KNT uniform. Those who have called out Shin Tae-Yong not calling up Suk Hyun-Jun and Ji Dong-Won have a legitimate point. The decision not to call up those 2 players, in light of the missing chemistry in the final third, will be revisited in the coming days.
- Hwang Hee-Chan: off day for the Salzburg man. Heavy touches betrayed what looked like promising runs. No one can fault his workrate, but without that crucial control in the final third – expect Korea’s chances to fade away. (question: would Son / Koo or Lee Seung-Woo be a better option? Korea is REALLY missing Kwon Chang-Hoon at this moment in time).
- Lee Yong left shoulder hurt? Korea just cannot afford to lose any more players. He tangled up with a Bolivian in the 2nd half and looked like he was in a good deal of pain. He returned fortunately. Better first half – connected a cross with the Wookie for a potential goal. One thing that stood out to me from my notes: his verbal marshalling of Moon Seon-Min to redirect him to go past his marker and show for a pass towards his right). After the collision in the 2nd half, wasn’t as decisive. Should Shin Tae-Yong subbed him out sooner for Go Yo-Han instead?
- Jung Woo-Young: not bad defensively, but I noted about 4 to 5 key forward passes that went astray, launching some draining Bolivian counter attacks. His passing rate, I believe is still an area of concern. That perhaps was another minor factor that bogged down Korea’s offensive machinery.
- Moon Seon-Min: I know he has some supporters cheering for him, especially after scoring against Honduras. However, he’s just not starting material – and while he showed great workrate, his passing was a bit off and his heavy touches, like Hwang’s really betrayed the Incheon man. An experiment that was worth trying, but maybe NOT before the World Cup is about to begin…
- Captain Ki looked far better and more comfortable in his central mid role, distributing, controlling the tempo, flustering the defense with advanced runs. He had 2 shots, one of which caused the keeper a bit of trouble with a diving save to his right. When Ki went off in the middle of the 2nd half, the tempo and ball flow was noticeably dampened.
- Son Heung-Min had his moments – he was behind Korea’s offensive output from the latter half of the 2nd half and their best chances late on in the game. He’s still working out some niggling injury woes from the latter half of the EPL season with Tottenham. Nevertheless, this might be indicative of what he’s capable of: his best chance of the evening in the 67th minute – the blazing counter attack saw him evade what could’ve been a crunching tackle. Son flew by the Bolivian defense, and then did well to freeze the Bolivian backline with some trickery, opened up enough space towards his right to wind up and fire off a patented shot – but Bolivia’s keeper did well to dive towards the bottom right corner to save a goal. Son will be crucial to Korea’s chances to survive the group.
- Kim Seung-Gyu I don’t think even got his gloves on the ball. Kim Jin-Hyun came in sometime in the 2nd half to replace him, didn’t get tested either – but did get into a minor communicative mishap with Kim Young-Gwon – the Cerezo Osaka keeper’s momentary indecision leading to Kim Young-Gwon having to concede a corner kick -and some words of frustration with the newly installed keeper.
- Park Joo-Ho hardly appeared in the domestic World Cup tuneups, but as left back (really operating as a left wing) he did well to keep the ball moving in the right direction. Kim Min-Woo replaced him in the 2nd half, not too much to report. Kim Min-Woo didn’t have any glaring mistakes -and if I’m not mistaken, he was positioning himself as if he was another attacker.
game highlights below:
Lee Seung-Woo ball touch summary:
Thanks to Honey Heon for the Lee Seung-Woo ball touch summary
And thanks to Michael Welch for holding down the Tavern Twitter live during the game. I did get to use some of his observations and fold it into my quick recap/talking points. Stay tuned to the Tavern, we’ll be recording a podcast -and may even get that out on Apple / itunes podcasts soon.
Next up: a closed door friendly with Senegal next Monday. We can’t report on it until after the final score comes out, and can only talk about what little they’ll reveal. Reportedly Shin will line up a starting XI that will approximate what he’ll use in Russia. One can consider this a setback, but the combination of Shin still experimenting and dually resting some key players like Son and Lee Jae-Sung meant that this had potential to be less then confidence boosting event. The time for experimenting is well past over. Let’s see how this all plays out.
post match interviews, etc:
Son tells Hwang Hee-Chan to keep his composure – guessing the translation is more akin to him advising Hwang that to avoid heavy touches in the final third, think through what his course of action will be rather than react too quickly, get too excited but lose the ball in the end https://t.co/4p1z8butx8
— Tavern of the Taeguk Warriors (@taeguk_warrior) June 7, 2018
and that’s referring to this:
(World Cup) After 0-0 draw in Bolivia tuneup, Son Heung-min tells teammate to keep his composure https://t.co/gVmviGo0IN
— Yonhap News Agency (@YonhapNews) June 7, 2018
And in the not-very-inspiring-managerial-moments category, this:
Shin Tae-yong on starting Kim Shin-wook against Bolivia: "You can consider it a trick. I wanted to see how he'd combine with Hwang Hee-chan. Today's lineup was based on some additional ideas to what I've already had in mind. That's as much as I can reveal for now."
— Steve Han • 한만성 (@RealSteveScores) June 7, 2018
additional ideas he had in mind? I’ve got something on my mind: please, for the sake of Buddha, listen to your Spanish coaches….