Korea 0:0 Chile / Positives and Negatives from Bento’s 2nd game in charge

Korea just wrapped up their international week with a 0-0 draw with Chile in Suwon. A sold out Suwon World Cup Stadium cheered, raised their voices for the Taeguk Warriors, and in return witnessed a promising if flawed performance in their friendly encounter with the #12th FIFA ranked nation of Chile. Paulo Bento fielded a team similar to the one that came out last Friday in their home win against Costa Rica, let’s take a look:

https://twitter.com/theKFA/status/1039454411217559552

Only 3 changes to the XI: today Hwang Ui-jo starts up top (in place of Ji Dong-won) and Hwang Hee-chan got the nod on the attacking right (for Lee Jae-sung).  Kim Jin-hyeon, as predicted, started this one as Bento got a chance to see Kim Seung-gyu in front of net in the Costa Rica matchup. They line up a 4-2-3-1 formation, just like against Costa Rica.

 

Right from the start Chile asserted their dominance over Korea. Smothering their counter attacks, Korea had difficulty getting out of their own half. Chile gave the defense quite the workout, but despite several shots, none could find the back of the net. Kim Jin-Hyeon didn’t do his side any favors, routine clearing attempts twice getting deflected by Chilean forwards.  Kim seemed rattled; it wasn’t a surprise when he passed directly to Diego Valdes, who seemed to be the only one in the stadium (and those watching) surprised by the gift – he was unable to take advantage and a sigh of relief could be heard from the Korean bench. Eventually Kim settled down and was able to make a few fine saves to atone.

Hong Chul had to come out early as he sustained an injury, Yun Suk-young came in for him in the 31st minute, Korea started to keep more possession of the ball.

Korea began to wrest the narrative away from Chile in the 2nd half, but it wasn’t until nearly the hour mark with Hwang Ui-jo (who had a quiet day, save for one decent cross) making way for Ji Dong-won and Lee Jae-sung on for Nam Tae-Hee that Korea was able to turn it up a notch.  This time, Korea looked the more likely team to score, with mazy runs by Son, Hwang Hee-chan and Lee Jae-sung providing multiple threats to the Chilean defense.

On the other side, Barcelona’s Arturo Vidal provided plenty of danger to Korea, but left in the 74th minute. With Vidal gone, it appeared to sap the Chileans of attacking prowess and they settled even further into a defensive bunker.

Korea’s ability to successfully take on the defenders (Son and Hwang Hee-Chan in particular) energized the Koreans and they continued explore the vulnerabilities in the defense.  Lee Jae-sung threaded a pass to Ji Dong-won that nearly paid dividends, but the keeper got to the 50/50 ball in the nick of time. Ki twice had tantalizing shots on goal, his last shot forcing a save from Arias.  Hwang Hee-chan and Son both were able get past defenders in dangerous areas – but with plenty of bodies in front of goal, couldn’t find that elusive goal. Jang Hyun-su nearly atoned for all his past defensive failures with a header that looked on target from a Son corner kick, going out just wide by inches!

In the final minutes Korea and Chile appeared to settle for a draw.  Moon Seon-min’s introduction for Hwang Hee-chan (instead of Lee Seung-woo – injured perhaps?) set up another chance to see what the Incheon man has in his locker (answer: same energy/same mediocre touches that snuffed out Korean attacks). Jang Hyun-su, up until the final moments, didn’t necessarily have an outstanding day (good heading attempt/one poor clearance in the 74th, his header going straight to Valdes, who couldn’t put away Jang’s gift).

However, right before the FT whistle, with seconds remaining in stoppage time, this happened: on a routine backpass, Jang Hyun-su tragically delivered an underweighted ball to Kim Jin-hyeon with Valdes lurking nearby. Valdes pounced on the ball and it’s suddenly a 1v1 with the keeper. Kim Jin-hyeon, already off his line trying to receive Jang’s botched backpass, forced Valdes to cut inside. Kim Moon-hwan quickly tracked back and got between Valdes and a open net – Valdes opted for an off balance shot – which miraculously goes out high and wide. Bento is seen at the sidelines enraged and yelling at his staff about (presumably) Jang Hyun-su’s poor backpass.

FT whistle blows, somewhat respectable draw but unsettling nonetheless. Had Chile been more clinical, it could easily have been Chile on top. The same could have been said for Korea with their multiple chances. However, with this being a friendly match, it’s a good time to test players, try out new systems and take lessons from the game, win lose or draw.

 

Notes from the game:

Hwang In-beom subbed in for Jung Woo-young- mixed performance. Good defensive play actually, did well to stifle a potent Chilean attack. Quieter going forward, I was hoping to see more of the dynamic Asian Games version of In-beom step forward in only his 2nd cap for the senior squad, but there’s enough in his locker for Bento to be patient with the 21 year old.

Captain Son goes 90 minutes (?!?!?) According to Yonhap, that’s Son’s “eighth match in 26 days. After having a tight Asian Games with the under-23 side in Indonesia, where he played 524 minutes total in six matches over 16 days.”  He’s also played 83 minutes against Costa Rica on Friday, and now this full 90 minutes against Chile.  That may not be helping his club situation with Tottenham in the short term. In the long term he was able to secure military exemption via Asian Games gold. His replacement at Spurs, Lucas Mora, just won the Premier League player of the month. But back to the game at hand, he wasn’t 100% and while not all his take ons were successful, he did get around his opponents on several occasions and caused havoc in his wake.  Supplying the Hwangs (Hee-chan and Ui-jo) Son made impact despite not scoring – however we are not seeing a fresh version of Son. He needs rest, like yesterday. Tottenham’s relentless schedule and the fight to get a place in the starting lineup awaits.  In the meantime, check this cheeky nutmeg from Son:

Update: this tweet below has a few seconds more showing Son winning the ball with Arturo Vidal before launching that killer improvised pull and tuck move that nugmegged Valdes.  The nutmeg itself is making the rounds on the internet, partly because Valdes is shown making a racist slanted eye gesture yesterday. Justice served via nutmeg. 

 

Ki Sung-Yeung: solid as usual, helped to shape the midfield into taking control of the game in the 2nd half.

Kim Jin-hyeon between the sticks: I want to like the Cerezo Osaka keeper but quality save aside, his clearances and distribution remains a sticking point.  On any other day, Chile would have been up 2-0 with the gifts handed to them, including the pass straight out to Valdes. Instead, Kim walks away with a clean sheet.

Hwang Hee-chan: some poor touches but a mostly positive performance; his stock is rising slightly with some pacy dribbles that penetrated Chile’s defenses on a number of occasions. A potent option, time will tell whether a loan move to Hamburg in the 2.Bundesliga can give him more experience and improve his touch.

Ji Dong-won: Give Bento and his staff credit for calling up the Augsburg man, he’s been out of the radar in the Shin Tae-yong era, but Bento believes Ji can be part of his new look Korean system as defined by a more intentional possession style game. Despite the scoreline, Ji added some dynamism to the attack – one that seemed to last a good stretch of the 2nd half.  It has to be noted that Ji came back and was critical in playing out of the back successfully.  With Chile pressing forward with intensity, a lot can go wrong when attempting  a Pep Guardiola style of playing the ball out of the back.  With precise and incisive passing, Ji and the Korean backline worked some magic and imitated some fancy tiki-taka to get out from that pressure. The crowd roared approval – proving that scoreless draws, if one knows what they’re looking at in an even tilted game – can be entertaining.

No Lee Seung-woo: inserting Moon Seon-min for Hwang Hee-chan may not have been productive, but rather than criticize the managerial decision, it leads one to speculate that Lee Seung-woo may have some kind of niggling injury. That or Bento is relying more on World Cup veterans in the run up to the Asian Cup. To be clear – it’s just speculation, nothing confirmed one way or another, perhaps post match comments might reveal more. The 4 goals Lee scored for the U23 side that won the Asian Games was absolutely crucial, so it would have been interesting to see what the 20 year old could do for the senior side.  Bento meanwhile is implicitly urging patience, there are the October and November friendlies to come.

Team shape and identity: Bento is clearly having an impact with the squad in only his 2nd game in charge, there is a cohesiveness that is really fascinating to witness in real time. If you get a chance to see the game in full, there’s moments in the 2nd half in particular (Korea’s more improved half) where Son is directing the team, not engaging in an advanced press, but disciplined in a central holding pattern that prevented Chile from attacking through the middle, which they appeared to favor. The entire team kept their shape, was constantly communicating and was almost completely in sync, dare I say even machine like. The camera angle doesn’t stick to this wide field perspective for long, but for a few long moments, there’s this gestalt or big picture view wherein one can see an entire squad working together to effectively shut down the 12th ranked team in the world and looking competent in the process. More importantly, Korea looks like they have a game plan – refreshing given the perceived lack of a tactical plan with the past several KNT managers. These are glimpses of what Bento seems to be aspiring to with a high octane offense, supported by the midfield vision of Ki and a backline that’s regaining their footing.

Jang Hyun-su: he gets the last word since he had the last Korean touch of the game. It would be unfair to single him out as the culprit for what would have been a last minute goal conceded, and honestly between the Costa Rica match and most of this match – he didn’t look too bad. But even with 89 minutes of competent play, a team can lose on a blunder in a matter of seconds. That’s what could have and should have happened in the 93rd minute with seconds to go before the end of the match – the backpass was of such poor quality – it sent Bento (rightly so) in a rage on the sidelines. Bento should be looking at himself and his staff that decided it was ok for Jang to start at CB once again. He may be ok for FC Tokyo but in KNT uniform, time and time again, with clockwork consistency, one can count on Jang to make 2 to 3 fairly midsize to gigantic defensive mistakes – mistakes that costs goals conceded and games lost. Jang isn’t singlehandedly responsible for the World Cup losses to Sweden and Mexico, but objectively speaking, his defensive errors cost Korea chances to advance into the Round of 16. His is the difference maker, the slight bit of confidence that Korea loses when he’s on the pitch, the little bit of quality lacking that opponents take advantage of. If he’s better in front of defense, fine, make the switch sooner than later, but going forward, his many documented errors at the back is something that is not just on Jang, it’s on the front office and the staffers in charge of stats.

UPDATE v.2 : highlight reel, courtesy of the KFA

 

 

 

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24 Comments

  1. A draw is a draw, but again, this is not a WC/tournament caliber roster from Chile. No Sanchez, backup goalkeeper, newbies in defense and midfield, and we brought our A team (except Cho between the sticks, but in the end we survived that). We have to take this game with a grain of salt, and Bento did not look happy. In that sense, maybe he got to see exactly what he needed. But in the end, a draw against this team at home is not really a good result.

    I think I’ve been disappointed by the team for such a long time in qualification/competitions that I’m trying to stay realistic this time around with each friendly. In the past 8 years we haven’t played well consistently- it’s one thing to win friendlies with our A team at home against teams that aren’t taking it seriously and bringing extra players to test. I would consider them to be good “practice” games for team development, but it’s not a good measure of our quality (US team has done pretty well recently in meaningless games, fans started to get excited, and then they got beaten handily by a real Brazil squad last week- that’s my point).

    I know at this early stage, Bento needs to see what he has, but I guess my main feeling is that I hope in this WC cycle we have more real tests. I’ll wait til I see something for real to form an opinion on Bento and the new look.

    And good lord, Jang Hyunsoo… I don’t even need to add anything…

    • Technically Hwang Ui-Jo is not part of our “A team”, but he likely will be in the near future. Anyway, my point is our callups have all our stars except Koo Ja Cheol (and Suk Hyunjun… well, I’m starting to lose hope daily that he’s never coming back, so I’ll just leave him out of the discussion… ::tears::).

      I just wanna see our best v their best, or if the opponent brings backups, we play our backups. Am I making too much of this? If so, throw some yeot my way 😉

      • I am so with you on this! I actually want to see the AFC start up a Nations League just like how UEFA and CONCACAF are doing. You’re right on the money with your analysis here on the strength of the visiting squads that come play friendlies with us. It’s just a huge ask for the visiting team to bring their A team on such a long journey on these short international breaks in the club season! With the status of Korea at the moment in world football, we’re not going to be able to convince a visiting team to bring their best squad in the same way that Brazil, Germany, Spain, or England can.

        I think the AFC should follow along with the Nations League concept and give all Asian nations consistent competitive fixtures with real meaning. It will help smaller Asian nations improve their play and keep the powerhouses on their toes at all times. Korea could really use these Nations League matches to introduce younger talent to senior-level Asian competition while also getting the KNT stalwarts meaningful minutes.

        • I WISH Kwon could be on our A team.

          It pains me to write this, but he might not be back for awhile, and if he comes back sooner than expected, there’s no guarantee he’ll be the same. I think it’s 100% that he won’t be ready for the Asian Cup (thought I read that?). I’m thinking about Lee Chung Yong, who was a revelation but after his injury….

          I pulled the band aid off fast to get the pain over with. I’m not gonna consider him as a possible first team player until we see differently.

  2. Thumbs up! Nations league for Asia seems like a really good idea. Europe doesn’t need to get better, but Asia does.

    Jon, I think you’re underrating the defending Copa America champions. Even without some of their key players, Chile still brought a strong team today with Aranguiz and Vidal. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they won by a large margin today. Probably could have happened if Chile was more clinical. Anyway, I agree that we shouldn’t be content with today’s result. Results from friendly games shouldn’t be taken seriously.

    • Chile IS a great team. I would never underrate them- they are one of the best in South America, no question. My point is, the team they brought today is not the team they would confidently take to a tournament. Ours on the other hand is exactly the team we would take. I guarantee if Sanchez or Vidal (who had already been subbed) had latched onto Jang Hyunsoo’s backpass, it would have been 1-0.

      AFC Nations League would be EPIC!

      • Really? When Jang gets left off the team, how do you like the Korean A-team now? By the way, Korea beat Germany not too long ago. It was the German A-team, like #1 in the world and favored to win the whole thing A-team. Korea brought in a last minute coach and system with replacements for injured starters and came out with a victory. It’s just a friendly and Korea played fairly well, who cares about Sanchez? Who cares about Vidal being subbed?

        • So… all the more reason to keep playing strong teams so that we improve on the success from the Germany game?

          And I really hope Jang is replaced as a center back. Having said that… Jang played in that same Germany game, so your argument doesn’t really hold. He just didn’t play as a CB, but he played the full 90 minutes in the Korea-Germany game. Just sayin!

          I care about Sanchez (not Vidal, he was there) because I want Jang (or Kim Minjae, or whoever is best suited for the CB role) to have a chance to play one of the best in the world face-to-face in a practice game so they don’t shit their pants when they get to a tournament and face the real thing. At the WC, all our guys looked scared against Sweden and Mexico. In fact, I remember commentators reporting on how the Korean coaching staff said the players were intimidated the first time they saw how tall the Swedish players were (still pisses me off when I think about that). How interesting that after having experience against two actual, WC level teams, they looked much calmer against Germany because they had the experience under their belts.

  3. Do we think Bento has finally realized that Jang HS shouldn’t play CB?

    Yes, agreed that there aren’t too many takeaways from one single friendly at home against a side that didn’t play its A squad, it’s good that these players are getting reps together and building cohesion as a unit. Getting excited for the Asian Cup in January.

    • So I have a theory about Bento’s starting XI for these first two friendly matches. It is just a theory.

      My theory is this: maybe Bento picked the KNT stalwarts that he did to point out to the KFA people that they wouldn’t fit his system. Maybe starting Jang Hyun-soo at CB is a way to just say, “Hey, I tried it. It didn’t work. Can we do it my way now?” I think if he just jumps straight to starting Kim Min-jae with Kim Young-gwon he doesn’t get to make a point to the KFA about what he wants. He has to prove that Jang Hyun-soo isn’t the right fit for the back 4/play out of the back system that he wants to employ on defense. It’s the same thing with the fact that Lee Seung-woo and Hwang In-beom didn’t start either of these matches. He wanted to show that you can try his system with the players that the past managers relied on but the results won’t be good enough. I’m hoping and predicting that his October squad will be even more bold than his September squad.

      This was just a theory.

  4. What is w/ the NT’s propensity for brain farts? Particularly defenders, while offense guys overthink at the last second and screw things up. I’m hoping Bento can wean these guys of some bad tendencies that have consistently cropped up, if thru nothing else than tons of situational repetition in training, so that the “smart” move becomes muscle memory/reflex, brain can’t get in the way.

    Also, its early days ofc, but when can we start gauging how good Bento is? Like how many games before we get a better idea what he brings? I’m trying to think how long Stielike, STY and the like had before folks had a sense of their abilities & limitations.

    • This is KNT’s level. Top players not only have great skill, but they also have great composure. I wonder how Jang Hyun-soo performs in the J-league. Maybe he feels more pressure when he plays for Korea.

      I don’t think we can really gauge Bento’s level until after the Asian Cup. We need to see how KNT plays in a real competition.

      • Nobody had any real feelings about Stielike until after the 2015 Asian Cup, and everyone loved him. Then about 2.5 years later, everyone hated his guts. Oh football fans…

        • It’s too early to judge Bento and KNT, but he’s already made some changes. In the last 2 games, KNT has shown faster buildup play and good shape in both offense/defense. According to analysts, Korea used a different zone setup to defend corner kicks.

          When you win, everyone’s happy. It’ll be interesting to see how Bento reacts when KNT suffers a loss. Will he criticize players in public like Stielike and Shin Tae-yong? Will he yell at everyone and says he deserves respect like Mourinho? lol

          I’ve just recently found Kim Byung-ji’s(former GK of KNT) youtube channel. Kim Byung-ji and other form KNT players provide really good analysis of the games. They’ve mentioned how Nam Tae-hee could be a key player for Bento and a how three in the back formation is better for KNT. Unfortunately, their videos don’t have English subtitles.

          https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKgYRjFGgvj7aS8y4EhH2CA/featured

          • I think the KNT’s 1st chance to face “adversity” (read: loss) might be against Uruguay, particularly if they bring even some of their top guys; we’ll see then how they cope.

            I’m also hearing that Spurs want Son out of not just Nov friendlies as agreed upon, but also the Oct ones, in which case we’d really see what Bento is made of, what he can do w/ the team in total sans talisman.

            P.S. btw Bento has had his 1st outburst on the sidelines, cuz of that idiotic backpass, so very understandable

  5. I am glad that the national team in particular Son Heung-Min was able to carry over the confidence from the win over Germany in the WC to the Asian games and was able to claim the gold which gave them a further boost. It is particularly important to install a winning mentality to the younger players like Lee Seung-Woo, Hwang Hee-Chan, Hwang In-Bom, etc. It’s also great that Son Heung-Min really accepted the role as the leader where he directs the whole team with his experience at the top level, helps out in the defense and is always dangerous and can decide a match with one brilliant action or pass. It’s good to see that the A-team under Bento displayed some of the same confidence as the Olympic squad.

    Hopefully, in the future they will maintain the level of play, in bad times as well which will surely come with the support of the fans.

    • One more point, I have nothing against Ki Sung-Yong but he really does not have the experience at the top level (i.e. Champions League knock-out stage) to direct the national team against top teams. It’s more difficult to transform a mediocre playmaker to a top playmaker than to transfer a top winger to a top playmaker.

      • This is a really interesting comment. Certainly one I had never thought of before. But when you think about it, it does kinda have truth to it. Ki is an incredibly experienced player that has an important skillset to provide the squad, but he has never broken into an elite club squad. He played for Celtic for quite a few years but even that’s not an “elite” club that consistently makes the UCL knockout rounds. So maybe there is something to be said about what kind of leadership Ki could bring to the big matches Korea have. It really is an interesting point and Sonny has tasted much more Champions League adversity to help his leadership of the team!

        • Hmm.. I remember a few people in England used the same argument before the last WC about England bringing so many players from Tottenham. They said no way they can win the WC because they don’t have experience winning anything big for their clubs. (funny that England actually went farther than anyone expected though…).

          It can also be said that Park Ji Sung won quite a few titles with Man U, and when he was the KNT captain it was the most successful run our national team has seen.

          There’s no exact science to this, but no question the countries that won the last few World Cups were filled with players who won championships with their clubs.

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