Korea 2 : Algeria 4. Perspective on Porto Allegre

Quadruple Ouch. It might have been dubbed the Porto Allegre massacre with the scoreline 0-3 by halftime. The disaster supporters have feared all along- an embarrassing loss on a world stage was not just a mere nightmare – it was happening in real time. But viewers who stood by was (partly) rewarded by an entertaining 2nd half – Korea wasn’t done. Their attitude and presence was radically transformed -you could be excused for thinking this was a different game and venue altogether as Korea nearly mounted a historic comeback. But least ye been warned, abandon all pessimism before ye enters here… Anyone at the Tavern today is here in for a proverbial (or actual) drink and therapy session – that is to come away with something useful from this via an unconventional recap. A different perspective perhaps. For a regular recap: the Guardian has it pretty accurately (save for the moments after Son scored and Korea looked in rallying form, they particularly missed the part Ki Seung-Yeung drilled in from distance an absolutely rocket strike that Rais M’Bolhi barely nicked away from getting into net). Koream has a more concise vantage point. But back up a bit, why don’t we start at halftime, after disbelief at the entire backline and Jung Sung-Ryong for the titantic-esque defensive display that brought us to the despairing 0-3 halftime result. Almost equally dismal was the midfield and offense who looked incapable of getting anything accomplished. Halftime seemed like an eternity. What went wrong – so awfully wrong?

I began to flashback. To 2002, almost 12 years ago to the day when Korea started to do the impossible. To 2010 when Korea, after beating Greece 2-0, struggled mightily against Argentina. To 2012 on a hot August night when I decided to plunge headlong into powering up the Tavern right after beating Japan for a memorable Olympic medal win (and military exemption for the squad). To a year ago when Korea fell backward into the World Cup, losing in their last World Cup qualifier in Seoul, firing Choi Kang-hee and hiring Hong Myong-bo practically in one fell motion. This was and still is a team struggling to figure out their own identity – their own abilities and functions. In competitive international football, the fine margins between luck, skill and fate – between a missed strike and a goal conceded can be brutally exposed for an inexperienced defense. Multiple mis-clearances, poor defending, mis-timed goalkeeping, errant passing, faltering set piece defending alongside frenetic Algerian offensive swashbuckling and Korea -along with their supporters were staring at a World Cup fiasco.

I knew that for all my paper theories on what should happen in these World Cup matches, this being one of the strangest and confounding World Cups in memory, many preconceived notions would have to be thrown out. Spain easily advancing. Brazil putting away Mexico. Costa Rica; punching bag in a group with England and Italy. Ghana dispatched by Germany. USA surviving the group of death. To quote (again) Dr Venkman, “left is right, up is down, dogs and cats living together…” This is the madness and unpredictable excitement that is Brazil 2014, and so I also submit: Korea 2 : Algeria 4. But back to halftime, amid the panic and pessimism settling in from twitter and other netwerks (legit I grant you), I decided to get contrarian. If up is truly down in Brazil 2014, why couldn’t the impossible for team Korea be accomplished, a comeback from that deficit?  I became strangely calm. Maybe it was from drinking, but I posted this up to my partner in crime at the Tavern:

As Algeria came out at the start of the game, having 0 points in a 2-1 loss to Belgium, making 5 changes to their starting XI – they played as if possessed -frenzied – like they had nothing to lose and everything to play for. I wasn’t in there, nor had a bug implanted in Hong Myong-bo’s locker-room talk, but I can imagine what he said – and it was boiled down to this: steal Algeria’s 1st half mental stance and mojo and OWN IT -make it their own. The Taeguk Warriors would not go down without a fight. Here was a squad that has the talent to score. Put it all together in one concentrated 45 minutes. After all, with the scoreline as it was -they truly had nothing to lose.

Back on the pitch, the grim score and defensive collapse aside, the second half got casual worldwide viewers sitting up to take notice -the part where Korea was fighting back, and discovering for the first time some of the players that we knew all along were aces up Korea’s collective sleeves. The team started playing ball. Son Heung-Min taking that pass on his back, spinning around and deftly maneuvering around a defender -shooting the ball between the keepers legs to get his first World Cup goal – simply a brilliant moment coming early in that half.  Never mind the fact a 3 goal deficit comeback hadn’t been seen since 2002 (Uruguay the only team to pull that off against Senegal), but Korea started a comeback campaign – and for a time there was a sense they could pull it off. Hong brought Kim Shin-Wook into the game for Park Chu-Young (not a great performance – won balls back- but little output and chose not to shoot when he was in the area). An interesting move as the tactics would shift again for team Korea. But first, one of the crucial moments: Ki Sung-yeung firing off a brilliant long distance shot, the kind he scored with during his Celtic days. M’Bolhi just got his hand to tip the shot. Ki was unlucky that it didn’t get into net. The next scene, Kim Shin-Wook connected on the header -which went high over the crossbar. Opportunity gone. Not long after, Korea won a free kick in a dangerous spot, then restarted so fast, the cameraman didn’t even get positioned in time to see Korea with a nice opportunity to get in on net – but no cigar. Just mere seconds later the comeback attempt was thwarted by a quick counter – Slimani to Brahimi splitting the Korean defense to score almost too easily- a flash back to their 1st half defensive follies – and pushed Algeria 1-4. Had Ki’s goal went in, or the fast free kick converted – the momentum could have turned the game on it’s head.

Not done yet, Korea kept fighting. Son and company worked harder, getting some more opportunities but couldn’t find their way past the keeper. Things were getting desperate, the clock was ticking ever closer to FT when the ball ping ponging in the area and skipped past Son who couldn’t take advantage. Super sub Lee Keun-Ho to the rescue, he picked up the out of control ball and his quick thinking pass to Koo Ja-Cheol was perfect as Koo knocked it in the net. Koo ran the ball back to quickly reset and look for their 3rd goal. But with long ball after long ball to Kim Shin-Wook – hoping for that magical header, the attack seemed to disintegrate. There was a moment where Algeria figured out the Wookie default strategy and parked the bus – Case in point, Han Kook-Young had acres of space coming towards midfield. He looked tempted to work the ball forward. Instead he obliged to the command structure to send a ‘hail mary’ into the box to find Kim’s head. The Korean bombardment would continue, but the inelegant strategy didn’t have a payoff. Closing minutes, Ji Dong-Won and Lee Keun-Ho, both lively, both had shot that were off target.  The goal deficit eventually proved too difficult to overcome and Korea succumbed.


Bitter? It’s all a matter of perspective. Looking back, especially when seeing what Korea could offer in the 2nd half, it was potentially doable for the Taeguk Warriors. They didn’t count on the impact Slimani and 4 new players would make from their typical ultra-cautious side that lost to Belgium. So if it had to be comeback style, a 2 goal deficit was mountable. Consolation: that gallant resolve in the 2nd half – it was there, it almost was enough to surmount that ridiculous goal deficit.  This game didn’t have to come to the defensive calamity and collapse we saw today. Without it- the game could’ve gone drastically a different way. But happen it did and the record will not be kind. The 2nd half could prove to be a turning point for Korea given the KNT recent scoring woes. Even in their first group game against Russia – Son shanked some great opportunities to pull Korea ahead while Lee Keun-ho himself admitted that his goal had quite a bit of luck involved. With Son and company breaking their duck so to speak, could the scoring dam have been released? We shall see if that trend continues against Belgium. *note: I did not know Korea has never scored more than 2 goals in any World Cup match. If somehow we did crash out of the tournament, say Korea scores more than 2 goals against Belgium, that would be measured progress of a sort. Additionally, I forgot to mention this last night:

I go back to what I posted earlier in the Tavern – we don’t know which Taeguk Warrior squad will show up to these games – hell we don’t even know which squad will show up for each half if today is any evidence. The tune up matches hinted at the possibility of a fuckatrophe -of a defensive lapse that would distinguish the KNT backline as amateurs. And yet they performed cohesively and adequately a game ago under sustained Russian attack. Han Kook-Young – another case in point – solid against Russia -diminished in his performance against Algeira…

Jung Sung-Ryong is Korea’s veteran goalkeeper. He will be under continued scrutiny for his mistimed misadventures out of position. And yet the Jung that showed up at the Russia match was a different beast altogether…

Unlike the Russia match (where a cautious Korean force got lucky on Lee Keun-Ho’s routine shot turned howler goal), Son worked at it, used brilliant technique and finished well to convert the shot. Lee Keun-Ho, while he didn’t score against Algeria, his vital pass to Koo Ja-Cheol broke down the Algerian defense for the assist. Koo, not so hot in the 1st half, fired it up in the 2nd half. Some of the team’s stocks are rising.

There is use for a real hard reality check – there will be a time to figure out culpability and long term solutions.  Is it on the players, the coaches, the KFA, society with mandatory military conscription, Korea culture or lack of Koreans going to domestic league matches? There will be hard questions and soul searching after the World Cup.  I can simply say coach Hong, while he does have his fair share of responsibility to shoulder, has to deal with the cards he’s dealt -and he’s had less than a year to put the team back together after hurricane Choi Kang-hee. Among the issues that will await him whenever the tourney ends for Korea, not including Cha Du-Ri and including Park Chu-Young. Big public relations risks – was it worth it?  All to be processed later.

But I speak as if Korea has been eliminated. That is not the case, there is still some hope to advance. Let’s look at the table.



2 2 0 0 3 1 6
2 1 0 1 5 4 3
2 0 1 1 1 2 1
2 0 1 1 3 5 1


Bet Korea wishes they didn’t concede that last goal to Russia. That goal along with today’s loss by 2 goals is the difference in Korea being in a comfortable position to one where they are in a bit of pickle to survive the group. To advance, here’s one of the best scenarios:

1. Korea beats Belgium by a score of 2-0

2. Russia beats Algeria 1-0.

Can Korea do it with the defensive form they’re in? Their back line confidence has to be shaken. The short answer: possibly if Belgium fields their B team. By beating Russia (barely) 1-0, Belgium can in theory rest their starting players.


No matter what happens on Thursday’s games- we will look ahead to the future – one that is alternatively troubling and somehow very bright at the same time for the Taeguk Warriors. 2 am in the morning here on the east coast. Tavern closed for the night. I have no doubt that the sun will still come up in the morning. Chal ga yo.



About Roy Ghim 454 Articles
The old Tavern Owner


  1. This world cup is full of surprises. I don’t even care about stats and how good the teams look on paper, because all that goes out the door when they actually play.

    A lot of people thought Algeria would be a breeze, they played pretty well and so did Korea, but we had to wait till the second half to see it.

    HMB should have known better than to use PCY, and should have subbed out JSR and PCY sooner.

    Hopefully the Korean players step up their game and score a couple against Belgium, but with our defense, we won’t be able to do much even if we manage to make it into r16.

    We have the talent, but not the mindset.

    • Another thing I forgot to mention, the Korean players really need to work on their first touch. Last but not least, my avatar above looks like an alien penis. That is all.

  2. Quite honestly, Algeria deserved better than a 4-2 win. They were so much better in this game it’s laughable to suggest that we had a comeback in us. For the 10 mins or so we played with more energy after Son’s goal (great finish by the way), they simply went down the field on a TO and made our defenders look like kids to score a 4th. Game over. We don’t deserve accolade in any form for playing better a few minutes after scoring a goal, any team with a pulse would have reacted the same way.

    The 1st and 3rd goals against us would not have been scored on even an average national team defense. Those are easy situations to deal with that we managed to muck up in shambolic fashion. I don’t know what JSR was doing on the 2nd goal, he backed away from the corner kick then tried to punch it. Didn’t show any confidence whatsoever in attacking the cross. By the way, the comment about him being a boss in the Russian game is not accurate IMO. He flubbed some balls off his glove, and right after the 2nd half started, instead of catching a floater with both hands that I could have grabbed, he inexplicably punched it backwards out for a corner kick. He made a good initial save on the Kerzhakov goal and punched out another low cross. That’s about all he did, any normal GK would have had the same output. He is, without doubt, a bad GK. Period.

    It is true that we defended better as a whole in the Russia game and showed glimpses of hope, but the Algeria match also showed that a lot of that had to do with Russia’s tactics. Capello didn’t even bring on his best offensive players until they were behind. We had time against Russia to make cute passes and buildup, Algeria was in no mood to do such a thing. They wanted to turn the ball over and run down towards our goal. And boy, did they ever.

    We have some talented MF players, Son is good. The rest? Young, inexperienced and quite frankly, crap at international level. Central defense is awful, definitley one of the worst in the WC. PCY starting 2 games as a striker and no shots on goal, that’s terrible. GK very mediocre. In 4 years time we might be a lot better, who knows. Until we get average to respectable production in defense, confidence in marking appropriately on set pieces, and reasonable goalkeeping, it will not matter how good or creative our offensive players are, unless they are Champions League quality strikers/attacking MFs. And by the way, our defense looked this bad against Algeria, hardly a contender for the trophy. Any number of teams in the WC would be able to replicate what they did, we have been truly exposed for what we are. A young team with some promising talent, but overall a very mediocre one. I might sound harsh, but I am a realist and will always be. Quite frankly, we don’t deserve to be going to the Knockout phase, we’re just not good enough, period.

    • The truth hurts, but the truth is the truth. When is the KFA going to make realistic plans, and stop seeing each World Cup team as the 2002 team.

      Our defense is poor, piss poor and we have very little offensive weapons.

      The team acted with no urgency and no fight, very disappointed.

    • I agree with many things said here, but we DID have a comeback in us and had it not been for a great save and a shocking miss of a header (the quick set piece came to one of the Koreans who headed at the Algerian df who headed it away on the line) we could have been talking about a very different scoreline today.

      I don’t think we’re going to get through, but when we play Belgium this week, my heart isn’t going to be pounding, I won’t be chewing my nails off. I’ll know that we messed it up, and now all we can do it just go out there and play. We seem to play better when we just go out there and do it, with no real expectation upon us.

      AFAIC, PJY off, LKH on. That’s the main change I would make for the game. And we go out there fearless, attacking, like against Algeria in the 2nd half. Impose OUR game on theirs.

      But then that defense keeps on letting us down.

      • Spotting someone 4 or 5 goals then scoring the complementary 2 or 4 goals is getting a bit old don’t you think? It pays to be cynical sometimes to get that extra dose of reality here.

        I think its time to be hard on ourselves.

        People constantly hype this team and have the gall to say its the most talented team in a decade, or the talent is improving. Thats just too funny. Lee Yong, HKY, Kim (No. 5), HJH….thats what we have to look forward to? Really?? These guys wouldn’t make the practice team for most of the NTs here in Brazil. Come to think of it what happened to Park the RB didnt we bring him last second due to anothers injury? Whatever. This is a shockingly bad team. SHOCKING.

        Our program has taken 4 steps back. I don’t think we’ve looked this bad in over 14 years probably more. Hong is going to absorb this when he gets back and its going to be FUGLY

        • I never defended the fact that we let in 4. I said that we got our shit together in the second half. Too little, too late.

          To be fair, our players are going places (European clubs) that players couldn’t dream of going in the 90’s. We’ve got the potential to be a lot better than we are.

          But for 2018, we must choose our coach now. And stick with him. I don’t think Hong is ready. I would have suggested Senol Gunes, but he’s signed up for another term with Bursaspor. Hwang Sun-Hong? Nah. We should explore foreign coach options…

        • I agree here, our NT has not looked this bad since 1998. You can make an argument that the last time we had an average or respectable backline was 2006. Although we didn’t advance into the knockout phase at Germany 2006, the defense was at least somewhat competent. 4 points in Group Play is well, average. Nothing to write home about. Also Fra/Togo/Switzerland, certainly not a group of death.

          In 2010 we were given a very easy group. What was the ultimate result? 4 points in Group Play, and a R16 appearance and knockout. Against Argentina, Nigeria and Uruguay in the R16 we had major defensive lapses at times. 4 pts in Group Play, R16 knockout. What is that? It’s average joe. Minimum output for a team to be placed in the top 16. That’s all it is.

          2014, again, what’s our output here? Maximum we can get is 4 points. Is this a group of Death? No, not at all. So where are we at here? At best, if we win against Belgium, 4 points, possibly R16 matchup if the Algeria/Russia game breaks our way. Is this going to happen? No, too many ifs. Can we tie Belgium? I don’t see it, Belgium need to get into this tournament and have sleepwalked their 1st two games getting max results.

          I agree, this team is shockingly bad. You couldn’t have said it better. What’s worse is that as pointed above, there has been major regression in the NT, but the warning signs were all there 4 years ago. As for talent, all 32 teams in this tournament have talent, and most probably have more talent than us. If you polled the 32 NT coaches, I don’t think we’d be picked within the top 16. As for the results, against 2 average teams, they speak for themselves.

    • I agree with many of your points but I politely (cause that’s how I roll) disagree on the laughable suggestion of a comeback. I don’t think I was the only one who thought their offensive potential was there for a comeback – particularly the 2nd half. If the 4th goal hadn’t been conceded – the dynamics could’ve changed the course of the game. The 4th goal killed momentum so Koo’s goal was too late to get Korea back in it. The D let us down quite simply, with a HUGE exclamation point X4.

      – and we can lambast them all we want -but who’s to say they will regroup in the next match? I say it again, this is a weird world cup. As fantastically difficult as it is to do, I say let’s enjoy the moment against Belgium. Australia showed balls and impressed, even in losing to Netherlands. Korea has the one last moment to impress on thursday despite the Algeria result. Psychologically it is important for them to shake it off- never forget – but to be present, learn for mistakes made, and move on. As Tavern owner, I have to look at the glass half full… cause if I didn’t, I’d be really hard into my own supply man!

  3. I always love optimism, but… come on guys.
    Algeria decimated our defense. Yes, Korea started to make a comeback, but who gives a damn when the final score is 4-2? Algeria took their foot off the gas, allowing us to have a bit of hope for a comeback. That’s the only reason.
    Sometimes I think this bitter pill needs to be swallowed whole. That’s the only way to rebuild. No excuses. Fix the goalkeeper. Fix the defense. Make our attackers hit harder. That’s the only way we stand a chance against the likes of Van Persie, Suarez, and goalkeepers like Ochoa. If we want to make an impression on international football, we can’t just accept mediocre and make excuses. That’s such bullsh!t.
    Sometimes you need the confidence to make changes. Here’s hoping the KFA does it. I’ll believe it when I see it.

  4. The way I saw it was Algeria played to win. Korea played not to lose. Once Korea got behind, there was more sense of urgency. Players were piss poor, but HMB is partly to blame. This is just a guess, but I don’t they were prepared for Algerian line up/game plan change. Probably just looked at the Belgium match and thought…we got this. Korea was not prepared.

    Have to congratulate Algeria for a masterful game plan and execution.

    • I think you nailed it with our tactics being based on a ‘don’t lose” approach.

      Hong is in trouble here I think. Im not holding hope of a miracle win against Belgium and even if we do, getting into the 16 under these circumstances just doesn’t satisfy me.

      Hong needs to go. I rarely get on the axethecoach threads much with the exception of the last dummy, but Hong has truly disappointed me here. He’s way too conservative for my liking and teaching the ‘next generation’ of Korean ballers these anti-football tactics is not the direction I want to see the NT go.

  5. As ridiculous as this sounds, I say the KFA spend the majority of its money on getting 5 young Kleague players with promise. Goalkeeper, LB, 2 CBs, and RB. Throw all the money at their training. Make sure they form a cohesive unit. Sounds very Cold War-ish, but maybe that’s what Korea needs for the next World Cup or two. Where are the other options?

  6. Hey guys it was a disappointing game from Korea for sure, no doubt about it. However, we shouldn’t lose all hope. I heard that Belgium might rest their first squad players which would make sense. If this is true it gives Korea a much better chance to possibly catch up to Russia in goal differential. It all depends on Algeria not winning. And we cannot put too much blame on Hong. The game against Algeria was a much different game than against Russia. While Russia gave us lots of space in the defense and midfield so that we could pass around, Algeria put high pressure straight from the start so that Korea had no time to settle and control the game’s tempo. What we have to realize is that Algeria simply had superior physical players. Their players were faster and stronger and each time they had the ball they looked dangerous. When watching the game I commentated how it appeared that it took four of our players to contain one of theirs. However, I do think that if Korea was more organized at the back then the game could have been totally different as almost all the goals could have been prevented through better communication and more competent defending. However, what I do agree with is that Hong should start Park Chu-Young on the bench. I think we should play a 4-2-3-1. We should either start Son Heung-Min as the lone striker instead of Park Chu-Young and add Kim Bo-Kyung, Ji Dong-Won, or Lee Keun-Ho to play where Son was, or we should keep everything the same except try Kim Shin-Wook instead of Park Chu-Young.

  7. Watching it again….one question.

    Why do all our players, except Son and Lee, act like they don’t want the ball?

  8. Disappointed and angry that we lost. My mom ,an abundant resource for all things football, saw the game and she said that our players are too soft compared to players from other countries. She said that Algeria looked like they were ready to go, that they were aggressive, just physically stronger than us and were not afraid. She said Korea looked a little nervous and it looked like they were watching the game or passive. She said Korea looked like kids while Algeria looked mature. She said the Korean team as a whole looked or looks immature and they looked like they had no confidence or looked incompetent.

  9. Putting aside Korea’s game with Belg., does anyone think Russia can beat Algeria? I mean because Algeria is looking good now and Russia hasn’t been too hot (just like us). I’m just hoping Russia can beat them but I’m not sure if I’m being realistic…

    • I wonder the same thing honestly. If Russia play like against us they won’t win. But I have a feeling Russia knows it’s do or die time, like us. Russia has to do everything they can. Korea has to do everything they can. And that means win. Rusia have better odds though… screw them. If they beat Algeria, they’re through provided we don’t mess up their plans.

      • Tim man….Im usually about the fight just as anyone here.

        Barring anything short of a miraculous chariot from heaven with god touching every dude on the NT with his wand, this team just doesn’t deserve to be in the 16 the way it has played the last 6 or 7 games. I vote we do this with honor and to quit wishing we squeak by. I want to get into the 16 the way Mexico is, G-dmmit.

        The team is vapid and without individuality. Even Ki manages to melt into the homogenous fabric once he puts the colors on. Nothing dynamic offered, no more cutting through passes from him. Lee CY can’t do it by himself and Son is screaming for a playmaker to partner up with. Its too bad there normally separated by the pitch. Koo…what happened to that guy. Or maybe he was always this way and was playing out of his tree before. He was completely average this tournament. People think he did better than he did only because he was just improving over the completely shambolic rutt he was in previously. You can’t be a proper AM if you’re on the ground half the time.

        Hong brought a pretty bad team with an even worse game plan. Its going to be VERY hard for him to explain what went down here. Many questioned some of these call ups. Many more will question his gutless, anti-football tactics. Getting completely blown out by Ghana and then by Algeria were worse to me than losing to Hidink’s Holland 6-2 back in 98.

        Thats not negativity thats just fact. Watching the backsides of HKY and No. 5 Kim ALWAYS chasing somebody about 2 steps from behind…and is it bad I don’t even know or can’t remember who our left back was against Algeria?

        …….yesterday was gut wrenching.

        • P.S. Im taking this harder than normal only because I believed in Hong. Even when he was losing pre WC friendlies, I kept thinking not to worry too much about it and that Hong was going find the problems have this sheep steered by the time Brazil came along. Little did I know this was actually watching a slo-mo train wreck.

          • As long as we’re still in the World Cup I have pledged to be positive.

            We suck. We don’t deserve to be in the Last 16. We’re a horrible team with no direction.

            There goes that pledge.

            I’m trying to sugar-coat this when it’s really not that. Let’s just see what happens with Belgium. After which I think I can really stop trying to subconsciously sugar-coat everything.

  10. 4-1 Colombia over Japan right now.

    I find it fascinating that teams are employing similar tactics against Asian teams, Korea and Japan. Lying in wait and counterattacking when appropriate.

Join in the Tavern's conversations -Leave a comment...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.