Cheonan Baeksoek Stadium: Korea looked bright at first, scoring early and looking like they were going to run all over Panama to end the October international break, but Panama clawed back and Korea had difficulty getting back onto the front foot. We’ll do a quick recap, but a couple of interesting talking points as Korea’s momentum after winning their first game ever against Uruguay stalls with a disappointing 2:2 draw.
5 changes from the squad that Bento put out against Uruguay, including Hwang In-beom’s first start for the senior side:
The 4-1-4-1 formation did well initially to quickly break through Panama’s defense with quick passes, moving the ball around in a frenetic pace. It only took 5 minutes before Korea found the back of the net, Hwang Hee-Chan’s drive into the area attracted a swarm of Panamanian defenders, but after losing the ball, quickly regained it and diverted the ball out to Park Joo-ho lurking near the top of the area. He ran towards the pass, and from 12 yards out delivered it past the outreached hands of Mejia and on into the back of the net!
Korea 1:0 Panama
Team Korea replicated that sequence in similar fashion, in the 33rd minute Son Heung-min with the ball at his feet on the right edge of the area and in heavy traffic with 4 defenders around him, did well to turn, fake kick, then picked out Hwang In-Beom – who was perched just outside the top of the area. The Daejeon Citizen midfielder expertly one timed it into the net! Hwang Hee-chan shot hit the post only a minute later.
Korea 2:0 Panama
For Park Joo-Ho, it was a long recovery from his injury during the Korea Sweden World Cup match to get back into the KNT fold. His goal along with Hwang’s first senior goal seemed all part of the script of Bento’s new look offensive squad. Then the plot was lost as Korea conceded on a set piece, goal to Arroyo right before HT.
Korea 2:1 Panama
After halftime, Bento took off Lee Yong and installed Kim Moon-Hwan. The plot continued to unravel for Korea, 4 minutes from the restart Nam Tae-Hee with a ill advised backpass, Panama was able to exploit, goal to Rolando Blackburn
Korea 2:2 Panama
Bento’s next move was to do a raft of substitutions, first bringing on Hwang Ui-Jo and Jung Woo-Young, and taking off Suk Hyun-Jun and Hwang In-Beom. Not much change happened on the field as Korea struggled to find their way through the final third. Hong Chul and Moon Seon-min came in for Park Joo-Ho and Hwang Hee-Chan, with Lee Seung-Woo left on the bench. Moon was his energetic self but unable to instill any influence on the game. Korea had a few more chances; perhaps the best one was Ki Sung-Yeung’s laser sharp vision finding Nam Tae-Hee’s run in behind the Panamanian defense. Nam’s header just went wide of the near post by inches. But Korea could not find that go ahead goal and they while they frustratingly draw 2-2 against a side that was handily beat by Japan 3-0 a few days ago. Korea nearly lost it at the end with horrendous defending that exposed Korea on the right side, Kim Moon-Hwan out of position and leaving the backdoor wide open – only a poor touch by Panama saved Korea’s bacon just as the game was wrapping up. Japan by the way would get a 4-3 victory against Uruguay.
- While Paulo Bento’s record in charge is still unbeaten, this is a result that will feel like a loss, as Panama on paper with their poor run of form looked certainly beatable. Despite being up 2:0, Korea’s sloppiness allowed a weak CONCACAF team back into the game. Korea will regret not being more ruthless and efficient up front, and will continue to ponder their defensive frailties, particularly on set pieces.
- Nam Tae-Hee is running hot and cold. One moment he looks stellar. Another he has these headscratching blunders that are costly. Staying in the middle east leagues may prove to be Nam’s achilles heel.
- Ki Sung-Yeung may not be playing much for Newcastle at the moment, but other than a few rusty touches, his vision is still laser sharp. THAT pass to Nam Tae-Hee should have been the game winner.
- Son Heung-min: another mixed performance, with the sublime along side the cringeworthy. Captain Sonny did well to dribble in the area under extreme traffic (that was 4 players marking him to prevent his scoring a goalzo) when he was able to find an unmarked Hwang In-Beom for Korea’s 2nd goal. His corner kicks weren’t as dangerous this time (unlike the vicious whipped in corners against Uruguay that enabled Korea to beat Uruguay). However, he lost the ball far too often, that’s his achilles heel. The pressures of being Captain sometimes marks his performances where it seems like he’s taking on too much burden of carrying the ball far too often. That would be the apologist take on the matter – the other POV is that when Son isn’t feeling confident, his footwork fails him, stalling what would be promising attacks. The other narrative: Son simply needs rest. This is his last international game of 2018 (as agreed upon by Spurs and the KFA for his participation in the Asian Games) – quite the year including a goal against Germany in the World Cup and winning the Asian Games Gold to extend his career in Europe and unshackling the careers of a number of promising youngsters including goalscorer Hwang In-Beom today.
- Lee Seung-Woo: the sticking point many will raise with Bento is over this – when Nam Tae-Hee wasn’t on the front foot with his miserable backpass, why did he not sub him out for Lee Seung-Woo? Instead it was Moon Seon-Min who got the nod. Moon has great energy and workrate but his touches leave much to be desired. Lee appears to be underutilized by Bento. Perhaps he’ll get his chance when Son will rest up rather than get called up for the November friendly. The Asian Cup is only 2 months away and it’s a head scratcher why Bento didn’t opt in Lee Seung-Woo at all during this international break.
- The ever creative Lee Jae-Sung was injured during training with the KNT and had to return to Germany; that must have been frustrating for both Lee and Bento. Despite his absence, Korea surprised many by beating Uruguay. With the 2-2 draw today, his absence was definitely acutely felt today.