What a day – goals goals goals in Brazil- but if you were watching the game, you would’ve thought Fiji’s goalkeeper Tamanisau turned on Neuer mode -stopping what should have been 5 or 6 Korea goals in the first half. Instead, with a HT scoreline of only 1-0, Korea was still biting nails despite a comfortable 72% ball possession rate. Kwon Chang-Hoon’s laser pinpoint cross found Ryu Seung-Woo, Ryu’s crafty toe poke got past the goal line in the 32nd minute, but while the Bayer Leverkusen man earned a PK a few minutes later, Moon Chang-Jin’s blasted his shot, beat Tamanisau, but rang off the left post. Start of 2nd half, Tamanisau was a one man gauntlet – while Team Korea kept the pressure, all the firepower of Hwang Hee-Chan, Ryu Seung-Woo, Moon Chang-Jin, Kwon Chang-Hoon with scoring opportunities galore – all were absorbed by a superhuman Tamanisau. Despite the sensational goalkeeping from the 34 year old keeper, saving 10 of 11 shots by the 60th minute, it was clearly a turkey shootout in Fiji’s half and only a matter of time before Korea could finally break open the floodgates…
In the 60th minute, the dam suddenly broke: after waves and waves of punishing Korean attacks and nothing to show for it —3 Korean goals in less than 2 minutes! The Twittersphere just couldn’t catch up to a deluge, beginning with Moon Chang-Jin feeding Kwon Chang-Hoon, his shot beat Tamanisau to his left. Moments later on the left Ryu low cross sent behind scrambling defenders, Kwon nailed it into the net on the far post. Just mere seconds later, Ryu picked the pockets of the rightback, dribbled threateningly closer and seemly duplicating his assist moments ago by lining up for a cross – instead fools everyone including Tamanisau by driving his shot into the upper right of the net. Korea 4: 0 Fiji. Fiji was in a tailspin, and by the 68th minute it didn’t take long for manager Shin Tae-Yong to rest Hwang and Kwon and bring on Son Heung-Min and Suk Hyun-Jun. Son had just joined after a Tottenham tour of Australia while Suk was rested as a precaution after suffering injuries during the Iraq friendly several days ago.
The deluge wasn’t over as Korea sought to run up the scoreline for goal differential advantage against future Group C opponents Mexico and Germany. Ryu was pummeled in the area by Jale Dreloa and another PK opportunity earned. Instead of Ryu taking it to complete a hat trick – Son was elected to take it (Shin Tae-Yong policy: have someone other than the PK earner to make the PK). Son opted right, Tamanisau guessed left. Korea 5 : 0 Fiji.
Son nearly notched a brace, nice display work and one two with Ryu – found Son behind the defense -he rounded the keeper, his shot at an acute angle cleared just in time by a Fiji defender. Later, a rare Tamanisau misplay and miles off his line allowed Son to give a go with a Beckham-esque long distance shot – just barely wide. Meanwhile, his fellow sub, a rebounded Ryu shot falls to Suk Hyun-Jun, he clinically volleys it in. Korea 6 :0 Fiji.
Roy Krishnas’ counter nearly allowed Fiji to get onto the scoreboard, but just wide.
At the 90th, Korea corner, Tamanisau is battling Suk to get to the CK first. Suk’s head wins out. Korea 7: 0 Fiji.
A laser pinpoint long ball over the Fiji defense finds Ryu and with seconds left in stoppage time, adds the emphatic exclamation mark and hat trick goal to finish the game – great bit of skill to elude the defense and slot it home.
Here’s a video highlight of the game:
Some points to talk about:
- Korea has never scored this many goals in an Olympic football match, nor won by such a wide margin.
- Ryu’s hat trick is the first in Olympic competition since Carlos Tevez’ in 2004 for Argentina. Funny thing – only a few hours later, a jetlagged Etebo pulled it off for Nigeria in their crazy 5-4 victory over Japan – more on that later.
- With Mexico and Germany drawing 2-2, Korea provisionally moves to the top of Group C. Korea could’ve been at a better advantage had either Germany or Mexico lost, but with an 8 goal differential, Korea is going into the next 2 matches with winds at their backs. [Fiji likely will exit group, but with a solid keeper -should they improve goal difference with Mexico and Germany as those teams may take the foot off the pedal -that goal difference could prove vital for Korea].
- Despite the clean sheet – some really poor defensive knuckleheaded errors could’ve cost Korea. Fiji’s few chances at goal mostly was due to defensive giveaways. I’m looking at you, Shim Sang-min. However, the steady goalkeeping of Gu Sung-yun snuffed out the rare Fiji shots on target (2 to be precise). Can Korea’s defense incur a steep learning curve to counter the German machine and the firepower of Gnabry? Perhaps 5 in the back? 4-2-3-1? Tim Lee mentioned Park Dong-Jin as a better RB option. Note: Germany’s Gorezka was injured in the Germany v Mexico draw.
- By Sunday’s kickoff with Germany, Son will have gotten over jetlag and Suk recovering fully from injuries, Shin Tae-Yong will play what he feels will be his best XI. But that means today’s offensive players like Red Bull Salzburg’s Hwang Hee-Chan, Levekusen’s Ryu Seung-Woo, Suwon Bluewing’s Kwon Chang-Hoon or Pohang’s Moon Chang-Jin will have to take a seat. Who then?
- Ryu Seung-Woo overwhelmingly won the Twitter informal poll for Man of the Match.
- In Group B, Japan, perhaps lulled into a sense that they could take advantage of a jetlagged Nigeria, wound up in an insane game featuring 4 goals in only the first 11 minutes. They found themselves down 5-2, clawed back to 5-4 before the final whistle blew. They are in deep trouble with Colombia up next for the Blue Samurai. Colombia drew 2-2 with Sweden (Korea beat Sweden 3-2 in a warm up friendly last week- Hwang Hee-Chan in beast mode).
- The 2nd half stood in stark contrast to the 1st, not just in terms of # of goals scored but in confidence and audacity. Korea seemed tentative in the 1st – maybe unlucky not getting a few more goals but perhaps accurately reflected the scoreline against a team that worked together to be compact and would not break down easily. The 2nd half, with all the firepower and technical knowhow, they brought their A game finally – and it was convincing. What really grabbed me was the precise runs and corresponding passes – it wasn’t just lobbed ‘hail mary’ long balls we saw during the Choi Kang-Hee era when he was in charge of the senior KNT squad. This was decisive, tactical and precision passing & runs to penetrate an unyielding Fiji backline. What we saw with as the split second second half of this highwire act is the clinical finishing – exceedingly more difficult to execute then the average armchair Taeguk Warrior ever realizes. They executed with aplomb. It was class -all the way. That’s partly explains that flurry of goals in the 60th minute – as well as 2 goals in the last 2 minutes of the game.
- We’ve said it before – with military exemption hanging over these players should they medal, it’s high stakes for Team Korea. They have more to play for then any team in this tournament, and conversely more pressure on themselves to succeed against uphill competition. [*note: it’s still the Tavern’s position that having Korean footballers try to earn exemption via tournament wins to unfetter their careers and perhaps make them marketable for European top flight teams – is something out of a dystopian novel. This is a law that continues on despite it’s origins from General Park Chung-hee’s brutal military dictatorship of South Korea several decades ago. It is an absolute distraction for these players -and teams like Tottenham are not exactly pleased to have a player like Son miss out on pre-season activities. Red Bull Salzburg played Champions League qualifiers earlier today – and also must not be pleased to have Hwang Hee-Chan miss out on important team functions like the CL. There’s a lot more to say about it but I refer you to some other writings, particularly a submission for IBWM I did some time ago].
Last note: thanks to aeh 1991 over at BSK for this translation from post match presser with Shin TaeYong
“To play in such a big tournament like the Olympic games made the players too nervous in the first half.”
“I told them to play more boldly during the half time. That’s why we could score a lot of goals in the second half.”
About scoring the most goals since 5-3 against Mexico in 1948:
“This will be a great motivation. With the good result, I can plan the next game more relieved. We can go all-in against Germany now. If we win against them, it’s going to be more easy in the next round.”
About Mexico vs Germany (which he watched):
“I was hoping for a draw so it exactly resulted the way I wanted. I am sorry that I can’t tell you anything, but I will play with a different formation against Germany.”
About Son & Suk and the next game:
“They became good (I think he means in terms of team play). I will try to fix the parts that concerns me and prepare well to get a good result. I am sorry, but i can’t tell you how.”
ON to the next game : Sunday Korea v Germany 3pm EST / 12pm PST / 4am Korea time