A lot to unpack, let’s get started: first we’re on Son Heung-Min watch -his Bayer Leverkusen is set for a Champions League clash with Shaktar Donetsk in what Korean Footballers Abroad describe as “a critical battle for 2nd place in Group A in the Champions League.” DirecTV has the game live Wednesday at 2:45 PM EST (3:45 AM Korea time) and tape delay to Thursday 10:00 AM EST at Fox Soccer Plus. Looks likely Son will get the start. To the headline: we’ve been kind of late following the adventures of the U19 Taeguk Warriors Womens’ team. Last Sunday, they clinched the AFC Championship title in Nanjing, China, besting Australia 2-1. Jang Sel-gi won the tournament MVP and top scorer distinction, the high light of her brilliance was the 5 out of 7 goals scored for South Korea against Myanmar. Take that autocratic countries ruled by dictators (except that runner ups North Korea and China also qualified along with South Korea for the U20 World Cup, set to take place in Canada next year. D’oh!). Anyway, this looks like an exciting team to watch -we’ll keep an eye out for them at the Tavern.
What a lovely place, oh Canada. Not only will that country be the future host of the U20 Women’s World Cup, it is the current home of Lee Young-Pyo, a 2002 alum of the Taeguk Warrior World Cup semifinalist team. His Vancouver Whitecaps fell just short of reaching the MLS playoffs, and with that, the legendary 36 year old left back announced his official retirement. He’ll be honored before his final game this upcoming Sunday (8pm EST / 5 pm PST / 9am Monday in Korea) in Vancouver when they host Colorado. Though he’s hanging up his boots, I doubt very highly we’ll see the last of Lee…
Koo Ja-Cheol update: originally it was thought Koo might be out for 2 weeks for an ankle sprain from the KNT/Mali game last week. Turns out to be an lateral ligament tear- he’s out of commission for Wolfsburg for up to 6 weeks.
Speaking of the recent KNT games against Mali and Brazil, Guus Hiddink was in Seoul to see those matches and to catch up with his former Taeguk Warrior alums from the 2002 World Cup. The captain of that squad and now current manager for the KNT, Hong Myong-Bo got the official thumbs up from Hiddink. He goes on to explain in the Chicago Tribune that he likes the direction that the Taeguk Warriors are taking under Hong – who also served as an assistant coach for him while he was managing Russian side Anzhi Machachkala. The Tavern would concur, having observed some of the most unattractive football on display by the KNT in recent memory during the Choi Kang-hee administration. Meanwhile, Guus has thoughtfully rejected the possibility of coaching the Australian national team and seems content not to be coaching —but for how long?
Speaking of Australia, I saw this flash by my twitter dashboard: an interview with Ki Sung-Yeung’s former youth coach in Australia on a local paper in the area. Kind of an interesting article on the technical prowess of Ki during his younger days – which surprised his coach, who commented most who were as tall as Ki would use that at the expense of developing other skill sets. Apparently Ki is the stuff of legend at his former college back in Australia.
I need to catch up on some of the weekend European club matches, but like Jae, my in-laws were in town. I did hear Hong Jeong-Ho had a very decent debut start for Augsburg. Though they eventually lost 2-1, Hong contributed brightly in defense, and very encouragingly had a hand in Augsburg’s offensive minded control of the 1st half of action. From ESPN FC: “Augsburg came flying out of the blocks, testing Diego Benaglio early on through Hong Jeong-ho’s effort before Halil Altintop was denied by a fine one-handed save.” Hong’s defensive play started the sequence that led to Tobias Werner scoring 10 minutes into the game. But Altintop’s lack of finishing came back to haunt Augsburg as Wolfsburg (sans Koo – out injured) came back to score twice and take all 3 points.
Meanwhile in England, Kim Bo-kyung, still recovering from a long international flight, came out as a 2nd half sub and nearly equalized in the 75th minute against Chelsea. We go back to ESPN FC: “Cech…saving spectacularly from Kim Bo-kyung as Cardiff came close to an equaliser.” Chelsea eventually won 4-1, but not without controversy: the first goal should have been disallowed under when Eto knocked the ball loose from Cardiff’s GK Schwartzer after he bounced the ball before trying to kick the ball. David Marshall took advantage of the referee’s error and knocked in the first for Chelsea. According to FIFA, that bouncing ball is technically still in possession by the keeper. Referee Anthony Taylor has reportedly been placed under review by the English FA and may not be eligible to referee any further EPL matches.
As if a 4-1 loss weren’t bad enough for Cardiff, in the director’s box for the visiting Bluebirds was the 23 year old former painter, current friend of Vincent Tan’s son -and more alarmingly the new head of recruitment, Alisher Apsalyamov – someone with no prior knowledge or experience in professional football [If you’re just joining in on all the fun and wondering what the hell is going on in Cardiff, this older post from the Tavern will fill you in]. This comes as the Guardian reported that owner Vincent Tan has been meddling for some time now with the club’s game day operations, sending down to Mackay suggestions on tactical changes and substitutions. Here’s an excerpt: It is a particularly worrying development at any football club but looks even worse in the context of a filmed conversation that took place outside a high-street chemist in Malaysia earlier in the year. “He doesn’t know any rules about football,” Al Chuah, the managing director of one of Tan’s many companies, said laughing. “He invested in pharmacy without realising what drugs are all about.” Tan, smiling at his friend’s comments, delivered a brief and insightful response. “It doesn’t matter. It’s another new business.”
Iain Moody, the former head of recruitment replaced by Tan told the BBC that he thinks Mackay is incredibly frustrated with Tan and may yet leave Cardiff City.
Yikes. Word of advice from the Tavern: Kimbo — maybe Borussia Dortmund is looking a little better right about now – and a WAY more stable team than the circus you’ve found yourself in. There are bad team owners and then there are cartoonishly evil team owners. Tan has managed to wind up in the latter category. But if you’re thinking of jumping ship, wait until after the World Cup, ‘aight? Playing time, even for a sinking ship, is paramount before the almighty WC.