What is there to say? After an uninspiring performance against a Qatari side up to the match, Korea crashed out not with a bang, but with a whimper after conceding a speculative shot from thirty odd yards out just over ten minutes before time.
In what is now beginning to become classic Bento fashion, Korea started the match with personnel virtually unchanged from all of its prior matches—the one difference coming from Ju Se-jong’s inclusion at the expense of Hwang Hee-chan.
Kim Seung-gyu, with the continued help of black magic or something, continued to debut between the sticks with Kim Young-gwon and Kim Min-Jae in front of him – an untouchable center back pairing that also functioned as the strongest point of our side, an incredibly rare feat as defense is usually Korea’s weakest point, not its strongest.
Kim Jin-su started on the left of defense, an understandable pick, and Lee Yong kept his spot on the right, a choice unworthy of much sympathy, considering his lackluster stamina and even worse ability to contribute to forward play. We at the Tavern see you, Kim Moon-hwan.
In front of our back 5 sat Ju Se-jong and Jung Woo-young. Uninspiring, with one of the two long since overstaying his welcome in the national side, let alone the starting line-up.
Ahead of midfield sat Hwang In-beom playing between Lee Chung-yong and Son Heung-min. Up top, Hwang Ui-jo.
The line-up was an improvement, albeit still wanting. Son had finally been placed on his preferred wing rather than playing in the hole, and Hwang In-beom deservedly took the more possession-oriented creative attacking midfielder role. Hwang Ui-jo continued up-top despite the fizzling of his form, but when your other forward option is Ji Dong-won, what is there to do? There were rumors before the match regarding a certain Lee Seung-woo starting, but again the Hellas Verona man was sidelined.
The first half Korea started typically with the lion’s share of possession, and it led to an early chance on goal with Kim Min-jae heading a pass over to Hwang Ui-jo, unfortunately a smidge too high for him to connect with. Beyond that, higher ball possession didn’t translate to a higher goals scored rate, let alone shots on target.
Summing up Korea’s opening 30 minutes:
Half hour gone, lions share of possession but no ideas on how to net a goal yet from Korea— Tavern of the Taeguk Warriors (@taeguk_warrior) January 25, 2019
Towards the end of the half, Korea started to cobble things together; Son whipped in a few dangerous corners and Kim Min-jae nearly came close to replicating his previous heroics, but shots that blazed over the bar from Hwang Im-beom and Ju Se-Jong frustratingly accentuated a startling zero shots on target by the end of the first half.
One would expect a little more intention in the half to follow for the Taegeuk Warriors, but it never came. A couple of half-chances yet again came about in the Qatari box – the more dangerous ones mishit crosses – but most of the impetus came from Korea storming up the pitch on the break (Yes; On the break. Against Qatar.), before halting at the final third and knocking the ball innocuously around one another. Stielike would have been proud.
But football is a game of inches; despite all that, Son had the best chance of the night after losing his defender on the right who had slipped. Cutting inside, Son looked to secure a lead as he found himself creeping deeper into one of his favored positions in the opponents box, but his shot begged for more power as the goalkeeper made a comfortable save.
The game came to life following that chance: Kim Jin-su came even closer to breaking the deadlock with a freekick at the edge of the box. Unlucky from him as it curled nicely only to hit the near post.
Then it was Qatar, not Korea, who opened the scoring. Just a couple minutes after those two chances, Abdulaziz Hatem scored an Eder-esque goal as he found the ball well away from the top of our box before turning and slapping in a drive that smacked into the corner of Kim Seung-gyu’s goal.
And then – the best restart Korea could have asked for; from kick-off, Lee Yong found a ball in a decent position, and finally swung in a decent cross – his one out of every twenty. It found Hwang Ui-jo at the top of the box who guided it nicely into the back of the Qatari net, and just like that Korea were level before being called for offsides. And yes, Hwang Ui-jo was offsides.
The game continued, but it seemed like it had been over after that wild exchange of play. Changes had been made with Koo Ja-cheol coming in for Hwang In-beom, Ji Dong-won coming in for Ju Se-jong, and Lee Seung-woo coming in for Lee Chung-yong, but the difference seemed negligible on the pitch. Qatar were content sitting on the lead and burning time while Korea failed to create anything until time.
Again, what is there to say? An underwhelming performance through and through. Korea was lackluster through the first and second half, and Qatar punished us for it, albeit quite cruelly with a fine strike. Full credit to Qatar though – they came to play and weren’t afraid to take Korea on. Their goal may have come against the run of play, but to call it undeserved would be daft.
A plethora of reasons plague Korea’s disappointing run, and lack of oversight from the KFA on top of Bento’s questionable coaching choices lead to a number of questions, but ultimately, the team did not perform, and Korea were punished by a team that were up to the challenge. Fair play to them.