POST MATCH REVIEW: KOREA 2 – 0 Germany

Absolute euphoria. 1-0 against the Germans.

Wow.

Wow, wow, wow.

Forget round of 16 for a second. Forget our form for a second. Forget even our questionable call ups and our clueless manager for just. one. second.

Korea Republic. Corea del sur. 대한민국 secured a historic 2-0 victory against #1 ranked, World Cup holding, fussball gods Germany, whose line-up possessed Toni Kroos, Thomas Mueller, Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels, Mesut Oezil, Marco Reus, and a bunch of other household names that Bayern Munich could only dream of having in its side.

Unfortunately for Germany, they did not possess the saint. The gloved god. The great wall, Jo Hyun-woo – who not only kept Korea in the tournament till the very end, but also confirmed Mexico’s advancement into the round of sixteen.

The game started predictably so. With Germany needing a win and Korea needing a miracle to qualify, it was Germany who started with all the possession and impetus to break the deadlock.

Starting 11. Make what you will of it.

But like our performance against Sweden, Germany’s forward play was far from penetrative. Our back 4 was disciplined and up to the task, and without a certain center back pairing, we didn’t invite pressure, nor get caught in behind or give away possession, although Jung Woo-young did give a moment’s scare early in the half.

It was ugly; no doubt. Without a proper game plan besides “contain and pray on the break,” there was more of the same persistent fouling seen in Korea’s game versus Mexico in effort to break up play – Lee Jae Sung’s yellow card early in the half all but showing for it.

Yet, despite the pressure and the odds stacked against the Taegeuk Warriors, they came out with a couple dangerous plays of their own. With a free kick given off a high boot from Khedira, Jung Woo-young ended up with the responsibility of taking the set-piece after a quick huddle—the team achingly conscientious of the fact that this may perhaps be one of the best chances that they get all game.

Some probably had wishful flashbacks of Jung Woo-young’s knuckleball screamer that even Ronaldo would’ve been envious of back when Korea faced Japan in the EAFF tournament.

For once, positive recall regarding this side was nearly rewarded.

Jung Woo-young connected brilliantly; his shot was hit with plenty of pace, despite being straight at Neuer, and had just enough dip on it for the keeper to fumble. Son was quick to pounce on the rebound, but not quick enough as Neuer quickly swatted the loose ball away. Arguably the most dangerous chance of the game despite Korea’s utter lack of possession.

THAT close to breaking the deadlock. Quick by Neuer, who just beats Son’s anticipation.

Despite that, another opportunity arrived; less than ten minutes later, Lee Yong actually put a dangerous cross into the German box, which was headed away, but pounced on by Son Heung-min, his shot zipping over the crossbar.

Those opportunities were enough; despite our side’s questionable quality, we grew into the match and did not falter as Germany dominated possession, opting to spread the ball from wing to wing to create space between the lines of our compact side.

They nearly got something out of it too. A couple of dangerous plays forced Korea’s back line into action; Reus’ shot at the top of the box after finding space between our midfield and defense was called for a handball after Yun Young-sun’s heroic block bounced off his arm, and San Cho was once again called to action, coming up big against Hummels’ scuffed a shot after a defensive scramble.

But the teams didn’t quite go into the half with one strictly defending, one strictly attacking; just before half-time, Korea gave the Germans a scare as they worked the ball from the back, and a beautiful cross field ball managed to make its way to Son Heung-min, ending with a tangle between Korea’s ace and Khedira in Germany’s box. No call.

If there was any play to end the half on, it was this one, and it summed up the game pretty well; Germany were bossing possession and creating a number of chances while Korea were disciplined in the back, posing some threat when moving forward. Despite the deadlock, the game was promising a goal. Or maybe even two.

It started with more of the same, especially with Korea’s ability to threaten. Jung Woo-young nicked the ball off the Germans just a minute into the second half and got a shot away, which was comfortably handled by Neuer.

A throwaway piece of play, all things being considered, but it continued to instill a belief that as long as Korea grew into the match, perhaps it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think of the impossible.

Jo Hyun-woo has gone through this World Cup conceding just 3 goals. 2 of them penalties.

And it certainly wasn’t; Jo Hyun-woo yet again made another massive save, this time a short-range header from Goretzka, requiring a firm palm away from Korea’s new #1 as he dived to his right. Germany’s clearest chance by far, and to see yet another chance denied by the greater goalkeeper on the pitch, it was tempting at this point not to believe even for the most skeptical supporters.

An injury from Koo Ja-cheol forced Korea to use its first substitution, and Hwang Hee-chan came on as a like for like change. But it was Moon Seon-min, of all people, who created the best chances for Korea during the phase of play where Korea dominated most. A great combination of passes including Hong Chul and Lee Jae-Sung had Korea’s most promising domestic talent return the ball to Moon Seon-min, who found space in Germany’s box, but was quickly stuffed before he could tee up his shot not once, but twice. Although the second time it added the special sight of Moon sending a German defender for a bratwurst.

Moon Seon-min jinking past Sule.

We officially grew into the match; or had, rather, until Ju Se-jong was subbed in for Moon Seon-min literally moments after our decent forward spell. That stifled our attacking prowess as Korea re-adjusted its shape to take into account a more defensive oriented change, but we didn’t seem to be bothered as Jo Hyun-woo made yet another stop from a bullet Gomez header – straight at Jo, to be fair, but no spills or shots batted away. Another indicator of a top-quality goalkeeper.

With ten minutes left to go, and an eye on the other game where Mexico were now 3 goals down against Sweden, Germany were aware that all they would need was a goal at this point to go through.

Bodies were being pushed forward, and play almost seemed sectioned off with German priority obviously focused on the top of Korea’s box. But whenever Korea did receive the ball, it almost seemed like a futsal match; 3 on 3 for the Koreans moving forward. Son Heung-min and Lee Jae-sung led forward play with whoever would bring the ball into the German half, and Korea nearly had something to show for it too when Lee Jae-sung found Son Heung-min, who’s shot characteristically had plenty of pace, yet went achingly wide.

But it was a corner into stoppage time that broke the deadlock. Son Heung-min whipped in a poor delivery, bouncing before reaching the first man, and Jang Hyun-soo, who had been lively in the 2nd half, was first to it, flicking it across the box. There was a scramble as Kroos poked it conveniently towards Kim Young-gwon, and the Korean centreback, who had been an absolute hero in this game just as he had been against Mexico as well as Sweden, welcomed the ball, taking a touch before knocking it past Neuer, who could not stop it from going into the back of the net.

Absolute delirium, but stifled before settling; the goal was denied for an understandable call – Kim Young-gwon in an offsides position, but as Korea desperately told the ref to check VAR, a closer look proved that ball received by Kim Young-gwon came off Toni Kroos. The goal stood. Korea was leading.

Take a bow, Kim Young-gwon. What a turnaround – from promise, to flop, to this.

Think about that. Korea was leading. With four minutes left to play, in a must-win match for both the Germans and the Koreans for any chance of round of 16 play, Korea scored. Despite Shin’s tactical ineptitude, Korea scored. Despite the poor preparation and questionable squad call-ups coming into this tournament, Korea scored. Despite the fact that we were currently up against the World Cup holders, a squad littered with talent, ranked #1, and tournament freaking favorites, Korea were leading against Germany, one-nil, with four more minutes left to play.

But it got even better; with Germany throwing all but the kitchen sink at Korea, including a run from Neuer from his box into Korea’s half, the confirmation that Germany would not be advancing at the expense of Mexico came in the 96th minute as Ju Se-jong nicked Neuer off the ball, turned sweetly and hoofed it forward.

Son Heung-min was the furthest player up, and after a sprint which felt like an eternity, slid his left boot across the ball, and rolled it into the empty German net before it could roll out of bounds.

Euphoria; against all odds, Korea were leading—no—Korea had beaten current World Champions Germany with not just one goal, but two – enough to qualify out of their group had Mexico beaten Sweden in the other group clash.

Cool as you like. 2-0 KOREA.

They had done the impossible; in classic Korean fashion, when our backs are against the wall, when the odds are stacked against us, when all signs indicate an unceremonious crash and burn that would break a new record of consecutive losses in a world cup for Korea, we came up against heavy tournament favorites, and put in a clinical display of defensive resiliency. And won.

We’re out of the tournament, yes. But best believe we did our part. A slapdash squad missing key personnel, along with our captain no less, in this final match, Korea came out with a result that means so much more than a win. It means we have talent. It means we still got that Tuhon. It means that, despite the dumpster fire mess that has been the Korean National Team due to our Football Association’s ineptitude and corporate culture favoritism, we can still rise against the odds, still get a result, and still show the world what we’re capable of. Never count us out.

Perhaps Group F was the Group of Death after all.

KOREA!!! FIGHTING!!!!

ALWAYS!!!!!!

26 Comments

  1. It was an awesome win, and a way to end the tournament nicely. I sincerely hope though that the KFA realizes that we still have A LOT of work to do. My biggest fear is that the lack of action after 2014 will be amplified because the narrative will now be “Wow, we knocked out the world champs!!!! Look at us!!” Are people gonna forget how much of a dumpster fire we have been? After one game? I really wouldn’t be surprised…

    Dose of reality: Germany has (very shockingly) not looked good at all in their games against Mexico and Sweden- almost like a shell of their 2014 campaign. It is entirely possible that they were looking for a tie until Sweden scored, and by then it was too late.

    Don’t let the win fool you, we still have major holes.

    Instead, I’d like it if we can build off this victory the right way.

    Yes, this win is momentarily enough. We’ve won a battle. But still losing the war. Let’s focus on actually taking big steps toward 2022. Focus on building the KLeague into something better (hopefully people will want to come see Cho Hyun Woo? At least momentarily?). Focus on eliminating corruption and actually calling up players based on merit. Focus on competing against and beating the likes of Iran, Australia, and Japan at the Asia Cup. If we can beat at least one of those teams, I will consider that a HUGE victory.. because the way we’ve been recently, I really don’t think we can at this point.

    Yes, this win was amazing, and the feeling of pride I had was huge. Seeing the players happy was great after a miserable first two games. Son putting that last goal in, in something that I’ve only seen in ice hockey, was absolutely incredible. It should/will go down in Korean history.

    But let’s do it the right way this time.

    FIGHTINGGGGG!!!

    • Great point. Let’s not let one win change the fact that we didn’t get out of group. Let’s build off the emotional high from the win, but by no means should we take our eyes off of getting better. Moral victories are great, but they don’t save players from military service or fill the trophy case. USA came out of the group of death in 2014 and had heroic performance against Belgium and everyone thought they were on to the next level, but they ONLY made it out of group…So what. They’ve been doing that for ages. Korea has only been out of group once outside of Asia in 2010. We need to do better. We need to do better for Son (golden boy without a golden generation). We need to do it for the culture!

    • Yep, I share your concerns Jon. The KFA may have looked at 2014 and thought “Well we lost to Belgium by 1 and tied Russia, so Algeria was just an outlier”. They may also look at this tournament and think, “well we are even on GD, beat Germany, and did not come last in the Group of Death. With a little more luck, we’ll do better in 2022” That would be very dangerous and naive thinking, hoping they don’t go down that road, but it’s clear they have sat on their laurels before.

      For sure, we will need better fullbacks who can cross the ball properly into the box. Also, whoever crosses on corners need to do a better job. The modern game requires teams to have good holding midfielders, otherwise your wingers/full backs/attacking mids can’t take more chances and create opportunities. We don’t have good holding midfielders or serviceable ones. We’ll need some players to fill those roles going forward. Also, defenders need to recognize when to slide in the box. Worked out against Sweden as that prevented some goals going in, but was crucial in allowing Mexico their 2 goals.

      Can’t stress enough how unimaginative the team is in the final third. As proven with Peru/Morocco, they attacked in all 3 of their matches and should have progressed into the knockout stage, but lacked finish in 2 of their 3 matches. Otherwise they would have both been comfortably in the R16. We have the same problem.

      Overall, we looked better on the field in 2018 than 2014, but this is still an incredibly flawed team that needs noticeable improvement in several areas. Hoping we can see some tangible progress in 2022 and beyond.

        • Another concern for KNT is the extra world cup qualifying spots might lead to complacency. It will be easer to qualify for the world cup. We should expect nothing less than 1st place in the qualifying group and winning any Asian competition.

          KNT definitely needs a quality manager and give him plenty of time to prepare for tournaments. Don’t wait until 2 games are left in the qualifiers to sack and hire a manager.

  2. I couldn’t believe how bad Germany looked in this match. After pulling a major rabbit out of the hat against Sweden, courtesy of Toni Kroos, they did not come together and do what champions are supposed to do when overcoming major adversity. Which is to roll their next opponent and get back on the winning train. Well they deserve it. It would have been unfortunate if they did advance at the expense of Mexico, it would not have been deserved or just.

    I’m glad the KMNT won this match. I know Germany had some point blank headers, but they seemed to have difficulty creating other chances. I really thought Moon should have scored in the 2nd half, and had some other good chances as well (free kick by Ju). And I know it’s just 3 matches and not enough of a sample size, but JO the GKer was the best player on the team, and he performed superbly in the 3 matches. Hope he’s around in 4 years time.

    I know Mexico crapped the bed today, but both Sweden and them are deserving of going through. Hoping they don’t have candy thrown at their heads when they disembark from Incheon Airport.

  3. Asian Cup Dream Line-up: FW: Son, Hwang, MF: LSW, Kwon (Kangin), Ki, Paik ,DF: Kim Min Jae, GK: Cho
    DAMN we would fucking kill it…But ki will propably not appear…Does anyone know how long kim min jae and kwon will take to recover?

    • Kim Young Gwon and based on yesterday, Yun Young Sun deserve to be starting centerbacks at Asian Cup. But hey, I’d love it if we can get to the point where there is real competition for the spot (dreaming of Korean kids arguing with who gets to play centerback….. probably not there yet, but wow..)

  4. “…other household names that would make any 12 year old cream his pants”

    What the fuck, Kevin. You could’ve made your point about the German players in so many other ways, yet this is the approach you went for?

    There are a lot of people who read this blog, yet here you’re talking like you’re hanging out with all the bros. Use more discretion.

    You need to step up your writing game.

  5. Thank you to whoever changed that line I referenced in my comment above. Does anyone know if Kevin read my feedback above? What’s Kevin’s response to it?

    • Hi Evelyn, your feedback was read by the Tavern crew and edit was made accordingly. I’d encourage you to get in touch with us & if you have any concerns or questions you’d like to convey, please shoot us a DM on our @taeguk_warrior Twitter, we’ll be happy to listen, learn and discuss further there.

  6. The best thing about winning your last match and not advancing is you leave on a positive note and the feeling isn’t dashed by a bad loss. Let’s get real, every loss in the World Cup here on out is a bad loss. As a fan, im still on a high, breathing in the fumes from the win over Germany!

  7. Finally getting around to processing that Germany match. Can’t believe it was just a few days ago. Feels like it’s been weeks. To start, I’ll have to revisit a comment I had posted in the match preview:

    “So that’s not exactly how it played out. Yet somehow Korea is still alive going into the final group stage match? In an already unpredictable World Cup, this has to be one of the least likely scenarios. I’m certainly not expecting a draw, a one goal win, let alone a two goal win. Thankfully Mexico still has something to play for, since, believe it or not, they can still be eliminated / they’re also just trying to avoid Brazil next round (Mexico will settle for a draw). Anyway, let’s not get distracted by that. If Korea miraculously win by 2 goals and Sweden wins or draws Mexico, I won’t be upset. We can only control our match, and there’s no use in fretting over the other match.”

    Really can’t be upset about that performance. It was incredibly gutsy. The team left it all on the field. You could just see with the final whistle just how physically and emotionally drained each player was, as they fell to the pitch. I can’t even imagine what the players were feeling in that moment. Absolute elation to have defeated the defending World Cup winners and the #1 team in the FIFA rankings. But probably disappointment that they were not advancing to the Round of 16. Can we get those matches versus Sweden and Mexico back? I can’t believe that we let up one goal in open play the entire World Cup… And that lone goal was only scored because the ref missed the foul on Ki. Anyway, I will avoid dwelling too much on the past.

    Let’s relish this win and let it serve as a reminder that Korea can go toe to toe with the best in the world. It’s just a matter of which Korea team shows up. So let’s drop the inferiority complex and start playing with the confidence to push up the field fearlessly.

    Congrats to the players for grinding this win out, despite the injuries, the naysayers, the head coach who seemingly held the team back with all of his tinkering. On to the Asian Games, the Asian Cup, and then hopefully the 2021 Confederations Cup!

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