It was really all wrong.
Tactics all wrong.
Lineup all wrong.
Team cohesion all wrong.
And yet we’re only saying this because of the scoreline. For 43 minutes the Koreans were just as average as the Russians. Both sides looked sloppy in defense, but both also had some sort of cohesion in front, and a somewhat discernable buildup. But ultimately, set pieces were Korea’s unraveling, while a toothless attack gave the team no reason to expect to score a goal. The whole defensive line had a terrible showing, but particularly Kim Juyoung had a mare in defense, scoring a brace in his own net, and two consolation goals at the death didn’t lift the teams’ spirits. With Guus Hiddink having met KFA officials prior to the game, fans will be demanding that the KFA pick up that phone and give good old Guus one last call.
Two days later…
We’ll do a quick recap, player ratings and then I’ll move my conclusions from this game over to the Morocco preview since it’s so late.
The team lined up in a 3-4-3 formation. Kim Seunggyu between the sticks, and a backline of Kwon Kyungwon, Jang Hyunsoo and Kim Juyoung. On the wingback positions were Kim Younggwon and Lee Chungyong, with a central midfield pivot of (so absent I had to check my phone to be sure) Koo Jacheol and Jung Wooyoung. The front three were Son Heungmin, Hwang Uijo and Kwon Changhoon.
Korea were not too bad in the first half. In terms of opportunities, Korea were level with the Russians, with neither side really creating anything from buildup or central positions, but rather quick moments or set pieces. Son managed to get a set piece on target for once from 40 yards; later, he combined with Kwon Changhoon to give the Dijon man a one-time attempt from just outside the box, but he couldn’t hit the frame of the goal. Defensively they were far too sloppy, and a couple of errant passes in the defense gave the Russians their best opportunity of the first frame when Kwon Kyungwon and Kim Juyoung got in each others way, scuffed clearing their lines and turned the ball over to Kokorin, who lost his composure from 10 yards and hit wide. Later, around the 30th minute, Kim Juyoung ran into a Russian pressing him, which allowed an easy cross to Kokorin. Once again the Zenit man fluffed his shot and skied the attempt. A more clinical side would have already scored two.
Near the end of the half, Korea had their best chance. Son took a throughball from Lee Chungyong in between two Russian centrebacks and was in on goal, but his left footed strike didn’t trouble the keeper too much; a simple save. Then, in the 44th minute, the Russians took the lead through Fyodor Smodov, who lost Kim Juyoung with a run peeling away into space and headed home.
The Russians then struck three more times in the second half, but twice through Kim Juyoung (in the space of 3 minutes…). A simple header was flicked on at the near post by a Russian and Kim got in front of his man, but put the ball in his own net through an unlucky deflection. Two minutes later, some quick Russian passes led to a nifty, well hit throughpass to Kokorin – but this was intercepted by Kim’s foot. Kim, however, was in stride, and in his hasty attempt to clear the ball and block the pass, accidentally redirected it into the bottom right corner. An instinctual mistake put Russia up three-nil.
Though Kwon Changhoon and Lee Chungyong both had very positive moments later on in the match, with Kwon coming closest to a goal with a searing dribble through an equally average Russian defense, Akinfeev closed down the angle well. But the Korean defense feel asleep and allowed Zibalov to walk through the defense for a shot in the 83rd minute. Kim Seunggyu could only parry it and Miranchuk cleaned up the rebound, completely under no duress, to make it 4-0.
Russia switched off late in the match to allow Korea two goals to salvage their blushes – an exquisite Chungy cross found Kwon Kyungwon in the box in the 87th, and the centreback, who had a poor game altogether, did get a debut goal, heading home unmarked, while later Ji Dongwon added a consolation goal in injury time following a nice run and throughpass from deep (can’t tell who made it, though I think it was Ki Sungyueng, on for a sub).
Kim Seunggyu – 5 – You never want to concede 4 goals, but the 2nd and 3rd goals were out of his control. I thought he was a little slow on the 1st goal (a good header, but think he could have been better positioned along his goal line) and in the 4th, perhaps he could have tried to make the save outright, but not his entire responsibility.
Kim Juyoung – 2 – Truly one of the worst KNT performances in a long time. Defense as a whole sucked, but he was in people’s way, didn’t mark his man, didn’t fight back to mark the late run, AND scored two own goals.
Jang Hyunsoo – 4 – Didn’t provide much passing from deep or create many central overloads when stepped up. Not the man for this position, and his defense conceded 4 goals.
Kwon Kyungwon – 4.5 – An extra .5 for the goal, but really, was nervy, confused, didn’t know how to play the position.
Kim Younggwon – 5.5 – I will cut him some slack because he’s no wingback, but he doesn’t get better than a 5.5, because, as evidently shown, he’s no wingback.
Jung Wooyoung – 5.5 – Invisible, but that may be because of tactics – not as isolated as in qualifiers, and didn’t have a million things to deal with because the Russians were pretty uncreative, but he offered little distribution from deep other than inaccurate longballs to wingers (though this is a broader tactical problem).
Koo Jacheol – 6.5 – Had a couple good lucks, but tactics meant he too was shunned for a good part of the match.
Lee Chungyong – 7 – Chungy is back. One of the only players playing. Dynamic from a deeper role, and put in good crosses, though one wonders if he’s got the mobility to play wingback at a World Cup level at his age. Nonetheless was a bright spot in this game.
Son Heungmin – 5 – Not good enough. I’m being harsh on him, but it just wasn’t good enough. He needs to step up and carry this team, and he just can’t do it. Another blank in a KNT shirt.
Hwang Uijo – 5 – I mean, what? Always offside, otherwise nothing noteworthy, no incisive runs, no creativity, didn’t come deep to affect play… sure he was isolated, but he offered little to rectify that other than just being there.
Kwon Changhoon – 7 – MOTM for Korea. Good dribbling, dynamic, affected the game at times when coming central, a key part to Korea’s positive spells. Deserved better from his teammates.
Shin Taeyong – 3.5 – Tactics were all wrong. 85% of the attack was oriented down the flanks, often with longballs to the wingers in the hopes that they could get in behind the defense. It’s pathetic, and there was no Plan B. We completely bypassed the central midfield and only had a credible threat in midfield down the right side because of Lee Chungyong (Kim Younggwon not offering much down the left flank). Korea’s best spells came when we had the ball higher up the pitch, but these were short-lived. Not much use passing the ball around aimlessly in defense if we’re just going to punt it out wide again and lose the ball. Shades of the 0-0 forgotten friendly against Iraq under Stielike, though there were shots in target this time. He named the defense, and he’s responsible for it, but ultimately everything must be taken with a massive grain of salt given the available players. Nonetheless, on this night, Shin deserved that rating, if you ignore all external factors.
Is Shin job on the line? There’s a case to be made. Many fans are calling for his head after conceding 4 to a Russian side that was uninspiring at best. (Don’t think they will do much at the World Cup.) That said, he seemed very calm and composed after the game, content to pass this off as a friendly and that’s that, as if he is untouchable by the KFA (likely true). KBS announcers were livid, however, at the team’s performance, mentioning how Korean fans look to this team for some sort of feel-good moments, some kind of hope.
Morocco is next.