The young Taegeuk Warriors kicked off their U20 World Cup campaign this morning in Bielsko-Biala with a 1-0 loss to Portugal. The scoreline could have been worse had Portugal been more clinical in front of goal and surely head coach Chung Jungyong knows he has a lot of work to do before Tuesday’s crucial match against South Africa. Let’s take a look back at the match this morning, draw some positives and negatives about the performance, and look towards South Africa Tuesday afternoon.
Just like in both warm-up matches in Poland, Chung Jungyong mostly kept his lineup the same. Lee Gwangyeon got the nod in goal over Choi Minsoo and there were no surprises in who lined up in front of him.
Korea started the match energetically, pressing Portugal and trying to play balls in behind the Portuguese defense. Unfortunately, this meant that Korea were playing a high line and it was actually Portugal who played on the counter. Off of a clearance out of the Portuguese half, Lee Jisol took a gamble and tried to challenge Florentino Luis for the ball. He couldn’t get his head on the ball as it came down and it eventually fell to Jota who was off and running. He played a perfect through ball to Trincao who slotted past Lee Gwangyeon easily when one v one with the keeper. It took only seven minutes for the back three to be ripped to shreds.
For the rest of the first half the story was pretty much the same. Korea found themselves out wide with Choi Jun or Hwang Taehyeon but their crosses would only find Portuguese heads. Once the ball was clear, Trincao, Leao, Jota and co would be off to the races. One goal was ruled out for offsides in the Portuguese buildup, another for a Leao foul in the box, and Lee Gwangyeon was forced into another save nearing half-time.
Fortunately, the break did come and it was only 1-0. Coming out of the half, Portugal were really much less adventurous. It felt as if they were content with a 1-0 win, which seemed a bit odd. Lee Kangin certainly wanted to find an equalizer but the forward line of Jeon Sejin and Cho Youngwook weren’t nearly effective enough at giving him options. Head coach Chung did see this as an issue and made a double switch in the 58th minute, throwing on the lively Um Wonsang and Oh Sehun.
Um made an especially good contribution and was able to give himself enough time to find a cross on the break. It came through really fortuitously for Cho Youngwook, but a heavy touch snuffed out the chance. Cho again found himself free on a corner but his header was woefully high in a moment he had to score. Unfortunately, that was most of the action on goal for Korea in this match.
In the end, the Taegeuk Warriors collapsed to the pitch in exhaustion having only suffered a 1-0 defeat to a very capable Portuguese side. They’ll have to dust themselves off quickly as they meet South Africa Tuesday afternoon. For those who missed the match, here are FIFA’s brief highlights.
Let’s start with the positives from this match. Lee Kangin certainly showed glimpses of what he can offer this side. He has incredible vision and his switches of play were incredibly accurate. In dead ball situations he was able to put in very dangerous balls that just didn’t find the right Korean heads. In addition, Lee Gwangyeon had a solid performance in goal even though his defense let him down on multiple occasions in the first half.
There were a lot more negatives for Chung Jungyong to digest. The back three did not work. Lee Jisol was overly risky in his play and he left far too much space in behind. The high line didn’t have enough recovery pace and Trincao burned Lee Jaeik on his goal. Up front, both Jeon Sejin and Cho Youngwook showed very little to suggest that they can repeat their performance of 9 goals between them like in the AFC U19 Championship.
South Africa Awaits
On Tuesday afternoon in Tychy, the two winless sides in Group F will face off. South Africa suffered a heavy 5-2 loss to Argentina and sit in last place so we know they’ll come out desperate for points. The one change Chung Jungyong should consider making is dropping this back three. Kim Hyunwoo is really solid in the center but Lee Jisol and Lee Jaeik were far too risky in their play. They just don’t have the recovery speed to make up for their mistakes. Here’s how I would modify the formation, also starting Um Wonsang over Cho Youngwook:
It will be a must-win for both sides so there should be no shortage of excitement.
Matchday 2, May 28: Korea Republic vs. South Africa
When: 2:30 PM EST, 3:30 AM KST (May 29)
Where: Tychy Stadium, Tychy, Poland
Prediction: South Africa had a rough go of it against Argentina, giving up a penalty and looking vulnerable on set plays. This could be the match where Lee Kangin announces himself just as Ezequiel Barco did this afternoon. 2-0 Korea Republic. Daehanminguk Hwaiting!