AFC World Cup Qualifiers: The Taegeuk Warriors rout Sri Lanka 8-0

Photo Credit: Interfootball

Editor’s Note: This recap is a special collaboration with avid Tavern reader Paul Jeung. We are always grateful to our avid readers for helping out! Paul was up early on the West Coast for this match and contributed his thoughts. If you would like to contribute in this manner in the future, please email or join our Facebook group here to get in touch with us:

On a nice Tuesday night in Hwaseong, South Korea, the Taegeuk Warriors got another 3 points in the AFC Asian Cup/World Cup Qualifying second round. Our squad produced an 8-0 rout that puts them at the top of Group H heading into a match in Pyongyang Tuesday.

Photo Credit: Daum Sports. A 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 hybrid lineup.

The starting lineup was an interesting one.  I expected us to rest Hwang Uijo for N. Korea, and was kind of hoping we’d rest Son Heungmin too but I get it Bento, it’s hard to rest your star player.  Replacing the usual Hwang Uijo up top was the one and only Wookie, Kim Shinwook.  On the right, Hwang Heechan in his good form started, which was fully expected.  The midfield is where it got a little interesting.  The trio of Lee Kangin, Paik Seungho, and Nam Taehee  was deployed.  I know Nam Tae Hee catches a lot of flak because people think he receives favoritism from Bento, but he honestly played pretty well today.  In the back, we had Kim Minjae leading the group, with Kwon Kyungwon in the place of the usual Kim Younggwon (resting for N. Korea I presume), Hong Chul and Kim Moonhwan on the sides.  I had high hopes for Kim Moonhwan in this match, aka Lee Youngpyo V2, and was sadly let down pretty badly by his play.  At goalkeeper we had Jo Hyeonwoo.  Honestly, it could have been Michael Welch back there and nobody would have known the difference (editor’s note: this works because my favorite position as a youth soccer player was GK). 

1st Half Goal #1 – Things got off to a quick start with Le KI threading a perfect through pass to Hong Chul, who cut it back to Sonny, who cashed it in from inside the box with his right foot for goal #1.  Props to the Sri Lanka goalkeeper for blaming his defender for blocking his view of the shot.  Either way 1-0 and we were just getting started. 

1st Half Goal #2 – After a poor goal kick by Sri Lanka’s goalkeeper, Sonny was sent down the left side by a nicely played header by I think Paik Seungho.  Son outran the defender and cut it back for Wookie for goal #2 on a skillful chip shot over the Goalkeeper. 

1st Half Note – The midfield really dominated. After starting build up play with Paik/Nam, LKI did wonderfully threading balls to the guys up front.  It was really a joy to watch, even if there was absolutely zero pressure being applied by Sri Lanka defensively. 

1st Half Goal #3 – Maybe playing some mind games with Sri Lanka, instead of attempting to target Wookie on corners, LKI was going short to Son on a couple occasions that could have resulted in goals.  A goal finally came off LKI’s corner, as the man of the moment Hwang Heechan was able to score a header off of LKI’s short corner. It’s good to see Heechan gain some confidence back with the KNT! 

1st Half Note – I’m not the biggest Lee Yong fan, his crosses from the last World Cup still give me nightmares.  I was hoping Kim Moonhwan could be his heir apparent, but man did he struggle in a match where he shouldn’t have.  As a team we were passing the the ball around so crisply and accurately, but every once in a while Kim Moonhwan would make a questionable decision or a bad pass so he unfortunately stood out like a sore thumb.  That play continued in the 2nd half as well… He had some moments, but those bad moments happened a little too much for my liking. (Editor’s Note: Moonhwan is coming back from injury so hopefully this rust wears off soon.)

1st Half Goal #4 – Like I said, Kim Moonhwan had some moments, like a nicely placed cross to Wookie, who does what he does and heads it in with ease.

1st Half Goal #5 – PK for handball in the box.  I thought this would have a been a great moment for LKI to get his first crack, but Sonny takes the PK.  I’m a big Sonny fan, but for a guy who wouldn’t take the PKs in the Asian Games a while back (I was mad that he didn’t), he sure had no issue taking this one against Sri Lanka.  Either way, Sonny calmly knocks in on the left side after one of those stutter step run ups that I absolutely despise lol. 

2nd Half Note – We begin with no lineup changes.  I felt like Sonny should have been subbed off with this kind of lead but maybe he wanted a hat trick I don’t know.  

-2nd Half Note –  Alright Heechan, how many opportunities are you going to get from perfectly threaded balls from LKI? The same man who freaked Virgil Van Dijk out of his boots was struggling to brush off Sri Lanka defenders one on one as he was let down by his infamous heavy touches.  Heechan is dangerous nevertheless, I just hope he’s able clean up his touches in the box so he can finish things off.

2nd Half Goal #6 – One the same note, you cannot bench Heechan right now as some beautiful combo play with Nam Taehee leads to a second goal by Wookie with his foot (gasp!).  I know Hwang Uijo is on a roll with Bordeaux and he’s a Bento favorite, but it’s still nice to know Wookie is on top of his game and can come in to back things up if Plan A doesn’t go accordingly.  If anything, at least we don’t have to see Lee Jeonghyeop.  

2nd Half Goal #7 – In case you forgot what he is known for, Wookie sends you a reminder with a towering header off a Hong Chul cross. Light work for our big man.

2nd Half Note -Subs Kwon Changhoon for Sonny, Park Jisoo for Kim Minjae, and Lee Donggyeong for Nam Taehee.  Sonny and Nam Taehee did their thing, while Kim Minjae didn’t need to do much.  It does bug me when Kim Minjae tries for his unnecessary and inaccurate long ball passes.  Like dude, we didn’t need those at all against Sri Lanka.  

2nd Half Goal #8 –  Kwon comes on, Kwon scores.  Left alone in the box for some reason, Kwon gets an killer ball from Heechan and puts it away with ease off his left foot.  With his fresh legs, Kwon had some nice moments in the second half with his penetration. 

Final Thoughts – A good confidence builder going into our match with North Korea in Pyongyang.  Sri Lanka didn’t offer much as far as opposition, but it was good to see us go on the offensive and score 8 goals.  Satisfying to watch to say the very least. For those who missed the match, here is a nice highlights package!

Video Credit: @mbignews on Twitter

About Michael Welch 89 Articles
That Halfie Korean-American who loves football (I mean, soccer).


  1. I was asleep when this match was going on, but I watched the highlights (thank you for posting) – it must have been absolute joy to watch this match.

    It’s been a long time since KNT routed another team (when was the last time we won in a huge margin like this one?) Albeit it was Sri Lanka (FIFA rank 202 / ELO rank 225), but we’ll take this result every match lol.

    Lee Kang-in is so hype. I hope his flashes keeps inspiring youth football in Korea. And nice to watch Wookie finally knock some balls in with his head & his 6’5″ frame.

    • Yeah it def was a blast to watch, but at the same time I know we won’t play this well against North Korea in a few days and I think we should all pull back a little on our expectations for this team. It probably won’t even be the same lineup, I’m sure Bento will go back to his experienced players, regardless of this result.

  2. Good to hear MFs played well, NT meets for such a short time its so important to develop a flow/rapport, and easy opponents might be the best thing for that. Low pressure but still competitive environment to get a picture of what optimal team-play looks like, then refer to that picture when playing tougher opposition; a touchstone/ideal, so when things aren’t going right you can visualize what’s missing. Easier to correct something when you can identify what’s wrong.

    I do hope that “ideal picture” doesn’t always involve a cross in the general direction of Wookie’s head tho, I believe reliance on that tactic has been tried and found wanting. May have worked today, and potentially a useful tool in the toolbox when pressed, but not every team is Sri Lanka…

      • Basically, your 2 comments end up dovetailing perfectly into a coherent argument about why we should move on from the Wookie once we are done playing Asian minnows in qualification.

        In the final round, which starts I believe fall 2020, Wookie should be nowhere to be found. He can do exactly 2 things for the KNT at international level. He can head goals in against lesser opponents that aren’t tall or physical. And he can shoot on one time finishes.

        Anything that requires dribbling, passing, and other skills of a modern striker, Wookie does not excel at.

  3. Great to see such a strong result (albeit against a weak side). Also glad to see Sonny back on the score sheet. However, hope Bento recognizes that the Kim SW strategy really only works against weaker sides.

    Seems like the young players, Paik SH and Lee KI, had decent matches? Does anyone have an assessment?

    • Paik didn’t have to do much, but he was solid overall. LKI was killing it with his passes, but again with so little pressure being applied by Sri Lanka, I’m not surprised with his quality as I’m sure all of us can see he has. Whether or not they can perform like this against stiffer competition that will physically pressure them has yet to be seen. I don’t like to use the Georgia match as any of barometer because that 3 back formation was just awful for everybody that played. The young guns probably won’t play much or at all against North Korea, but I’d love to see them in matches to come to see if they can keep it up.

  4. Pump the brakes tavern commenters.. let’s do well against average to above average teams before we get excited. Iran and Japan had similar results yesterday. I think the Korea’s women’s team could have beaten Sri Lanka.
    We know individually that we have talented players but we’ve yet to see them play that well together against strong opponents, especially abroad. Let’s wait til actual competition to see how we’re doing.

  5. Lee Kang-in had a heck of a game, the Wookie scored with his feet and Son Heung Min better be careful he doesn’t get a yellow card. You know the North Koreans will try to get under his skin.

    • Read a half joking tweet wondering if sending Son to NK was a good idea, him being the most ransomable player in Asia and all >.> Heard there’s gonna be a communication blackout, no cellphones/internet, no intl contact; for a couple days at least, they’re on the dark side of the moon.

      Kidding aside, I’ll breath a bit easier when they’re all back in SK (or even just word they’ve safely landed in Beijing). Heck, considering no outside media, NK might claim they won 3-1, prove them otherwise haha

  6. I have a little bit of schadenfreude as a Chicagoan and a Bulls fan, but thanks for the fun article. Coincidentally, I now live in Riverdale! Lol. Where was the car wash?

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