From Bad to Worse: Korea Loses To Morocco 3:1 as World Cup Prep Goes Awry

Photo: Yonhap

Things aren’t looking good for Korea as Shin Tae-Yong scrambles to get his side to prepare for the 2018 World Cup, a second consecutive shambolic loss with few positives to take away from what could be considered experiments for the embattled new manager.  However, time is fast running out. After two unconvincing scoreless draws to barely qualify for the World Cup, a 4-2 loss to Russia last Saturday coupled with a 3-1 loss to Morocco (that could’ve been far worse had Morocco been more clinical), many are wondering how just how low to adjust expectations going into the World Cup. And this coming on the heels of terrible news: a heart attack for Busan Ipark manager Cho Jin-Ho. He didn’t recover and at the age of 44, was announced dead earlier today.

Here’s the lineup:


A 3-4-3 formation, much like the match against Russia, but 8 changes to the starting XI. Would this backline fare better than the porous one against Russia on Saturday -which saw 2 on goals by Kim Ju-Young?  Answer in short order: no.  In the opening 7th and 11th minute, Morocco scored without breaking much of a sweat – both goals by Las Palmas’ Tannanne.  They sliced through Korea’s defense like butter. The second goal was courtesy of a heavy clumsy touch by Kim Ki-Hee, giving Tannanne a gift wrapped opportunity that he did take merely a few feet in front of goal. Just like that, Korea was behind 2-0 in 11 minutes. The next several minutes were agonizing to watch: it was perhaps the worst several minutes of football Korea has ever played in the modern era. They might not have conceded anything in the 10 or so minutes that followed, but it was the worst form I’ve ever seen from the squad, ever. Korea failed as both a team and on an individual level to get the ball even out of their own half.  As incredible as it may sound, the abysmal form was even worse than the dismal anti-football witnessed during Choi Kang-Hee’s tenure at the KNT helm. During the next several trainwreck minutes of chaos, disorganization, and panicky minutes, Morocco could’ve been up 5-0.


Let’s diverge for a hot moment: Peak oil – that’s the point whereby there’s a worsening decline of oil output after years of oil companies extracting earthen reserves past a critical threshold, causing crisis, havoc, etc. For Korean football, there’s an analogous point where there’s been progress post 2002; we are past a critical point whereby we’re witnessing a stage of accelerated decline because of a lack of several vital structural improvements.  It’s a theoretical nadir for Korean football that I’ve been predicting for some time now, the culmination of a perfect storm brewing for several years. Between KFA corruption and incompetence, an indifferent baseball loving Korean public that expects Korea to go deep in the World Cup without understanding that their lack of support for the domestic league has left Korean players without sustainable playing options, a strict mandatory military conscription that cuts short the careers of players at their peak, and the failure to give youth players proper development past high school, that theory is now becoming reality as Australia and Japan has surpassed Korea on a number of metrics, and China not too far behind breathing down Korea’s neck.

Photo: Yonhap

Back to the game, Shin surprisingly triggered substitutions early:

In the 28th minute out Kim Bo-Kyung out/Koo Ja-Cheol in, Nam Tae-Hee out / Kwon Chang-Hoon in, and Kim Ki-Hee out/ Jung Woo-Young in.  Ki gradually shifted to CB.  With Korea pressed in their own half, Lee Chung-Yong looked more like an out and out right back.

Unfair to those players subbed out that early in a test match?  Possibly, but Korea seemed more able to get out of their funk and began to move the ball around more confidently. The chances started coming Korea’s way, Son looking the most dangerous with several shots on target.  Kwon Chang-Hoon added more urgency, nearly getting onto a rebound after a decent Son shot.  Son and Koo worked a nice 1-2, with Koo backheeling the return pass, but Son’s shot was smothered by Morocco’s keeper – a good idea in trying to find the far post, but not enough power behind it.

Morocco’s pace kept giving the backline trouble throughout, with Kim Jin-Hyeon coming off his line to keep Tannanne from scoring again in the half.  Every Moroccan attack looked as if Korea was capable of collapsing again.

Photo: Yonhap

Morocco took a 2 goal advantage to HT and if Shin Tae-yong said anything to bolster his defense, it didn’t help as Morocco scored within a minute -again way too easy goal to concede.  Korea kept fighting back to get into it. The offense did look somewhat better, Kwon Chang-Hoon hit the post after a good interchange with Hwang Ill-Su and Lee Chung-Yong. A backpass to Morocco’s keeper led to Korea getting on the scoreboard; as Koo pressed the keeper, Yassine Bounou panicked and cleared the ball right into Koo’s path. Koo opted to round Bounou, the latter swiped Koo off his feet and it earned the Augsburg man a penalty.  Son, the designated penalty taker, stutter-stepped before knocking the ball into the bottom left corner. Morocco 3:1 Korea.  But another goal to claw back to respectability failed to emerge, though Son and Hwang Ui-jo both had nifty moves around Morocco’s right back to charge into the area and take shots on goal.



  • Ki Sung-Yeung returning from long term injury looked rusty at times but had some of his usual sure footed moments where he was confident on the ball and provided some of his patent laser precise passes to move the ball forward and into dangerous spots. But if the team was struggling in a general sense, Ki not being fully 100% fits into that narrative frame.
  • Safe to say we can cross off Kim Ju-Young (2 on goals in the Russia game) and Kim Ki-Hee off the list of CBs Korea should NOT call back to duty. Abysmal defending all around. As a chance to experiment, on paper it’s ok to take a loss  – however, it’s pretty demoralizing what limited options there are for Korean CBs. Kim Young-Gwon I would (without too much excitement or fanfare) say is probably a shoe-in based on the Russsia and Morocco ‘experiments’ with these other CBs.  Next friendly when K-League players are available, Jeonbuk’s Kim Min-Jae might get another look.  Where was Oh Jae-Suk?  He might have been a doable RB option but didn’t see the pitch at all today. LB Rim Chang-Woo, while he had some cringe worthy touches and suspect at the back….I suppose he wasn’t too bad going forward.  He had more in his locker to get some footwork skills to create space and get past his mark on a few occasions. The reported LB was Son Ju-Hyun -honestly, was he even in the game? I’m asking for reals because I just don’t remember seeing him at all.  
  • Despite a good cut in to create space and find a shot on goal, Hwang Ui-jo didn’t do much to inspire confidence in Shin Tae-Yong’s selections overall – that’s due to his impactless game last Saturday in Moscow.  Suk Hyun-Jun, Hwang Hee-Chan, Lee Jin-Hyun and Lee Seung-Woo might inject the KNT offense with more options – cross your fingers that they have a productive season in Europe. 
  • Kim Jin-Hyeon – mixed bag.  Acceptable but routine saves, one good Manuel Neuer impersonating moment – and one very bad Manuel Neuer impersonating moment. The last goal conceded might have been more than 80% backline fault but I would argue KJH should have done better at stopping that ball, his position shaded near post was partly at fault. His distribution – meh. If you’re going to experiment, why not Gu Sung-Yun?
  • Jung Woo-Young – honestly why call this guy up over and over again?  What does he/ can he provide?
  • If there can be a bright spot in an otherwise dark moment, Korea has been able to score (albeit not efficiently) these past 2 matches. Something to work with while team wide improvements all around are worked on.
  • After several hours ruminating…looking at the midfield options available to the KNT, I’m not giving up hope that Korea can be potent in the midfield and can create more than enough chances to get on the right side of the scoreboard. On paper, there’s talent and club pedigree.  No one has been convinced since Shin took over that this is THE best starting XI Korea has to offer – and not to traffic in magical thinking, but it’s not out of the question that a better formation is possible.  Let’s think, what would be the best formation and starting XI to make the most impact – given a hypothetical good season for domestic and abroad players on the radar?  Maybe that can include someone young and creative like Hwang In-Beom who plays for K League Challenge side Dejeon?  Can outside-the-box thinking be possible?


On Shin Tae-Yong, Jae said this during HT on twitter:


Shin Tae-Yong -is he in danger of losing his job?  Not entirely sure yet.  If he were to be replaced, the World Cup is just around the corner – not ideal situation at all.  No doubt, Guus Hiddink’s inquiry of the KNT job this past summer is an unwelcome distraction for the manager, and while these are friendly results shouldn’t necessarily be a reason to shed clothes, abandon all hope and run in the streets panicking about the sky falling, it is an indicator that even if Shin Tae-Yong could be capable of having a learning curve, he might still not have enough time to get it together before 2018 Russia rolls around.  If Korea’s best coaches groomed to this point have simply adhered to an older dutch model of managing tactics, I’m afraid to say that modern football has adapted and changed far too rapidly for that style to be effective in the year 2017.


there’s the idea floating around that no matter who takes over as manager, while there’s certainly world class talent in the squad, there’s still a structural deficit at certain critical positions on the pitch (particularly at the back) whereby Korea is simply too weak to compete internationally.

THE worst case scenario is a combination of both.

Ahn Jung-hwan commenting as the game announcer on MBC today during the 2nd half: “If I was Hiddink I would not come to Korea.”

“I think this team is by far the worst of all KNT editions. I guess there’s no team that’s worse than Korea as of the moment.”


I could be wrong, and all this doom and gloom is all for naught – that there is enough talent within the Korean diaspora, both domestically and abroad to make this team competitive and that Shin will be able to get the management side under better control. But the trajectory thus far would indicate otherwise and we all may need to steel ourselves for low expectations for this upcoming World Cup – and the fallout that will follow.  For now, collectively there needs to be a catalogue of all available and realistic defensive options, check in on Yun Suk-Young, find out if Park Joo-Ho can get out of BVBII’s wilderness. Figure out if Oh Jae-Suk can handle RB duties (missed opportunity today Shin!!).  I want to know about Hong Jeong-ho’s situation these days.  It may not be mission impossible to make a respectable showing in the World Cup, but I repeat: time is running out.


About Roy Ghim 454 Articles
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  1. Some issues I’d like to highlight:
    (1) Squad
    (2) Defense & Offense
    (3) Fitness
    (1) I’ve always found it strange that the KFA has a lot of faith in the European-based players. With Ji Dong Won, Koo Ja Cheol, Lee Chung Yong, and Ki Sung Yueng getting rustier by the second, I think it’d be good to nurture players at home. I think Jeju United has a lot of talent that the KNT is missing out on. The squad has a strange habit of missing out on key passes (especially when there are players in optimal positions for shots on goal). Even when players are shooting, they have a tendency to look down at the ball, rather than looking up at goal.

    (2) Defense… is like an automatic opening door. I think Kwon Kyung Won and Kim Min Jae, is our only hope in defense. The KNT needs to better invest in our wingbacks. I haven’t researched who should go in yet, but I will in due time (Not that the KFA will listen to me lol). Offensively, I’ve addressed the issue with bad timing and bad shots. The players need better communication, and more ‘planned’ plays. The strikers should also have a bit of an element of surprise into their shots. Their body language is too obvious for the opposition.

    (3) Fitness. I think they should take some tips from the NFL. There are some beast-strength but lightning fast players in the NFL. The exercises they do can surely benefit the players in KNT. Hiddink did a good job of documenting the fitness of all players, and making sure that they perform as well as the european elite players. It’s not difficult to adopt, and can be well implemented. The players looked way too tired today.

    With all that said, I still really feel for Shin Tae Yong. He’s a young coach, and its heartbreaking to see his side suffer. I wish we took in Senol Gunes, Marcelo Bielsa, or even Alberto Zaccheroni. I only wish the KFA will one day think like we do. Thanks to the writers for all the hardwork. I always enjoy reading them. Hopefully, I catch one of ya, and yell our hearts out with beer or soju lol. Peace

    • Nice observations about missing out on good passes and bad timing, over reliance on Europe-based players (or just blind faith in their skills/ form?) and fitness. What would happen if we just had the entire Jeju United squad suit up as the KNT? The coaching staff needs to look more closely into selecting players that can complement other players. The STY experimentation process has been a disaster.

    • The KFA seems to always have had blind faith in Europe based players. Actually, we know now that some KFA people didn’t take their job seriously… 🙁

      Over relying on Europe-based players has been a problem for not only for STY, but for many managers over many years. With so many players abroad not getting much playing time and being out of form, Korea should focus on building a team with team chemistry rather than one with “talent.” Right now, I rather watched a less talented team with good team cohesion and confidence. STY/KFA should seriously think about selecting more players from K-league’s best clubs, Jeonbuk, Jeju, and others.

      STY needs to stop experimenting and changing the lineup. Especially at the back, there should be minimal changes so that the players have the time to develop chemistry. STY also needs to be more practical. KNT is horrible defensively. Against good teams like Morocco, he needs to select more defensive minded players or at least players that are physical. An attacking lineup with LCY at right wingback, Ki and Kim Bo Kyung in the midfield wasn’t practical.

      Was this game the last international game of the year?

      • I don’t think it’s overreliance. Our best players play in Europe. Period.
        I like the K League, but we can’t name an all K-League XI and expect to do well. Certainly not given how the league is declining in quality compared to CSL/J.League (in the next few years I suspect this will become more evident).
        Defensively I agree. Need to settle on a backline and stick to it. We haven’t done this in years.
        No. Two friendlies in November before East Asian Cup (domestic players only) in December. Then two more in March, and a couple games in May for pre-WC tune-ups. Time is running out.

        • This is a list of players I’ve compiled after watching them play over the year. I hope to spam the KFA with these players in the coming months lol. Please add on to this list if you find some players to be better suited for certain positions.

          키퍼: 김승규, 조현우
          수비: 김민재, 권경원, 김민우, 이재성, 오반석
          중미: 황인범(대전), 백승호(지로나), 이창민(제주), 권창훈(디존), 주민규(상주) , 구자철
          윙미: 윤일록, 이청용, 안현범, 이진현(FK Austria Wien) 한교원
          공격: 손흥민, 석현준, 황찬희, 양동현

          GK: Kim Seung Gyu: Quick reactions and pretty smart.
          Cho Won Woo: Great season for this man.

          DEF: Kim Min Jae: This baby giant is phenomenal.
          Kwon Kyung Won: Little rusty, but can become polished.
          Kim Min Woo: He’s a bit attack oriented, but not bad.
          Lee Jae Sung: Good chemistry with Kim Min Jae.
          Oh Ban Suk: Jeju’s captain, smart defender.

          MID: Hwang In Bum: Adds an element of surprise in offense.
          Baek Seung Ho: Quality player, maybe too early to call him up,
          would like to see him in action. Great physical
          Lee Chang Min: He has great finishing and power on the ball,
          presence is much needed.
          Kwon Chang Hoon: He has some work to do, but he’s the best in
          moving the defenders, opening up players in
          Joo Min Gyu: He’s very physical and has a knack for goals,
          he should be utilized.
          Koo Ja Cheol: Smart player, getting old, but experience still

          LRM: Yoon Il Lok: He’s the assist leader in the KLC right now.
          great pass rate, intelligent dribbles.
          Lee Chung Yong: Still has good crosses in him, but his
          intelligence on the ball is waning. Still a good
          Ahn Hyun Bum: Jeju’s right wing man, I’m not too certain of him,
          but he’s not bad. Good option just in case.
          Lee Jin Hyun: Again like BSH, might be too early to call up,
          but he is intelligent, and is speedy. He can
          move the ball around well.
          Han Kyo Won: Jeonbuk’s right mid/wing. He’s pretty good. Has
          had decent performances as of late.

          ST: Son Heung Min: I’ve always considered using Son more as a
          striker than a wing. I think he should be
          experimented as a ST. It’ll catch some people
          by surprise. His quick pace, and occasional
          ballistic shots, can scare the defenders.
          Suk Hyun Jun: He reminds me of Kim Shin Wook.. (I don’t like
          Kim Shin Wook) They need
          him to improve his offensive capabilities
          (heading, shots, dribbling, etc). However, I’ve
          always thought of him as a potentially good
          Hwang Chan Hee: He’s good, but lacks strength. I think he should
          be utilized more as a false 9.
          Yang Dong Hyun: He’s currently the top ‘Korean’ scorer in the
          KLC. I say give him a chance, and if he sucks,
          just use SHM.

          Note: As you all know, we don’t really have better striking options. We don’t really have phenomenal wingbacks either. In midfield, we need more defensive mids.

  2. I’m going to shoot down my expectation for the 2018 WC as if we never qualified for the World Cup before (like Iceland).

    That’s the only way to not experience the soul crushing depression next year 🙁

    if we win 1 match for 2018 WC, I’d sob in happiness.

      • Your 실패용’s KNT record is 4 matches – 0 wins LOL is that a first by a new KNT manager?

        Might as well send Lippi’s China to WC since they can beat us and soon outrank us in Fifa.

    • Hey man, what I do? STY is trying his best in his own way. I didn’t want him as a coach, but right now he’s the coach. All we can do is work with what we have. No need to curse at me man. We’re both Korean afterall. I’m just an avid fan trying to voice out what I believe should be done. Criticism is always welcome, but hate isn’t. Hope you have a good day.

  3. Harsh on Jung WY. The guy did more in short time compared to a guy like Jang HS over 2 games (cut off 11 plays, at least 8 were in opposition half compared to only 5 overall for Jang HS) & there are many players (if not the entire team) who gets called up constantly (including big names like Son) who doesn’t seem to do well w/ KNT.

    • I forgot about Jang Hyun-Su, I would have rather singled him for further beratings instead of Jung Woo-Young, but still, color me unimpressed with Jung and what’s in his locker as a whole.

      Back to Jang Hyun-Su, add him to the list of players that mystifies me as how he gets called up. Jang at the World Cup, the thought of it is really concerning.

      • Fair enough but the list of “unimpressive” players for KNT is long and it should include Son HM. At the same time, I think fans need to admit this is probably the best of what KNT has to offer. There aren’t better options & alternatives are equally average/bad. Even Jang HS.. while I think is one of the most incompetent player (player I often criticize) I know, is still useful for KNT because.. can you think of anyone who has performed better than him as RB for Korea?

        Btw, how has Australia surpassed Korea? I think this is an over-reaction. They have yet to qualify & their youth teams aren’t impressive (recent results are worse compared to Korea based on my knowledge).

      • JHS playing as a CCB and stepping into MF was a terrible idea. You can see the thought process, but he’s far too timid and average a player to make that work. That said, Takeuchi has a point. We don’t have a RB. If STY is so hell-bent on having him in the side he should play there and leave CB to KYG/KMJ.

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