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:
The passing of Busan manager Cho Jinho certainly dampers things, but the Korea NT fave Morocco in a friendly tonight. pic.twitter.com/N9f0gk7IIk
— Jae (이재혁) (@ArmchairRegista) October 10, 2017
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.
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.
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:
I acknowledge his need to find the right blend and players who can play his system but a 2 man mf of Ki and Kimbo?
— Jae (이재혁) (@ArmchairRegista) October 10, 2017
I’m all for giving Shin the support n time he needs but he’s making thing extra hard on himself.
— Jae (이재혁) (@ArmchairRegista) October 10, 2017
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.