China 1:0 Korea -China wins first WCQ against Korea

A shameful and miserable World Cup Qualifier for Korea today as Uli Stielike, fielding a puzzling roster in which he installed a subpar Lee Jeong-Hyup to lead the attack, failed to score against 86th ranked China and lost their first WCQ match against China – as far as the Tavern statistician can remember.  If China were to someday become a world footballing power whilst Korea gradually diminishes from the world stage, this game might be long remembered as just that turning point.

Son Heung-min had to sit out due to accumulation of yellow cards in WCQ competition.  Korea enjoyed long spells of possession only to get stymied by a resolute Chinese defense and an even better goalkeeper. Against the run of form, a 34th minute corner headed in by Yu Dabao was the difference maker.  Yu was unmarked, and with a tight angle, the ball glanced off his head, nutmegged Lee Jeong-Hyup which acted as a screen – the ball quickly slipped by keeper Sun Tae-Kwon across the line.

Korea had their chances to score. Ji Dong-Won drove in (on 2 occasions) 20 yard shots that just went over the crossbar. Later on, he had a few gilted edge headers on target that forced keeper Zeng to make some good saves. Kim Jin-Su and Lee Yong were able to run down their respective sides and Koo Ja-Cheol and Nam Tae-Hee were probing to find a way through in the final third –  however Lee Jeong-Hyup didn’t contribute and was nowhere to be found in the attack. Ki got in on the action as well but team Korea just couldn’t string together that final killer ball.

Enter the Wookie and exit Lee Jeong-Hyup at half time. Kim Shin-Wook was plan B in effect – sooner than later.  Right away the Chinese defenders read Korea’s terribly transparent game plan to simply go direct. It was a throwback to the worst habits of the Choi Kang-hee era – no build up – just a hail mary to the Wookie in hopes he can either hold up the ball or redirect it to the other attacking midfielders.  The Wookie didn’t do himself any favors, either doing poorly on his first touch or fouling to get an edge and thus frequently he lost the momentum.  It was appalling football to witness, and with each successful intercepted long ball only strengthened the confidence within the Chinese team and the throngs of support, extra angry amidst the political drama in the backdrop surrounding the THAAD missile arrangements between the US and South Korea.  Ki Sung-Yeung however was able to do well dribbling forward into space, the defense perhaps surprised that the Swansea man didn’t opt for crossing to the Wookie – his shot was nearly perfect, on target in the far left corner -but Zeng Chen dove just in time to parry the shot away. Nam Tae-Hee cross found Ji open in the middle, the Augsburg man whipped his head to redirect it into the bottom corner, but Zeng was there to knock it out.

Stielike sensed that his plan B was going all wrong, but by the time he put on Hwang Hee-Chan, it was deep into the 2nd half and all but too late. Even in the late stages, fullbacks Kim Jin-Su and Lee Yong did well to escape their mark on the flanks, however they squandered their chance to do damage as they still (probably Stielike’s mandate) tried to opt for the Wookie header option – but completely surrounded AND lacking in form – that plan fizzled quite spectacularly. Heo Young-Joon, the Jeonnam Dragons midfielder came on for his first cap replacing Nam Tae-hee. That substitution was puzzling – Kim Bo-Kyung could’ve been a better option.  Was this Stielike’s way of accepting a historic loss to China?  Regardless, time ran out and it was game over.  A stunning result. History made, and not in the way Korea would have anticipated.


This match will go down as one of Korea’s most humiliating losses. Not that any game against China should be taken for granted but Lippi’s team was, on paper, beatable and should have been one in the win column for Korea. One can pontificate on the larger significance of this moment as narratives are being formed; the possible turning point in which Korea, given it’s own citizen’s apathy over it’s own domestic professional league and the resulting appalling financial status that pays it’s players some of the poorest wages in Asia (despite it’s dominance over the years in the Asian Champions League).  Others can point to the political and financial capital invested in China’s own football development, installed in it’s school curriculum – and the money that’s now being spent that’s attracting the attention of the footballing world at large.  More topically, Stielike’s selections, team management and appalling tactics has to be called into account. Prior to the game, many had raised eyebrows over his choice to lead the attack. Sure, Son was unavailable, but why not Hwang Hee-Chan?  That player fits with the other attacking midfielders he has and plays to their strengths.  Then there’s the Wookie. Sometimes the plan to go super direct works – but it’s a gamble and not a good one at that -especially if defenders can read that option and Korea decides to hoof it up somewhere in the vicinity of Kim as frequently as they did today. Whether or not Uli and sacking him (a la Jurgen Klinsman for the US late in their hexagonal CONCACAF WCQ stage) is something to discuss will be tricky given the lack of time left to qualify for Russia 2018.

But given this turmoil, as the saying goes, the other side of the coin is opportunity. Regrouping, renewal, and resetting the stage for Korea to regain their footing.  Perhaps not qualifying would do a world of good for the Korean program, as painful and humiliating as it might be. An emerging competitive footballing nation in China is not the worst thing to happen to Korea. It must force Korea not to be complacent with their national program -and not simply take for granted all their internal football systems, from youth development to the sustainability of the domestic professional leagues.  Korea has been a dominant footballing presence in Asia. For it to remain as one going forward, it has to adapt to the reality of China breathing down it’s neck.

In the meantime, the Syria WCQ awaits next Tuesday in Seoul.  Son will be back. Korea will be looking to rebound – and we will be watching.


UPDATE: Stielike apologized to Korean supporters.

Not sure if it’s the entirety of Uli’s comments, but if he didn’t acknowledge his role (selection of LJH and the Wookie + long ball tactics with Wookie Plan B) that would be a shocking omission.

AND Somehow Korea still maintains 2nd in the WCQ group behind Iran –Uzbekistan missed their chance to leapfrog Korea with a loss today.


About Roy Ghim 454 Articles
The old Tavern Owner


    • luckily Syria somehow managed to beat Uzbekistan 1-0. That leaves Korea in 2nd place in the group, Iran lead, Korea 2nd, Uzbekistan just a point behind. Korea simply has to get good results with the remaining games and they can squeak in the WC just as they did prior to 2014. As I put it back then, falling into qualifying for the World Cup. Should they beat Iran, Korea will be in better form going into Russia – that’s assuming that the oddsmakers are correct in assessing Korea’s qualities despite Uli’s poor management.

      • That’s a relief that we still have a chance. But oh my lord I hope that the country wakes up from this.

        Isn’t South Korea tired beyond their limits from experiencing disappointments from our Korean national team? Even in baseball, we disappointed recently in front of world stage.

        I’ve been so frustrated that if I was a billionaire philanthropist, there would be an uproar by the public about how much money I’m pouring down on South Korean soccer programs from youth to professional levels – it won’t be efficient like those oil-rich billionaires in Middle East, but I’m desperate to see SOME results.

        I just want to experience the 2002 high before I die 🙁

  1. Hopefully this is enough for Stielike to be sacked. Absolute embarrassment. Grab some random bloke playing FM, and they could do better.

    • Random bloke here. I would like to offer my services to the KNT for the Manager position. My CV includes 12 years of FIFA and PES experience on Sony PlayStation. I have taken ~20 teams in 4 different leagues to both League and World Championships on World Class – Manager mode. My ideas for this squad is to drop LJH for PCY, never sub Kim Shin-Wook before 80th minute, spend time on Player Training mode with Set-Piece exercise and Shooting exercise, and snag a MOTM card for Son Heung-Min. I can be reached at Email: we_need_to_regroup_@sap.2strikersuptop

    • Yeah Stielike needs to go as well as the inexperienced coaching staff. Besides being a poor tactician, he doesn’t get along with the players and doesn’t inspire confidence in them. I wonder who is available. I want an experienced manager with a fiery personality.

      • I actually think Stielike has a fiery personality, but he’s a complete idiot when it comes to how he exerts it. Examples: asking the media how he could’ve been better tactically for this match, or when he actually had the audacity to say he needed a striker like Soriano. He’s just completely out of his depth.

  2. wow this is a disgrace
    we beat China in 2015 with a weaker team
    but ofc this match was much different from the match in 2017.
    I was hoping for a draw at the worst but wth is this
    this could be the match where Korea falls or Korea finally reforms and starts beating teams. We are lucky Uzbekistan lost to Syria. I think we are REALLY lucky.
    Korea had the chance to win against China but they blew it. Well that makes us have 2 losses against China now. Of course we may have the dominant record but this match meant so much more. What’s worse is that we still have Iran to play.
    I’m going to hope that Korea will beat Syria at home, beat Qatar and draw to Iran.

    • Do you know any moment in South Korean football history where it just left us thinking, “holy shit, we gotta get our shit together,” then proceed to get our shit together?

      I am seriously asking. I’m going to look into what happened before our round-of-16 success at 2010 World Cup

  3. Loved JtotheK’s comment.
    In all seriousness, Stielke blew it today, and based on today alone he has every reason to get fired; HOWEVER, the Korean media/public/fans/us would be completely wrong if we just point the finger at him, throw him under the bus and expect the next manager to solve all our issues. Stielke has been complaining about the system in Korea since he first started and nothing has changed. This team has been steadily declining since I would say the departure of Park Ji Sung. The previous two managers were even worse than our current coach. I’m not even sure how I’d feel about him getting sacked. I seriously don’t think it would solve anything. The problem is much deeper.
    If he keeps his job, here’s what he needs to do:
    1) never call up Wookie again. Every time that guy comes on, it just signals desperation mode. I’m not sure he even knows how to play soccer or has any athletic ability even. How can the Chinese players who are much smaller than him still overpower him? It’s sad.
    2) forget LJH… he hasn’t done shit for the team since the Asian cup and he’s had his chances due to Stielke’s fondness for him. Start getting the Barca youth players involved as soon as possible. I know they’re young and maybe not ready for senior duties, but other countries start 17 year olds all the time, especially if they’re prodigies. Korea really has to get over the age thing. Stielke of all people should be spearheading that as an outsider.
    3) Have a one-on-one with Son and Ki. Like it or not, they’re our best players but I really think they lack in leadership of this group of players. It doesn’t matter if we have two European players who are elite in Korea if they aren’t good leaders a la Park Ji Sung. Since they’ve been on the team, the team has gotten worse- not blaming them, but it’s a fact and they have to help the cause. That could also be because they don’t have a good relationship with Stielke (and previous managers to be honest). Anyway there’s a problem there and it needs to be solved.

    Positive takeaways: I thought the goalkeeper was actually pretty good? The goal conceded was a great header that wasn’t saveable. He kept trying to motivate the guys and actually made me think he could lead them.

    Korea can easily qualify for 2018 World Cup, but honestly who cares if we get steamrolled again? If we can’t beat China away from home, how are we gonna play in Russia against a team like Germany or Argentina? I shudder thinking about it. I agree that it might be best to look long-term instead of short-term satisfaction.

      • Also one last thing. I don’t think losing to China is as much of a disgrace as we’re making it out to be. They just got a new manager who has tons of support (and is a damn good tactician), and they really have nothing to lose as there’s no way they’re getting to the WC this time around, and they haven’t been since 2002. On top of that, they had extra motivation to kick our ass due to geopolitical bs. They just wanted to beat a rival today and they did it. Hats off to them, they fully deserved it. Today’s one game isnt the disaster- the disaster is knowing that we’ve been sliding for awhile and doing nothing about it just because we got (bare minimum) results. I’m glad other Asian countries are beating us… tired of the cockiness that comes from being one of the best in Asia, which isn’t much of a measure of success anyway. Hoping finally for a wake up call!

    • I was just joking about calling up Lee Seung-Woo & Paik Seung-Ho, but Jon has a good point. We really should start em’ early.

      Also, Messi & Cristiano Ronaldo are 29 & 32 years old, respectively. I know they are ridiculous examples, but It’ll be wonderful if 24 years old Son & 28 years old Ki can keep their skills up (may be even improve) for the 2022 WC.

Join in the Tavern's conversations -Leave a comment...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.