Cuba 1 : South Korea 2 in U20 World Cup / Tavern Kickaround

First group game for the Taeguk Warriors in the U20 World Cup at Kayseri, Turkey is over and after a nervous 1st half which saw keeper Lee Chang-Geun misjudge a ball from a corner kick conceding the first goal to Cuba, the Koreans established ball dominance in the 2nd half to come from behind for a 1-2 victory. The 2nd half Korea looked like they were going come away with the win -and sure enough they delivered. Watch this video recap of Ryu knocking in the game winner after a lovely buildup in the 83rd minute:

Missing some key players Moon Chang-Jin and Wolfsburg’s Park Jung-Bin, the young Red Devils were disorganized from the onset, having failed to establish a rhythm against the upstart Cubans. Reyes’ goal in the first 7 minutes of the match on a set piece was symptomatic of the disorganization. Slowly however, the Taeguk Warriors gathered some momentum and began probing the Cuban defenses toward the middle of the 1st half. Several prime opportunities before halftime to equalize by Cho Suk-Jae, Kang Sang-Woo and Ryu Seung-Woo all went wide of the net.

The 2nd half (and presumably after a tongue lashing by boss Lee Kwang-Jong – I’m sure ‘shame’ was used a number of times) the Koreans came out attacking. In the 51st, Shim Sang-Min was brought down just inside the area. It might have seemed like a soft penalty from replays, but the ref did not hesitate in issuing yellow for Reyes and awarded a penalty kick, converted nicely by Kwon Chang-Hoon.

Not long after, a terrible collision between Yeon Je-Min and (I believe) Song Ju-Hun occurred as they were going for a ball in the air in Cuba’s half.

Not sure what his status is at the moment, but if he is injured for the rest of the tournament, it could be a hard loss for the team. Coming in for Yeon was Woo Ju-Sung. Kwon Chang-Hoon came out in the 66th minute – his replacement Kim Hyun seemed to help spark the offensive guns for the Koreans. For what seemed like a brutal sustained 15 minutes for the Cubans, the Koreans pressed for the winning goal, dominating possession, taking shot after shot. The Cubans were pinned down, unable to effectively clear the ball. Not helping their cause, they gave up 14 corner kicks in the game, many of them conceded consecutively one after another.  Finally a beautiful buildup, and an eye pleasing one-two with Kang Sang-Woo crossing to Ryu Seung-Woo resulted in Ryu blasting an 8 yard shot behind the net.

It wasn’t entirely over as Cuba almost capitalized on some horrific defensive lapses late in the game.  But time ran out and Korea earned the win to begin the U20 World Cup. An ugly victory as Korea (on paper) was supposed to be one of the more established teams in the group, but all 3 points earned positions the squad on a decent footing thus far in the group stage.

Final stat: South Korea with 62% possession of the ball in the game.

For a brief video recap of the match, click here.

NEXT GAME: Portugal vs South Korea Monday in the US  2pm EST on  Tuesday 3am Korea Time Broadcasting on MBC.  Portugal defeated Nigeria in yesterday’s other group match by a score of 3-2.

Tavern Kickaround time starts with a wedding in Korea. We posted earlier in the Tavern about Ki Sung-Yeung’s upcoming marriage in July to a woman nearly 10 years his age (to which Ki has neglected the World’s Most Interesting Man’s advice on Cougars). Now his KNT teammate Koo Ja-Cheol has gotten tied up today, or what’s the phrase, tied the knot -that’s right.  Who’s the lucky gal?  Funny you should mention, in all the interweb searches, articles ranging from Yahoo! to the Choson Ilbo talk about who appearing, who’s singing, who’s presiding the ceremony – but no mention of who he’s marrying – other than it’s his longtime girlfriend from Jeju who he met while playing with Jeju United in 2007 – at least within the first 10 search options.  And get this, the lucky gal is 2 years older than Koo. Trending: Korean footballers marrying cougars. As terrible as this sounds, after ‘researching’ more than 5 minutes, I gave up looking for a name as I really couldn’t care less -this is about goddamn football –am I right?  So we will move on…

…To Park Ji-Sung announcing his marriage -also to take place this summer.  3 wedding in a summer – okie dokie…sounds like the title of the newest gag-worthy romantic comedy of the summer. It should rake in a few million bucks, that’s how it goes right?

The Tavern failed to update immediately Thursday’s result of the Lady Taeguk Warriors friendly against the US WNT at Red Bulls Arena. Like a bad hangover, the Tavern owner didn’t want to revisit this one. But we must. Unlike their last friendly on June 15th (wasn’t a bad performance from the Koreans despite the loss), the South Korean team didn’t show up at all to this friendly international. I won’t lie, it was one ugly mother of a match, a complete 5-0 loss that featured not one but four Abby Wambach goals, smashing Mia Hamm’s all time goal scoring record for the US WNT. Yikes. Such a stark contrast between the June 20th and June 15th friendlies – both against the FIFA ranked #1 Women’s team in the world. That earlier match also had defensive lapses by the Koreans, but after a shaky start, they impressed everyone at Gillette Stadium (including the announcers Julie Foudy) by regaining composure to dominate possession, execute a fine passing game, and scoring after a lovely buildup. For this last match, the US WNT cashed in on finding the weakest link in the defense in LB Lee Se Jin, outmuscled, outhustled the Koreans overall using brute physical force to disrupt the flowing passing game the Koreans displayed on June 15th. A learning opportunity in the end for the South Koreans, some good to bank on and much to work on to improve on the international level.

Last note is not about Korean football per se, but on the overall picture of the beautiful game. The modern football era has seen football elevated to a monstrous level on the international stage, with headlines fixated on the self absorption of the characters, whether they be players, owners or FIFA officials – masking huge sustainability issues.  In the euphoria that is the World Cup, less attention has been given the blowback of faustian bargains between host nations and FIFA and what less developed nations give up to have the honor of having the world’s greatest party in their backyard. We go to Brazil, where the Confederations Cup is underway as a preview of the next year’s World Cup – now the epicenter of epic protests, the biggest the country has seen in 2 decades. Over a million Brazilians in the streets, many angry at public funds going towards construction of stadiums at the expense of public services, higher public transit costs, and communities getting razed.

“I like football, but Brazil has spent all that money on the event when we don’t have good public education, healthcare or infrastructure.” -Nelber Bonifcacio, an unemployed teacher as quoted in the Guardian June 21st.

And this coming from a football crazy nation. Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s chief, didn’t help matters when he issued this statement: “I can understand that people are not happy, but they should not use football to make their demands heard.”  CBC’s Ben Rycroft opined back, “why should the Brazilians protesters not use football to make their demands heard, when they were sold on the idea that it was football that was going to save their ailing infrastructure?”  Blatter then flew on to Turkey, another football-meets-protest zone where the U20 World Cup is coinciding with massive anti-government demonstrations. Got to love the timing – yo, power to the people!

Back to Brazil: the original 1 billion dollar projected costs to build new stadiums (much of which supposedly would come from private sources) has now ballooned to over 3 billion -the burden now shifting at the public’s expense. The final tally is still rising.  The vast inequities in Brazil (highlighted in this Guardian article of a favela initiated protest) is making people ask ‘who is this World Cup for?’

Korea and Japan co-hosted the 2002 World Cup, and while South Korea’s overall situation is different than South Africa or Brazil’s, they did have to quickly build several FIFA compliant World Cup stadiums in the leadup to 2002. The games were considered an overall success at the time, but here’s the unvarnished truth: those stadium currently are too large for average K-League games. More than a decade after the World Cup, they now sit mostly empty, suffering low attendance rates for the 44 rounds of K-League matches and the handful of Asian Champions League games throughout the season.  This situation can’t be totally pinned on FIFA, but I doubt Korean leaders and the KFA at the time could foresee the dismal attendance figures as a consequence of building those cavernous stadiums.

For comparison, the United States hosted the World Cup in 1994 – of the stadiums used in the World Cup, only old RFK stadium is still in use by a professional soccer team, the DC United. That stadium used to hold up to 60,000 most notably as the home of the now Maryland based Washington Redskins football team.Today, DC United  is lucky to draw 8000 at any given game. They are last in the MLS for attendance, while smaller/sleeker soccer specific stadiums in use by other MLS teams enjoy far better attendance (newer stadiums have roughly 17000-25,000 seats).

Possibly at the rotting core is the corruption behind FIFA. But the weekend is here, my kids are begging for attention, so the old Tavern owner will have to ponder all this another time. Chal -gayo.





About Roy Ghim 454 Articles
The old Tavern Owner


  1. Question: It seems as if the whole world now looks at Japan as the leading force in Asian football. Is Korea is at the same level? What is the offensive/defensive potenital of the South Korea National Football team?

    • Now that Japan’s Confederation Cup campaign is over, there will be an article later this week comparing Japanese strengths and weaknesses to Korea’s, as well as some changes that can be done.

    • Choi messed up, but even before his tenure, it seems as if Japan has been dominating either way. I think it has a lot to do with mentality, organization of the J-League and K-League, KFA and JFA.

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