After the Honduras match, we knew that would progress to the RO16 with a win or draw against The Gambia – a loss meant that we would still likely progress, but in a very specific scenario where goal differential and results from the other groups didn’t go our way, it was still possible to leave Argentina early. Yesterday, it became confirmed that regardless of the result against The Gambia, we would still guarantee third place progression. The results were such that if we placed first we’d play Uruguay, second we’d play Ecuador, and third place we’d play Brazil.
So red cards and yellow card suspensions aside, it wasn’t too surprising to see a rotated lineup. Remember that in the U20 level the games are every 3 games – and fatigue sets in real fast playing so frequently.
Only Lee Young Jun, Kim Ji Soo, Kang Seong Jin, and captain Lee Seung Won started all 3 games. Lee Seung Won started as the AM this time with Lee Chan Wook and Incheon’s Park Hyeon Bin in MF.
Honestly there isn’t too much be said for the game itself. While our last two games surely delivered on the entertainment/craziness front, this game went about what you would expect from two teams who were both guaranteed to progress. Most of the first half was played in the middle with very few chances – no one was in any rush, and our only attempt at goal in the first half was Kang Seong Jin’s attempted SHM-esque L footed curler from the R wing – even that was deflected and just missed the post. Pretty much all of our corners didn’t connect. The Gambia likewise didn’t threaten us much either. They threatened down the wings as they often do (I swear the fullback position is our worst) but most of The Gambia’s crosses were overhit and out of bounds. No heart attack moments.
The second half saw a spell mostly dominated by the Gambia – they were much more likely to score than us most of the half, but to no avail. They managed to score at one point but it was clearly offsides, they had a couple of shots just go wide, and two headers at close range all saved by our GK, who did a fine job in the absence of Kim Jun Hong.
I normally upload highlights here but it seems FIFA has been ignoring Youtube in favor of their own website (and perhaps also taking down any highlights uploaded to Youtube). Highlights found here: https://www.fifa.com/fifaplus/en/watch/5do9zxPmpLR0rj54HAjYNJ?cid=(p_go-box)(c_fifaplus)(sc_fu20wc)(ssc_highlights)(l_)(ch_)(cc_2min)&pid=(p_go-box)
A couple of thoughts regarding this game and group stage campaign:
The team hasn’t been very convincing overall. Kim Yong Hak has certainly impressed but he is quite raw. Kim Ji Soo looks like a real gem as well. Otherwise, this team has really struggled especially up front. Starting FW Lee Young Jun was invisible all three games outside of his set piece goal against France (I’m not entirely sure what he contributes to the team besides being really tall) and Kang Seong Jin continues to frustrate me by slowing down the attack and holding the ball for too long. We seem to be incapable of breaking a tight defense – it is at these times I really wish our teams could have a sharpshooter who could score from a distance, but alas that is not an easy feat at any level.
This was the first time we went through a Fifa U20 World Cup group stage with 0 losses. Yet something about this generation isn’t as inspiring as the last one (watchin Lee Kang In + Oh Se Hun was something else), but I sincerely hope I am wrong about this.
Apparently one of The Gambia’s best players, Adama Bojang, is the grandson of their manager Abdoulie Bojang. Abdoulie Bojang is 45 (1978); his grandson is 19 (2004).
Ecuador: I don’t know much about this Ecuador side or who their players are. They lost to the USA in their group before wins against Fiji and Slovakia sent them to second place in their group. We also played them in the semifinals of 2019, where an excellent assist from Lee Kang In to LB Choi Jun sealed the 1-0 victory.
A win vs Ecuador would see us play the winner of Argentina-Nigeria. I swear these two teams are just destined to play each other over and over again. We did beat Argentina back in 2019 though.
Korean media is very happy that we avoided Brazil. Brazil really has been our kryptonite lately.
The only other AFC country to advance is Uzbekistan, who for some reason always excel at the youth level and have at times knocked us out in AFC tournaments. Apparently Japan has failed to make it to the next round in a U20 World Cup for the first time in 22 years. They achieved this statistic by failing to beat 10-man Israel despite being up 1-0 at the halfway point. Oh the schadenfreude.
Speaking of which there have been a LOT of red cards at this U20, more so than prior ones to my memory.
Our match vs Ecuador is being played 6/1. Fortunately there are 4 days of rest instead of 3. If we win there, the QF would be in just 3 days again.