Our second match of the group stage vs Honduras was just as crazy as our first game but perhaps more disappointing. It almost felt like the opposite of our first match. France dominated the game but we won off a set piece and a counter while conceding a soft PK. This time, we dominated the game thanks to an early red card, but CONCEDED a set piece and a counter (if you count a PK as a set piece… I know it’s a stretch).
We started in a 4-2-3-1 this time (though some news outlets are calling it a 4-4-1-1) with the return of Bae Jun Ho from injury. For context, Bae Jun Ho is a very promising attacking midfielder who has been in good form for a surprisingly strong Daejeon Citizen this season. He has established himself as a starter in the K League – not many on the squad has gotten to this level – and is considered a no brainer pick for the starting XI for this side. Lee Young Jun of course started up front, Kang Seong Jin, Kim Yong Hak, and Bae Jun Ho overlapped as the three attacking mids, Kang Sang Yoon and Lee Seung Won were the “2 volante” while the backline remained the same.
Korea did not start the match very well. The early stages of the game was all Honduras – if I remember correctly we had 0 shots when they scored their first goal. I thought the penalty was a harsh. Not 100% the wrong call as with France, but still a bit soft. I can see an argument for it being given though – Choi Seok Hyun could’ve done better there.
In a stroke of luck, the goalscorer for Honduras Ochoa struck one of our players on the posterolateral neck completely unnecessarily, presumably out of frustration that Bae Seo Joon held up the ball and let it go out of play. The referee announced that it was due to “violent conduct.” The KBS commentators (one of whom is Lee Young Pyo) were so dumbfounded that all they could do is laugh. And I’m sure many of us seeing thought back to Lee Eul Yong’s infamous 을용타 incident. The entire comment section on nene mentioned it as did all the Korean commentators. And what’s funny is that Lee Eul Yong’s second son Lee Seung Jun actually came on as a sub today (for those who don’t know, his eldest son is Lee Tae Seok who is FC Seoul’s starting LB).
Small point of clarification – Honduras’s #6’s full name is David Antonio Ochoa Posas but he goes by David Ruiz. He plays for Inter Miami and I’ve seen some confusion on social media regarding this.
The remainder of the first half was mostly controlled by us, naturally, but we really failed to produce any good chances and even conceded off a counter attack in just the 5th minute of the second half. Korean teams just really struggle to defend fast counterattacks from wide – it’s a recurring theme by now. The second half was much of the same as the first – though we did score two goals in rapid succession (really reminds me of the Ghana match), despite all our possession and numerical advantage so many of our attacks were ineffective and we struggled to get shots off. Kudos to Kim Eun Jung for making subs early on though. Though at the end it appeared that a 3-2 last ditch Korean goal was coming, the last minutes of the match were actually super nervous for us due to a second yellow card –> red to Choi Seok Hyun. There was also a totally BS yellow to our goalkeeper Kim Joon Hong for time wasting (he will miss the next match too due to YC accumulation).
Ultimately, we truly could not capitalize on the red card. We really struggle against teams that turtle and defend deep – remember what happened against Honduras in the 2016 Olympics? The infamous Jorge Luis Pinto “I know exactly how to play against Korea” moment? This whole game I was screaming (internally) for someone to just step up and take control of the game. Kim Yong Hak was notable as he was by far the most on form player today and was at the center of many of our chance. It was no surprise that he scored our first goal. I have no doubt that most of those who watched will agree that Kim Yong Hak is the deserving MOTM from Korea’s perspective.
One of my frustrations with Kang Seong Jin is that for all his flair and dribbling ability, he doesn’t always covert his skills into useful plays or goals. There was a moment when he tried to dribble the entire backline, from the right wing to the center of the penalty box BACK to the right all – his final shot was blocked if I remember correctly. I felt that Bae Jun Ho likewise was out of form perhaps from his injury, while Lee Young Jun couldn’t muster or covert any chances either.
Kim Eun Jung when asked about not being able to capitalize on the situation, stated that “although we were at a numerical advantage, it was difficult to score as the entire team defended deep. We also were not able to convert good chances. This is why we couldn’t score more.” He also expressed the need to go all out 100% against the Gambia. We will miss a starting CB and GK, and the Gambia has impressed thus far, beating France 2-1. African teams generally perform very well in the youth FIFA tournaments, but getting #1 in the group is always something to strive for.
[It is very late at night now, but this post will be updated with more thoughts tomorrow!]
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