Iran 1 : 0 Korea WCQ / Tehran Azadi curse unbroken

수원월드컵경기장/ 2018 러시아 월드컵 아시아 최종예선/ 남자국가대표팀/ A대표팀/ A조/ 3차전/ 한국 vs 카타르/ 김신욱/ 사진 서혜민

Not a good day at the office for Team Korea, they were soundly defeated 1-0 by a dominant Iranian home team that were determined to control the pitch. Korea did their part to help with poor passing and being defensively hassled through crucial stretches of the match.  Uli Stielike’s managerial role in the defeat will no doubt be called into question, and will not ease any doubts about his abilities after failing to pick up points during what should have been a routine 3 points against Syria last month.  Korea now has to pick up the pieces as they fall behind Uzbekistan and Iran in the Group A World Cup Qualifying group.

Here’s the starting XI:



From the start, it seemed as if Korea was hesitant and intimidated by the dark cavernous 80,000 strong noise of Azadi – perhaps it got to them as Iran soon put Korea backpedaling after kickoff.  Korea looked ponderous and slow in countering, except when this happened in the 12th minute:

Lee Chung-Yong looked like he was properly fouled in the penalty area after receiving a beauty of a long through ball from Ki, but no ruling on the field.

Iran was in the driver’s seat, already had a goal disallowed, continued to pen Korea in their own half when this happened:

On the Iran goal, Oh Jae Suk might have given Rezaeian too much space, allowing him to get a dangerous cross in. In equal measures, Kwak too slow to react to Sardar Azmoun stepping forward and a one touch toe poke past Kim Seung-Gyu in the 25th minute.

A few more notes from the 1st half:

Oh Jae-Suk’s pocket picked 33rd minute…

Korea offensively getting some looks but can’t seem to put it together.  Each attack stalled, giving Iran significant time in possession to build organized attacks. Most glaringly were the number of unforced errors and horrific passing from the team as a whole. The half ended and Korea was lucky not to concede again.  The first observation:

Other observed CB Kim Ki-Hee’s distribution from the back particularly poor, penning Korea in their own half needlessly. Korea’s offense barely threatened, and just not really effective in the final third. Team passing was failing them at crucial moments. As a whole Team Korea was surprisingly reserved. Not confident nor really positive.

Just as it was against Qatar, Korea finds themselves down a goal.

Would the narrative suggest another excellent opportunity to show their stuff and comeback against stalwart opponents?   What changes could Uli make? Remove Han Kook-Young? Long ball to Wookie? Could Lee Jae-Sung and Koo Ja-Cheol have a role to play?

2nd half: First change: Han Kook-young out / Hong Chul in at LB.  That shifted Oh Jae-Suk to RB, and pushed Jang Hyun-Soo to take over Han’s role as the holding mid.

Did it work?  No. Iran took further control of the midfield. They owned it. Jang was lost at sea trying to cover ground as Iran stormed all over Korea’s half.  To be fair, the CB pair of Kwak Tae-Hwi and Kim Ki-Hee seemed to be doing a better job to stem the Iranian tide, except when a ball over the top fell to Azmoun around the 50th minute, his touch on the ball just couldn’t settle it and scooted out to Kim Seung-Gyu to snuff out.

Halfway through the 2nd half, Korea seemed to find their confidence going forward again (this after nearly an hours worth of lateral passing and ponderous slow build up that allowed Iran to get reinforcements back to clog up Korea’s path forward).

Here’s my notes about one such drive forward:

“Promising attack- good interchange on the edge of the area, just couldn’t execute play fast enough before hordes of Iranian defense came out to harass Ji…”

But Korea kept on asking questions, showing glimpses of promise in the final third and an opportunity with a freekick in a dangerous spot at a crucial moment, when this happened:

Plan B was suddenly in full effect at the 67th minute. Long ball to Kim Shin-Wook to find equalizer time.  The freekick found Kim but he was pulled down in the area. No call.

Korea, try as they might, couldn’t muster an effective attack, the Wookie himself managing to misplay the only pass that came to his feet and wound up unable to link up with his mates.

Kim Bo-Kyung, normally an excellent and creative attacking mid, clearly was having an off day. Uli subbed him out at the 75th minute for Koo Ja-Cheol.  Korea looked brighter in the attack, but rounding to the top of the area with Son open and calling for the ball wide out left, Koo elected to take a shot. It was blocked and started a new round of counterattacks back in Korea’s end.

After a spell, the long ball approach seemed to marginally work in Korea’s favor.  Accurate long passes found the Wookie, who then redirected to his teammates crashing the box – that really started to give the Iranian defense a hard time.  One such redirected ball fell to Son, but with a defender tasked to be glued right on him, Son was unable to get a shot off.

This was only marginally effective, and soon enough the long ball approach began to sputter; the Wookie wasn’t able to accurately redirect any more balls to his mates.


All the cards were played, Iran ran out the clock. Iran 1 : 0 Korea

Not all bad news: Son Heung-Min emerged not hurt, but clearly not 100% today -this after picking up a knock to his achilles heel during the Qatar match last weekend. It makes me long for club football to return – given the lack of service and effective interplay. Stands in a bit of stark contrast to how Son is utilized in Pochettino’s high flying Spurs. That’s not a fair comparison though, since it’s always difficult to effectively make national team chemistry gel with only 1 or 2 days of training during the international break. But that’s the same everywhere of course.


Not all is lost- good performance against Uzbekistan and Korea can get back in it.  There will be more to talk about and a video recap soon, stay tuned.

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  1. wow that was disappointing.
    We have to beat Uzbekistan in November. If we draw with them it’ll be bringing back bad memories.
    still in third place.

  2. Kim Shin Wook.. look I like the guy and I get that he can be effective. But every time he comes on in the second half, I feel like that means Korea is basically out of ideas. Kick the ball to the big guy’s head! Just kinda depressing to see sometimes

  3. Very disappointing effort and overall team display today. Nothing creativtive, not sure if we even had a single shot on goal. I was already expecting the worst of this team not qualifying for the next WC and today’s performance did nothing to dispel that notion.

    Not making the World Cup may do us a world of good. With all the past successes in making the WC, I think we are taking it for granted…and that includes the fans who think it’s automatic. Maybe we’ll spend more time looking back and restarting from the top to bottom, to include highly ineffective and controversial KFA. Even if we took this team to Russia, elimination in the group stages is a given. Give our Barca boys some game time experience. Start preparing for 2022 now.

    • The irrational side of me thinks we need to go through the playoff stage. Still a plausible route to Russia but enough for real reform (hopefully) within the KFA

      • But do we really want this team to go to Russia? How will this team turn it around when we can’t even threaten the likes of Iran and barely beat China and Qatar at home??? I am pretty much done being optimistic and now am realistic, that this is not a good team. Give the younger players a chance to play. Have a plan to reach semifinals in six years. I’d rather take that.

        • I think the Uzbekistan match will be our final test. It’s a must win. And this will be at home. Korea can’t settle for anything less in my honest opinion.

          Mexico had to go through playoffs and they got a new coach and they pulled off a pretty good performance at the 2014 World Cup. The squad improved when they were at the risk of not making it to the World Cup.

          I’m not saying we have to get a new coach. That is too much of a risk.
          Like Kshindc said, if we barely beat China and Qatar at home we are in deep trouble. Don’t even get me started on the Syria match. Thankfully the next match with them will be at home so maybe we’ll get some nice advantage.

          Then again, Asian sides are improving and Korea can’t take these ‘minnows’ for granted. The qualification is tougher for Korea.

          But there needs to be some sort of change going on for team Korea. We have the talent. We have the potential. But we just need so much more than that. If Korea makes it to the World Cup that’ll make it another World Cup for us and it’ll make us look good on paper since we are the Asian country that went to the most World Cups. We seriously need to fix our problems.

    • i ws thinking the same thing after wasting two hours of my life watching that fiasco. do we really want this team to go to the world cup?

      the entire team acted like it was a sunday kick-around.

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