Korea’s World Cup tuneup friendly match with Tunisia in front of a sold out Seoul World Cup Stadium turned into a demoralizing 0-1 loss, with added horror of a possible serious Hong Jeong-Ho injury, leaving speculations of his availability even before the start of the World Cup. There are several ways to interpret the loss, both in positive learning modalities and utter disaster panic button-pushing mayhem. So which is it? The Tavern will explore these and give some news updates in this post match edition as we march ever closer to World Cup Brazil 2014. [Update: left back Kim Jin-Su out of World Cup with ankle injury/ Park Joo-Ho [Mainz] to take his place…more on this later]
If you didn’t watch it, Jae Chee, who will be giving his thorough analysis of the game later, summed it up via twitter: Shockingly bad performance. He wasn’t wrong. Can’t sugar coat it, but in the loss could they learn from it quickly to benefit Korea in time for the World Cup, or by losing to a team that didn’t even qualify for the World Cup -are they DOOMED?
If you haven’t been by the Tavern’s Player’s Ratings post, check it out. Tim Lee gives his assessment – agree or disagree? Tell us what you think after reading it…
I did watch but here in the US where the game was not on any TV networks, streams were coming in and out, so I was not able to watch it entirely. But I got the gist of it. I have my take on the whole affair, but first…
an excerpt of Yoo Jee-Ho’s match report for Yonhap News:
“…this match will be a huge lesson for us,” Hong said after South Korea’s 1-0 loss. “We will prepare the best we can for the World Cup finals in the remaining days.”
Asked what specifically he’d learned, Hong said he would only share it with his players.
Hong could be forgiven for the inability to elaborate on the issue because South Korea played so poorly on both ends that even the coach likely didn’t know where to begin.
“We gave up too much space in midfield and on defense, and that allowed opposing forwards to roam around freely,” the coach said. “If we play like that again, we will have difficult matches.”
On the scoring play (44′), Zouhaier Dhaouadi took control of the ball at half line and managed to penetrate deep into the South Korean zone virtually unchallenged, before striking it past goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong.
Hong said he was none too pleased with the way South Korea gave up the goal.
South Korean players walk off the field after losing to Tunisia 1-0 at Seoul World Cup Stadium on May 28, 2014. (Yonhap)
Yun Suk-young got the nod as the left fullback, with Kim Jin-su, a regular there under coach Hong, on the mend with ankle problems.
Yun only joined the national team last Sunday, a day after his English club, Queens Park Rangers (QPR), defeated Derby County to earn promotion to Premier League next season.
QPR refused to release Yun before that match against Derby, preventing him from reporting to South Korean camp early. Yun didn’t ultimately play in that contest.
Yun looked out of sorts Wednesday. He made some spirited forays into the Tunisian zone, only to sail crosses well off their intended targets. He also appeared to be lacking focus on defense.
Hong said he had no choice but to keep Yun in the game, given the injury situation, and that he expects Yun to improve as the World Cup nears.
The player himself said he needed more time to get acclimated to the official World Cup ball, Brazuca, which he’d used for the first time Wednesday.
Yun also admitted to still being a bit jetlagged, and yet some of his teammates on offense, who had been in camp from the beginning, looked even more fatigued than Yun.
When announcing the team earlier this month, Hong defended his choice of Park Chu-Young by saying he couldn’t find an adequate replacement in the striker position. On Wednesday, Hong noted that Park failed to solve Tunisia’s defense but added, “I could see from the way he moved that he has no issues health-wise.”
Koo, named the team captain last week, maintained an optimistic outlook on South Korea’s prospects in Brazil.
“Just because we did poorly today, that doesn’t mean we will struggle at the World Cup,” he said. “Overall, we were a step too slow, and our conditioning was the problem. We learned today that we just have to get better.”
One bright spot from the loss was the performance of midfielder Han Kook-young. He did yeoman’s work cutting off Tunisia’s offensive flow early on with timely tackles and physical play. When Ki moves out in front to join the attack and create scoring opportunities, whoever plays alongside him in the middle is asked to cover Ki’s back defensively.
Han showed so much promise Wednesday that fans have begun to call him the “New Vacuum Cleaner” for South Korea. During the 2002 World Cup, when the co-host South Korea made a historic run to the semifinals, midfielder Kim Nam-il came to be known as the “Vacuum Cleaner” for his tackling prowess that kept his zone clean of opposition threats.
Han said after the match he was far from perfect but was glad there was still some time left to work on his deficiencies.
-Yoo Jee-Ho / Yonhap News
In a twitter-sation I had with the author (the next morning in Korea), Yoo Jee-Ho had more to add. First, I asked what’s the status of Hong Jeong-Ho? He was taken out on a stretcher after getting tackled from behind by a Tunisian player in the 58th minute. If he was injured enough to not join up in Brazil, it could seriously affect Korea’s World Cup prospects…
Breath a sigh of relief:
@taeguk_warrior KFA said it was just a bruise (looked like sprain but not that serious). No swelling on the foot after the game…
— Jeeho Yoo (@Jeeho_1) May 29, 2014
The Tavern will cross fingers AND toes for Hong. Yoo pointed out that an injury right before the 2012 Olympics took Hong out of the roster, otherwise he would’ve had military exemption with the Bronze Medal earned after defeating Japan 2-0. After everything he’s been through, he deserves some kind of karmic break.
Yoo told the Tavern that in the press conference it appeared Boss Hong kept his assessment very general and didn’t want to reveal too much in deconstructing the loss for fear of giving too much away to his Group H opponents -who were no doubt watching.
@taeguk_warrior He said losing one now may actually be good for Korea, as far as giving them a wake-up call… Good perspective
— Jeeho Yoo (@Jeeho_1) May 29, 2014
Proper Perspective. That’s the key here. Pre-match, many were thinking this was a ‘kibun’ inducing sure win before going to the next World Cup tune up match in Miami. The loss seriously dented a number of supporter’s expectations for Brazil. A number of journalists probably are now joining that sentiment. After all, here’s a Korean team that on paper looked to be the stronger squad, expected to not only win but score multiple goals. Additionally, this is the most European professionally trained squad Korea has ever sent over to the World Cup (I think- where’s that Tavern Statistician when I need him?). To lose at home to a packed Seoul World Cup stadium was hardly the send off to Brazil the team was expecting.
But perhaps there was wisdom in selecting Tunisia as a pre World Cup sparring partner. Perhaps, looking at the glass half full, there is some gain in this loss. But let’s take this also into context…
The apologist view: Yun Suk-Young coming in literally jet lagged from last Saturday warming the bench for QPR in their promotional playoff victory. He only arrived in Korea 2 days ago. That controversial tug of war between the KFA and QPR was so last week ago, but with Kim Jin-Su injured, Yun had to play. His crosses were spectacularly off in the beginning minutes of the match, halting some of Korea’s best work in building up good opportunities in Tunisia’s final third. To be fair, he made some decent runs…
Ki, Koo and Park Chu-Young were all recovering from injuries occurred in Europe. That factored into a lot of rust on the field. While they enjoyed over 60% possession, there wasn’t the same passing crispness that we saw in the last friendly with Greece. Kim Bo-Kyung, while a technically good player, featured haphazardly for Cardiff this season.
Let’s try a bit more context…
Tunisia: a deceptively stronger opponent that the Korean youngsters overlooked. They aren’t on the international footballing radar as a top international team, but for what it’s worth, they are FIFA ranked 49th (Korea ranked 55th). FIFA rankings can be suspect so looking at a different metric, Tunisia fielded what looked to be a taller team than Korea’s. They recently drew with Colombia 1-1, no small feat. Only a loss to Cameroon prevented them from getting their 5th ride to the World Cup. Known as a tough defensive minded team, indeed they looked every bit competent in defense against Korea’s usually high octane offense.
If we’re talking about a loss to the likes of, I don’t know, let’s say Estonia, that’d be a catastrophe as a tune up result (apologies to outraged Estonians). But for comparison, let’s look at Japan’s friendly yesterday against Cyprus. Cyprus is FIFA ranked 130th and while trying not to take too much stock into rankings, theirs might be just right. Defender Atsuto Uchida scored the only goal, sparing the Blue Samurai of utter embarrassment. So Korea lost in their tune up, but let’s give credit due, they did have a worthy challenging opponent. I would argue, isn’t that a better way to prepare? It’s an art form finding the proper amount of challenge a teacher gives to it’s pupils. Sometimes a loss is more instructive than a win – it’s all in how you take the result.
It may sound counter-intuitive but Hong Myong-Bo may have done the KNT a favor in all this. In one fell swoop, the loss deflated over confident egos, renewed focus on kinks to work out, and highlighted areas that show good potential. Hong’s team is one of the youngest Korea has sent to the World Cup, so over confident egos? He’s got that in spades. Time is running out however and learning curves has to be steep. YET to be determined -will they get it all together in time for their first group match against Russia? Ghana June 9th will be the final exam before shit gets real.
- just a few more observations, the new Brazuca ball was something to get used to? That’s what Yun commented on in his post match musings.
- An interesting photo of the bench late in the game. Ki is shown icing his knee…
- You might have missed an argument by Kim Bo-Kyung and Kwak Tae-Hwi in the 89th minute. After Kimbo was brought down in Tunisia’s half, a free kick was awarded. Possibly arguing who would take the free kick. Kimbo eventually struck the defensive wall, not before getting the rebound and putting it in play for Ji, resulting in the box scramble that led to the last Korean shot of the game (courtesy of Ha Dae-Sung). They renewed their disagreement after the final whistle blown. Resolved?
- Reactions from Taeguk Warrior supporters to the game on the interweb has been interesting and wide ranging. I can personally attest to some of cycle of grief. I believe I’m at the acceptance stage…
- Finally, a stadium FILLED to watch Korean football and not baseball. And of course it had to be a miserable 0-1 loss. Ay-guh-nah…Still, it was great to see a packed stadium, lots of color and enthusiasm, let’s keep that support momentum going…
- Jae might have more to say on this, but I thought in the positive category: between the 10th and 13th minute, there was splendid movement on the ball by the Taeguk Warriors. They looked absolutely dangerous and nearly scored twice, a great shot by Koo barely saved by Tunisia’s keeper, followed by a header by Kim Young-Kwon that just went over the crossbar. There was just a good flow and the crowd could sense that the team was linking up and playing well…except that the momentum stalled with Yun’s crossing. In the 2nd half, Ji Dong-Won made a late game appearance. His introductions sparked a late surge, eventually resulting in substitute Ha Dae-Sung getting a quality shot on goal. And echoing Yoo in his article, it was reassuring to see Han Kook-Young confidently and cleanly slide tackle the ball away from Tunisia several times and helping regain possession.
- One more item in Tunisia’s favor: watching a Tunisian TV stream right before the 2nd half, showing stirring images from their revolution a few years ago, you gets the feeling that they have a lot to play for in representing a brand new democracy. I thought that energy may have translated into playing Korea with passion despite missing out on the World Cup. Their democratic revolution was the opening salvo for what would eventually become the Arab Spring.
- Which leads us to speculate on how much the Sewol Ferry disaster is having on the nation’s psyche in respects to the lens Koreans are viewing this upcoming World Cup. While it does hang ever present in the background, it didn’t prevent people from coming out to the game however. No doubt the nation is united in grief over the tragedy, but will it translate into further support for the Taeguk Warriors in Brazil (i.e. Japan 2011 post tsunami) or tamper enthusiasm and domestic TV viewership for the games? Of course, factoring into the potential live viewing audiences in Korea: as the games are on the other side of the planet, it will be broadcasting live – in the middle of the night.
and a Toulon Tournament update: today Korea’s U21 team drew with England 1-1. While Korea conceded early in the 3rd minute, Lee Chang-Min equalized in the 55th minute. Korea’s group stage finished and while they sit in 2nd in Group B, Colombia and England still have a fixture to play on Friday. For Korea to advance, Colombia has to win…