Korea 0:0 Bolivia / Latest Experiment Fizzles Out in Front of Shin Tae-Yong

The plan was this: with a C+/B- Bolivia side that lost to American teenagers 3:0 a week and a half ago, Korea was looking to paper over some deficits, rest some players while bringing in others who’ve been out of commission, and enjoy a morale boosting win by knocking in a few goals as Shin Tae-Yong gets in one last chance to tinker with his roster in the last public World Cup tuneup in Austria.  With some heavy conditioning workouts in recent days, Korea instead would grind out a miserable scoreless draw – not the confidence booster he and the KNT were looking for in the run up to the last (closed door) tuneup against Senegal next Monday.

This will be short as I’m on the run, we’ll get to things we learned from the match, but let’s look at this odd starting XI ( and stay tuned – there’s a video recap of the game later on):


A few things about the XI to note – as promised, Shin Tae-Yong would revert back to the 4-4-2 and ditch the 3-5-2 (though he stated tactical lineups for Senegal would be a secret). Son Heung-Min and Lee Jae-Sung with some deserved rest, while Moon Seon-Min with the surprise start out wide right. Lee Seung-Woo wide left not a surprise, but eyebrows raised with the Wookie, Kim Shin-Wook starting top along with Hwang Hee-Chan. The CB pairing as expected was Kim Young-Gwon and Jang Hyun-Su, the latter missed all the recent tuneup matches recovering from injury and still made it into the final 23 man squad. No Kim Jin-Su – who will be missed – Park Joo-Ho back to his old LB position and Ki thankfully back to a central mid position and Jung Woo-Young partnering with him at deep/defensive mid. Lee Yong, who did well against Bosnia, continues on at RB.


On the outset: Lee Seung-Woo displayed some sublime footwork, combining with Hwang Hee-Chan to cause headaches for Bolivia’s defenders. Lee did well to link up with Kim Shin-Wook – who did well to turn the ball and get a shot in, forcing a save (however in replays, he either didn’t see or didn’t opt for Lee Seung-Woo who ran behind the defenders hoping for a return pass. Lee might’ve been in a better position to score).  Korea dominated possession, allowing Park Joo-Ho and Lee Yong to go forward often – both finding joy driving down their respective sides of the field.  It left Kim Young-Gwon and Jang Hyun-Su to cover behind, but they were hardly troubled by a very defensive minded Bolivia.

At this point, there’s not much point in a traditional recap. If one can sum up the game in twitter format: Korea created some chances – couldn’t finish them well enough – and otherwise had difficulty with incisiveness in the final third for a number of reasons and factors – chief among them Kim Shin-Wook (we’ll get to that later).  Defense looked competent, yet hardly tested by Bolivia.

I’ll opt for some talking points at this time – might be more instructive on what to look out for when Korea lines up against Sweden on June 18th.

  • Starting with Lee Seung-Woo – mostly a good 60 minute shift for him. He moved the ball well, switched the field impactfully with Lee Yong ready on his right, and combined well enough with Park Joo-Ho on the left side of the pitch. While he had a few wayward touches – mostly he looked dynamic, aggressive to win back the ball, and had some of the best video reel highlights with some fantastic footwork. I’ll rattle off a few of his highlights my notes: in the 29th minute- nutmegs a Bolivian on the left flank, gives it to (Hwang? Jung Woo-Young?) who unfortunately shoots directly at the keeper. In the 55th minute, with a ball looking like it was going out of bounds on the left touchline, magically (yes I did use that word) manages to bring down the ball and moved it forward, combining with Ki (however unable to return the pass back to Ki and the drive fizzled out). Lee Seung-Woo partnering without Son in the field was not as effective as Hwang Hee-Chan didn’t have his dribbling boots on today – more on that later.
  • Kim Shin-Wook -the good, the bad and the ugly all in one player. The good: able to get on the ball to head some shots toward goal. The bad: clogged up the area so that Korea lost a decisive edge in speed of passing play. There might be a place for Choi Kang-hee hail mary crosses to the top of the Wookie’s head, but only in a time of absolute desperation toward the end of a game. The ugly: if you’re going to get into a position to get onto crosses and play the Peter Crouch/Andy Carrol role of knocking them in with one’s head – get them on target. Three good crosses led to 3 head shots wide of net. The Wookie starting looked like an experiment of Shin’s. It didn’t work. I want to like the Wookie, I like him in his role for Jeonbuk, but he leaves a lot to be desired in KNT uniform. Those who have called out Shin Tae-Yong not calling up Suk Hyun-Jun and Ji Dong-Won have a legitimate point. The decision not to call up those 2 players, in light of the missing chemistry in the final third, will be revisited in the coming days.
  • Hwang Hee-Chan: off day for the Salzburg man. Heavy touches betrayed what looked like promising runs. No one can fault his workrate, but without that crucial control in the final third – expect Korea’s chances to fade away. (question: would Son / Koo or Lee Seung-Woo be a better option? Korea is REALLY missing Kwon Chang-Hoon at this moment in time).
  • Lee Yong left shoulder hurt?  Korea just cannot afford to lose any more players. He tangled up with a Bolivian in the 2nd half and looked like he was in a good deal of pain. He returned fortunately. Better first half – connected a cross with the Wookie for a potential goal. One thing that stood out to me from my notes: his verbal marshalling of Moon Seon-Min to redirect him to go past his marker and show for a pass towards his right). After the collision in the 2nd half, wasn’t as decisive. Should Shin Tae-Yong subbed him out sooner for Go Yo-Han instead?
  • Jung Woo-Young: not bad defensively, but I noted about 4 to 5 key forward passes that went astray, launching some draining Bolivian counter attacks. His passing rate, I believe is still an area of concern. That perhaps was another minor factor that bogged down Korea’s offensive machinery.
  • Moon Seon-Min: I know he has some supporters cheering for him, especially after scoring against Honduras. However, he’s just not starting material – and while he showed great workrate, his passing was a bit off and his heavy touches, like Hwang’s really betrayed the Incheon man. An experiment that was worth trying, but maybe NOT before the World Cup is about to begin…
  • Captain Ki looked far better and more comfortable in his central mid role, distributing, controlling the tempo, flustering the defense with advanced runs.  He had 2 shots, one of which caused the keeper a bit of trouble with a diving save to his right. When Ki went off in the middle of the 2nd half, the tempo and ball flow was noticeably dampened.
  • Son Heung-Min had his moments – he was behind Korea’s offensive output from the latter half of the 2nd half and their best chances late on in the game. He’s still working out some niggling injury woes from the latter half of the EPL season with Tottenham. Nevertheless, this might be indicative of what he’s capable of: his best chance of the evening in the 67th minute – the blazing counter attack saw him evade what could’ve been a crunching tackle. Son flew by the Bolivian defense, and then did well to freeze the Bolivian backline with some trickery, opened up enough space towards his right to wind up and fire off a patented shot – but Bolivia’s keeper did well to dive towards the bottom right corner to save a goal.  Son will be crucial to Korea’s chances to survive the group.
  • Kim Seung-Gyu I don’t think even got his gloves on the ball. Kim Jin-Hyun came in sometime in the 2nd half to replace him, didn’t get tested either – but did get into a minor communicative mishap with Kim Young-Gwon – the Cerezo Osaka keeper’s momentary indecision leading to Kim Young-Gwon having to concede a corner kick -and some words of frustration with the newly installed keeper.
  • Park Joo-Ho hardly appeared in the domestic World Cup tuneups, but as left back (really operating as a left wing) he did well to keep the ball moving in the right direction.  Kim Min-Woo replaced him in the 2nd half, not too much to report. Kim Min-Woo didn’t have any glaring mistakes -and if I’m not mistaken, he was positioning himself as if he was another attacker.


game highlights below:



Lee Seung-Woo ball touch summary:

Thanks to Honey Heon for the Lee Seung-Woo ball touch summary

And thanks to Michael Welch for holding down the Tavern Twitter live during the game. I did get to use some of his observations and fold it into my quick recap/talking points. Stay tuned to the Tavern, we’ll be recording a podcast -and may even get that out on Apple / itunes podcasts soon.

Next up: a closed door friendly with Senegal next Monday. We can’t report on it until after the final score comes out, and can only talk about what little they’ll reveal. Reportedly Shin will line up a starting XI that will approximate what he’ll use in Russia.  One can consider this a setback, but the combination of Shin still experimenting and dually resting some key players like Son and Lee Jae-Sung meant that this had potential to be less then confidence boosting event. The time for experimenting is well past over. Let’s see how this all plays out.



Extra time


post match interviews, etc:

and that’s referring to this:

And in the not-very-inspiring-managerial-moments category, this:

additional ideas he had in mind? I’ve got something on my mind: please, for the sake of Buddha, listen to your Spanish coaches….


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  1. Lol some trick and ideas he cant reveal for now haha! Sounds like Shin is enjoying his experiment and wants us to stay excited for more!:D So everything is going according to his plan to experiment and have as many players as possible participate…nice xD

  2. Is it just me or does Shin Tae Yong seem to think he’s smarter than he might actually be? He’s been called a genius by the media, but I’ve never seen him do anything to go far in a tournament to warrant that praise. Now it seems like every interview he references “secrets” and “tricks”… what the hell man.
    If it works, awesome. But… Sweden, Mexico, and Germany know what they’re doing. Their coaching staffs know how to analyze players and lineups. They’ve had months to gather intel on our players. They’ve seen all the games he has coached, even at youth level. I guarantee they know about as much as possible about every lineup Shin has fielded, and they already know how dangerous Lee Seung Woo can be. Unless they are complete morons, which I highly doubt. A lineup tactic is not as effective as the confidence/fitness/teamwork the players have (maybe just my opinion). If Ki as the captain and most experienced player is throwing his captain band on the ground from frustration, that’s telling me something.

    By the way, the “wearing different numbers” tactic was tried in 2014 and it failed miserably.

    I think our players can make it out of the group, but Shin’s comments are kinda starting to annoy me.

  3. I’m willing to disregard this game and ignore it.
    The team wasn’t 100% fit. STY clearly didn’t care about the tactics he was using. It wasn’t set up to be boring. We wouldn’t have beaten Curaçao like this.

    • I’m fine with this game. I wouldn’t have even cared if we had lost. It’s Bolivia, just trying new lineups, and we played through without sustaining injuries (I hope?), so as far as I’m concerned, we’re good.
      Also, I have always been fine with the fact that we might not make it out of the group. If we play well and don’t make it, to me it’s no big deal (even though I think we CAN) as long as our players play with heart and look better than they did in 2014 which was a disaster.
      But in the past month, Shin has worried me just by what he has said. It has nothing to do with today’s game. See my above post. I’m already sensing the quote: “players win games, coaches lose games” will be relevant in the next few weeks.
      We’ll see.. hope I’m wrong.

  4. I cannot understand how STY can be so enamored with Kim Shin Wook. Yes, he’s tall. He’s taller than opponents … by a few inches. Which doesn’t particularly matter. He’s also not very athletic, which negates his height advantage. He can’t jump very high, he’s not particularly coordinated, he’s not that strong, and so he doesn’t win headers that easily. And his heading technique is average at best, so he doesn’t head the ball accurately. He’s a big guy, but he doesn’t play like it – he doesn’t hold up the ball well. He’s slow and he lacks positioning sense, so he’s rarely in the right spot to execute a play. His feet are slow and his passing is inaccurate, so he doesn’t help in buildup. In fact, he slows it down. He also doesn’t shoot particularly well.

    In other words, he is a below average player in every respect, except for being a few inches taller. And at international-level, there are lots of tall defenders. And they jump higher than he does.

    He’s not even particularly prolific a scorer in K-League anymore – because he’s 30 now, and his limited athleticism has started to leave him. I cannot, for the life of me, see his appeal except that Shin must be really, really impressed with how tall he is in person, despite the fact that it’s never been effective on the international stage.

    When it comes down to it, I’d rather we play Ki out of position as a center forward than Wookie. I’d trust him a helluva lot more to carry out the duty than Wookie.

    • Wookie had some chances, almost scored, the goalie just happened to be there on a few occasions. I don’t disagree with you but our scoring will have to come from somewhere. Besides, Wookie probably won’t be a starter.

    • Yeah it doesn’t make any sense. I can only guess that it has to do with their personal connection/familiarity, and Kim SW being a last resort option(long ball approach). Suk HJ is actually 6’3 and jumps higher than him though… Joachim Low said he didn’t pick Leroy Sane, who is probably is Germany’s most in-form forward. because he didn’t fit tactically and socially. I think Shin TY would probably give the same reason for Kim SW.

      Korean analysts have mentioned that Suk seems to get injured whenever he’s playing well. I don’t remember, but did he get injured at the olympics under Shin TY? I heard that his injury prone-ness might have partly been why he wasn’t picked.

      • Injury-prone could be a deciding factor on Suk, hadn’t thought of that. Suk was on great form heading into January and then went down injured. That was clearly why he wasn’t called up in March. If he wasn’t called up in March, Shin wouldn’t have seen much in April and May anyway to convince him to gamble on Suk. That was a great comment Mike!

  5. LSW looked ready to play. Our midfielders better be ready for the quick pass because they looked like they were standing around often times. If you aren’t fit enough to run up and down the pitch, then stay home. LSW was out there moving making stuff happen, that’s what I saw from his clips.

    • I agree. He’s probably Korea’s best dribbler and creator in tight spaces. I think there’s a good chance that he’ll start against Sweden. He might be dropped for maybe Kim Min Woo against Mexico and Germany.

  6. For my personal wellbeing, I am going to stop taking too much stock in these friendlies… Clearly STY is trying out a bunch of different lineups and formations. Hopefully, he has a sense of what works and what doesn’t by now. Keep the 4-4-2! Don’t play KSW! Start LSW! At this point, I just want these players to stay healthy and for there to be no locker room strife. Let’s hope our opponents are just as confused as we are by STY! Not that this is a great analog, but let’s remember that STY’s 2016 Olympics team topped a group with Germany and Mexico… Granted, the junior squads and senior squads are night and day. But I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

    HHC needs to relax. He is over thinking his touches and is trying to do too much. Reminds me a bit of SHM in 2014. One other thing I noticed today: I can’t believe how often KNT players would just cough up the ball to the other team. It was genuinely perplexing how inaccurate some of their passes were. Let’s hope that was because of the fatigue from recent training. Also, has anyone else noticed how often KNT players fall over during a match? While defending, while passing, while shooting. It’s something I picked up on a couple years ago while watching this team, and I always seem to notice it now. More of a minor point, but just curious if others see what I’m seeing.

  7. I watched this game yesterday and was left very disappointed with the performance of team- What disturbs me the most is the fact that we have no plan B. I understand that the coach wanted to try out something different yesterday by going with Wookie in the front, but it obviously failed in the first half. At halftime, the coach should’ve tweeked things so that we can at least win the game against a Bolivian B team.

    Let us say in the World Cup we’re down by a goal – What have we done so far in these past friendlies to tweek the formation or to come out with a more attacking play? I guess Son and Koo coming in the last 30 minutes kinda changed things a bit, but its just not good enough. Against Sweden or Mexico, we not only need to score, but also need to defend well. Since we’re not good at defending, at least we should score a goal or two.

    Our players are not mobile without the ball and thats why we have trouble attacking. Yesterday was a good opportunity for the players to score a couple goals and gain some much needed confidence. Instead, we head to the final friendly game which is played behind close doors with the players clueless on how to attack or defend. Unless Korea makes major changes to their strategies and team play, I don’t see us getting a point against any of the three teams in our group.

    • Agreed, 3 Losses and a quick exit from the WC it will be. The 2018 KMNT is rather RUBBISH, just like the 2014 KMNT was. They haven’t beaten an average team all year in a friendly. They rear-ended their way into qualification. Unfortunately, the group this year looks much more harder than their last 3 WC’s.

      I feel bad for Ki and Sonny, but this team is WAY BELOW PAR.

  8. I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that this WC will be dreadful – at least in 2014 we had a weaker group, but not this time. My goal is to see if there’s hope for a team we can rebuild from here. So far I don’t see the talent pipeline to be honest but it will be a good opportunity to see who steps up. Don’t forget: we went from a God-awful WC in 1998 to going to semis in 2002!

    • These last 2 matches have been beyond poor, that much is true. However, getting ready for a World Cup is hard on such a compressed schedule. All teams are working out these types of kinks so we should hope for the best! I agree it will be hard to do well in this group but I’m still believing we can find the points to get out of the Group of Death.

  9. you guys do realize that shin tae yong is an idiot who screwed up the rio games for lee seung woo and baek seung ho when he sat them during their game against england, which led to their exit of the games. he was “experimenting” that game too. if he had just simply played lee seung woo from the get-go, korea may have won the game. shin tae yong doesnt give a twoshiits about the korea national team if it doesn’t help him look good or become famous. kim shin wook is a dumb pick up. these friendly games are not being effectively used. since when did every single friendly game become all about trying new lineups? Ever consider practicing with your main squad for at least one game?

    OH YEAH and Moon Seonmin needs to get the fck out of this team. He’s so bad. Horrible passing. Horrible plays. Kim shin wook intereferes with the quick passing and touches in the offense. Shin tae yong needs to have his players work around Lee seung woo Son Heung Min Koo Jacheol and Ki Seung yeong.
    Use my advice Shin tAe yong and maybe you’ll get us out of the group stages.

    shin tae yong = dumb as fck

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