Korea just wrapped up their international week with a 0-0 draw with Chile in Suwon. A sold out Suwon World Cup Stadium cheered, raised their voices for the Taeguk Warriors, and in return witnessed a promising if flawed performance in their friendly encounter with the #12th FIFA ranked nation of Chile. Paulo Bento fielded a team similar to the one that came out last Friday in their home win against Costa Rica, let’s take a look:
Only 3 changes to the XI: today Hwang Ui-jo starts up top (in place of Ji Dong-won) and Hwang Hee-chan got the nod on the attacking right (for Lee Jae-sung). Kim Jin-hyeon, as predicted, started this one as Bento got a chance to see Kim Seung-gyu in front of net in the Costa Rica matchup. They line up a 4-2-3-1 formation, just like against Costa Rica.
Right from the start Chile asserted their dominance over Korea. Smothering their counter attacks, Korea had difficulty getting out of their own half. Chile gave the defense quite the workout, but despite several shots, none could find the back of the net. Kim Jin-Hyeon didn’t do his side any favors, routine clearing attempts twice getting deflected by Chilean forwards. Kim seemed rattled; it wasn’t a surprise when he passed directly to Diego Valdes, who seemed to be the only one in the stadium (and those watching) surprised by the gift – he was unable to take advantage and a sigh of relief could be heard from the Korean bench. Eventually Kim settled down and was able to make a few fine saves to atone.
Hong Chul had to come out early as he sustained an injury, Yun Suk-young came in for him in the 31st minute, Korea started to keep more possession of the ball.
Korea began to wrest the narrative away from Chile in the 2nd half, but it wasn’t until nearly the hour mark with Hwang Ui-jo (who had a quiet day, save for one decent cross) making way for Ji Dong-won and Lee Jae-sung on for Nam Tae-Hee that Korea was able to turn it up a notch. This time, Korea looked the more likely team to score, with mazy runs by Son, Hwang Hee-chan and Lee Jae-sung providing multiple threats to the Chilean defense.
On the other side, Barcelona’s Arturo Vidal provided plenty of danger to Korea, but left in the 74th minute. With Vidal gone, it appeared to sap the Chileans of attacking prowess and they settled even further into a defensive bunker.
Korea’s ability to successfully take on the defenders (Son and Hwang Hee-Chan in particular) energized the Koreans and they continued explore the vulnerabilities in the defense. Lee Jae-sung threaded a pass to Ji Dong-won that nearly paid dividends, but the keeper got to the 50/50 ball in the nick of time. Ki twice had tantalizing shots on goal, his last shot forcing a save from Arias. Hwang Hee-chan and Son both were able get past defenders in dangerous areas – but with plenty of bodies in front of goal, couldn’t find that elusive goal. Jang Hyun-su nearly atoned for all his past defensive failures with a header that looked on target from a Son corner kick, going out just wide by inches!
In the final minutes Korea and Chile appeared to settle for a draw. Moon Seon-min’s introduction for Hwang Hee-chan (instead of Lee Seung-woo – injured perhaps?) set up another chance to see what the Incheon man has in his locker (answer: same energy/same mediocre touches that snuffed out Korean attacks). Jang Hyun-su, up until the final moments, didn’t necessarily have an outstanding day (good heading attempt/one poor clearance in the 74th, his header going straight to Valdes, who couldn’t put away Jang’s gift).
However, right before the FT whistle, with seconds remaining in stoppage time, this happened: on a routine backpass, Jang Hyun-su tragically delivered an underweighted ball to Kim Jin-hyeon with Valdes lurking nearby. Valdes pounced on the ball and it’s suddenly a 1v1 with the keeper. Kim Jin-hyeon, already off his line trying to receive Jang’s botched backpass, forced Valdes to cut inside. Kim Moon-hwan quickly tracked back and got between Valdes and a open net – Valdes opted for an off balance shot – which miraculously goes out high and wide. Bento is seen at the sidelines enraged and yelling at his staff about (presumably) Jang Hyun-su’s poor backpass.
FT whistle blows, somewhat respectable draw but unsettling nonetheless. Had Chile been more clinical, it could easily have been Chile on top. The same could have been said for Korea with their multiple chances. However, with this being a friendly match, it’s a good time to test players, try out new systems and take lessons from the game, win lose or draw.
Notes from the game:
Hwang In-beom subbed in for Jung Woo-young- mixed performance. Good defensive play actually, did well to stifle a potent Chilean attack. Quieter going forward, I was hoping to see more of the dynamic Asian Games version of In-beom step forward in only his 2nd cap for the senior squad, but there’s enough in his locker for Bento to be patient with the 21 year old.
Captain Son goes 90 minutes (?!?!?) According to Yonhap, that’s Son’s “eighth match in 26 days. After having a tight Asian Games with the under-23 side in Indonesia, where he played 524 minutes total in six matches over 16 days.” He’s also played 83 minutes against Costa Rica on Friday, and now this full 90 minutes against Chile. That may not be helping his club situation with Tottenham in the short term. In the long term he was able to secure military exemption via Asian Games gold. His replacement at Spurs, Lucas Mora, just won the Premier League player of the month. But back to the game at hand, he wasn’t 100% and while not all his take ons were successful, he did get around his opponents on several occasions and caused havoc in his wake. Supplying the Hwangs (Hee-chan and Ui-jo) Son made impact despite not scoring – however we are not seeing a fresh version of Son. He needs rest, like yesterday. Tottenham’s relentless schedule and the fight to get a place in the starting lineup awaits. In the meantime, check this cheeky nutmeg from Son:
— vole111 (@jejombara) September 11, 2018
Update: this tweet below has a few seconds more showing Son winning the ball with Arturo Vidal before launching that killer improvised pull and tuck move that nugmegged Valdes. The nutmeg itself is making the rounds on the internet, partly because Valdes is shown making a racist slanted eye gesture yesterday. Justice served via nutmeg.
Here’s a bit more context to that Son nutmeg, starting with winning the ball vs Vidal https://t.co/avalNCtgcx
— Tavern of the Taeguk Warriors (@taeguk_warrior) September 11, 2018
Ki Sung-Yeung: solid as usual, helped to shape the midfield into taking control of the game in the 2nd half.
Kim Jin-hyeon between the sticks: I want to like the Cerezo Osaka keeper but quality save aside, his clearances and distribution remains a sticking point. On any other day, Chile would have been up 2-0 with the gifts handed to them, including the pass straight out to Valdes. Instead, Kim walks away with a clean sheet.
Hwang Hee-chan: some poor touches but a mostly positive performance; his stock is rising slightly with some pacy dribbles that penetrated Chile’s defenses on a number of occasions. A potent option, time will tell whether a loan move to Hamburg in the 2.Bundesliga can give him more experience and improve his touch.
Ji Dong-won: Give Bento and his staff credit for calling up the Augsburg man, he’s been out of the radar in the Shin Tae-yong era, but Bento believes Ji can be part of his new look Korean system as defined by a more intentional possession style game. Despite the scoreline, Ji added some dynamism to the attack – one that seemed to last a good stretch of the 2nd half. It has to be noted that Ji came back and was critical in playing out of the back successfully. With Chile pressing forward with intensity, a lot can go wrong when attempting a Pep Guardiola style of playing the ball out of the back. With precise and incisive passing, Ji and the Korean backline worked some magic and imitated some fancy tiki-taka to get out from that pressure. The crowd roared approval – proving that scoreless draws, if one knows what they’re looking at in an even tilted game – can be entertaining.
No Lee Seung-woo: inserting Moon Seon-min for Hwang Hee-chan may not have been productive, but rather than criticize the managerial decision, it leads one to speculate that Lee Seung-woo may have some kind of niggling injury. That or Bento is relying more on World Cup veterans in the run up to the Asian Cup. To be clear – it’s just speculation, nothing confirmed one way or another, perhaps post match comments might reveal more. The 4 goals Lee scored for the U23 side that won the Asian Games was absolutely crucial, so it would have been interesting to see what the 20 year old could do for the senior side. Bento meanwhile is implicitly urging patience, there are the October and November friendlies to come.
Team shape and identity: Bento is clearly having an impact with the squad in only his 2nd game in charge, there is a cohesiveness that is really fascinating to witness in real time. If you get a chance to see the game in full, there’s moments in the 2nd half in particular (Korea’s more improved half) where Son is directing the team, not engaging in an advanced press, but disciplined in a central holding pattern that prevented Chile from attacking through the middle, which they appeared to favor. The entire team kept their shape, was constantly communicating and was almost completely in sync, dare I say even machine like. The camera angle doesn’t stick to this wide field perspective for long, but for a few long moments, there’s this gestalt or big picture view wherein one can see an entire squad working together to effectively shut down the 12th ranked team in the world and looking competent in the process. More importantly, Korea looks like they have a game plan – refreshing given the perceived lack of a tactical plan with the past several KNT managers. These are glimpses of what Bento seems to be aspiring to with a high octane offense, supported by the midfield vision of Ki and a backline that’s regaining their footing.
Jang Hyun-su: he gets the last word since he had the last Korean touch of the game. It would be unfair to single him out as the culprit for what would have been a last minute goal conceded, and honestly between the Costa Rica match and most of this match – he didn’t look too bad. But even with 89 minutes of competent play, a team can lose on a blunder in a matter of seconds. That’s what could have and should have happened in the 93rd minute with seconds to go before the end of the match – the backpass was of such poor quality – it sent Bento (rightly so) in a rage on the sidelines. Bento should be looking at himself and his staff that decided it was ok for Jang to start at CB once again. He may be ok for FC Tokyo but in KNT uniform, time and time again, with clockwork consistency, one can count on Jang to make 2 to 3 fairly midsize to gigantic defensive mistakes – mistakes that costs goals conceded and games lost. Jang isn’t singlehandedly responsible for the World Cup losses to Sweden and Mexico, but objectively speaking, his defensive errors cost Korea chances to advance into the Round of 16. His is the difference maker, the slight bit of confidence that Korea loses when he’s on the pitch, the little bit of quality lacking that opponents take advantage of. If he’s better in front of defense, fine, make the switch sooner than later, but going forward, his many documented errors at the back is something that is not just on Jang, it’s on the front office and the staffers in charge of stats.
UPDATE v.2 : highlight reel, courtesy of the KFA