Korea 1 : 3 Bosnia / Shin Tae-Yong’s experiment ends in failure in World Cup tuneup [update v.1]

Lee Jae-Sung scored an equalizer against Bosnia. Yonhap News Photo

Super quick recap: Shin Tae-Yong trotted out an experimental lineup, installing Ki Sung-Yeung as a centerback, Lee Jae-Sung and Koo returns to action and Lee Seung-Woo winds up on the bench – and most head turning – a stubborn return to a 3-5-2 formation, against a dangerous Bosnia team that included Eden Džeko and Miralem Pjanić. Unlike Monday’s Honduras warm up, Korea’s defense would have it’s work cut out for them today in Jeonju. Did Shin Tae-Yong’s plan work?

In short answer: no.



Korea did have it’s moments, particularly in the 1st half when Korea’s attack looked like it had enough momentum to see some goals. Son had the best chance, shuffling past 2 Bosnian defenders in the box and doing well to get space to shoot. However the keeper was able to parry it away for a corner – and indicative of Son feeling pressure to score, opted not to find Hwang Hee-Chan who was wide open to his left.

Hwang had his moments too, working hard to win the ball back – aggressive forward pressing won him some loose balls to create some chances, but nearly every time this happened, a heavy touch would extinguish the chance to find Son and a Korean goal.

Instead it would be Višća who would break the deadlock in the 28th minute after Kim Min-Woo, who until that time factored into 60% of Korea’s forward progress on the left channel, failed to clear what looked like a Ćivić cross that landed close to Kim’s feet. Instead, he scuffed his clearance and Višća swept up the cross to Kim’s left and blasted the ball past Kim Seung-Gyu.

Korea 0:1 Bosnia

It didn’t take long however for Korea to even thing up, forward pressing allowed Korea to gain possession in Bosnia’s half. That pressure allowed the ball to come right to Jung Woo-Young. Right away he got it to Hwang near the top of the area and sensing Lee Jae-Sung making a run to his right, deftly redirected it his way. Lee did well to dribble past the right back, leading the keeper, Šehić to come off his line to stop Lee. The Jeonbuk man had other plans, and scooped it over Šehić, from a tight angle, and the ball wound up in the net.

Korea 1:1 Bosnia

Korea got back on the front foot, trying to needle the ball into Bosnia’s final third for that killer shot, but couldn’t manage to get more goals. It would be Bosnia who would take control of the narrative, counterattacking after waves of Korean pressure and grabbing a late goal in stoppage time before the halftime whistle.  While it did look offsides, the entire backline was caught out and Duljević was able to free Višća for his 2nd goal – with acres of space.

Korea 1:2 Bosnia




Perplexingly, Shin Tae-Yong didn’t shake things up much, replacing Oh Ban-Suk for Kwon Kyung-Won. The real glaring managerial decision was to stick to the 3-5-2 and to keep Ki Sung-Yeung at CB.  The 3 at the back, against Bosnia just seemed doomed to fail. And it would continue to fail. His game management of the 2nd half will be noted for his lack of adjustments given the way Bosnia continued to exert themselves in key areas. 

Meanwhile, a few notes from the 2nd half:

  • Son perhaps should’ve been replaced sooner – not that he was having a bad game per se, but he was heavily marked and getting fouled constantly – what else can we learn about Son in the KNT mix, he’ll obviously be a starter – why not do injury prevention?
  • Son and Hwang had some moments together to create some chances against Bosnia. Case in point, Hwang early in the match stole the ball in the area and had a golden chance to get it to Son, but the pass was delivered behind him. The 2nd half they were not on the same page for whatever reason.
  • Jung Woo-Young- some good moments (interception that started sequence to Korea’s goal & a decent free kick in the 2nd half) -mixed in with some poor decision making, errant touches, misplaced passes, and a yellow card for getting schooled by Dzeko.
  • Lee Yong – not a bad shift today, his 1st half more dynamic, Korea would switch the field several times to Lee on the right, controlled the long switch passes well, made decent cuts to the inside and caused disruption to Bosnia’s defenses. Later the 2nd half, he was not as effective, lost focus resulting in uncharacteristic turnovers. Overall, however, count his shift as a right wingback today in the positive column.
  • Koo looked – ok. Better in the 2nd half, particularly chesting down a ball, controlling it under pressure and moving the ball around to give Korea another chance. It’s his first game back since a niggling injury at Augsburg towards seasons end.
  • Kim Min-Woo: mixed verdict as the leftwingback, leaning towards poor. Absolutely complicit with 1st goal conceded. Did well to move the ball down the left channel 1st half and had some nice evasive moves in the 2nd half. His crosses left a bit to be desired however. Korea is really missing Kim Jin-Su, who is now out on this World Cup squad (I think..).
  • Ki eventually came forward and was far more impactful, linking up well, kept moving toward goal, almost had the give and go near the goal to give Korea another shot. He was subbed out but that was a clear indication Ki needs to be higher up the pitch. UPDATE: nearly forgot to mention this was Ki’s 100th cap, who looked visibly frustrated at today’s result.
  • Moon Seon-Min and Lee Seung-Woo came on late – too late to take control -this after yet another defensive lapse led to Višća unmarked – looking like a rock star by the inattentive Korean defense – allowed him to one time a cross into the net. Both wasn’t as effective as their previous outing- Moon less nervy but less incisive, while Lee Seung-Woo’s dribbling had the control of a last ditch effort. Despite the accolades that fell his way on Monday, Moon looks more like a slight variant of Hwang Hee-Chan – not terrible, good workrate, some good technique in his locker, but his dribbling marked with heavy touches to turn the ball over.
  • Lee Seung-Woo grew into the game in his short time on the pitch and he began to look more dangerous, overlapping with Son Heung-Min on the left. His chemistry with Son seemed brighter than the Son/Hwang pairing through most of the match. Lee really should be starting for greater impact.
  • Kim Shin-Wook on in the 86th minute didn’t offer much, surprise surprise.
  • No Park Joo-Ho?!?
  • Lee Jae-Sung: we’ve been saying that Korea’s chances could be boosted if Lee Jae-Sung, who we know is a creative dribbler, becomes more clinical on his goal scoring chances. He’s traditionally a creator rather than a goal scorer —and yet he’s zippy enough to get into really good positions to finish. When he can, as we saw today, it’s an indication of his potential to be a game changer. The ripple effects for the team multiples as Son can be more effective if he doesn’t feel that psychological burden to be THE goal scorer – just as it is for his North London club, he’s got to have partners like Lee Jae-Sung, Ki, Koo and Lee Seung-Woo to bring out full on Son power. 

Jae Chee manning the Tavern Twitter live put this out before FT:


The 3-5-2 was an abject failure. Shin’s decision to stick with it continues to baffle analysts. It was a setup for a loss and the goals scored by Bosnia is a preview of things to come, particularly should Shin use the 3-5-2. There was very poor game management with his late substitutions. Last thoughts, we go back to Jae Chee post match:

Here’s a mini-video recap of the game highlights – it’s not comprehensive, but you can at least do your own autopsy of the defensive lapses:


UPDATE: I’m back for a moment, Steve Han had some post match comments:


and this from Shin Tae-Yong:

Extra Time: the KNT gets a nice sendoff at Jeonju before flying out for the next few tuneup matches.




Korea faces Bolivia next Thursday, June 6th (3:10pm US EST / Friday 2:10am Korea Time) —- Shin Tae-Yong will make final cuts to the 23 man roster on June 3.



Lee Jae-Sung scored an equalizer against Bosnia. Yonhap News Photo
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  1. That was depressing. Seriously. Lots of long balls, wasted chances, terrible defending… At this stage all we can do is hope we are not embarrassed. Had Serbia really tried they could have easily scored half a dozen goals, so imagine what Germany could do to us. For those of us going to Russia this is going to be a tough one.

  2. Shin will be experimenting all the way to the last game at the WC because he has no idea what he’s doing. Hey, let’s try Son at goalie and give some other guys a chance.

    • Yeah I think that’s the scariest part of this – these wholesale changes in systems. With 2 weeks to go he has no idea of what his system will be, much less his team. Last minute desperate attempt for Arsene Wenger? I’ll take him to the WC any day of the week.

      • Except we have like a functional system – the 4-4-2. STY is so stubborn that he doesn’t want to test that system for fear of showing “the enemy” how good we are. Or some bullshit reason like that. He’s always so insistent on having multiple systems, but sometimes Keep It Simple Stupid works when you’ve barely had 11 months in charge of this team.

        • I think you’re right, Shin doesn’t want to give away to his divisional opponents his tactics and formations. He said that the other day and the first time he’ll implement his plans will be in the tune up game against Senegal which will be behind closed doors. To me, that’s too close for comfort, just one game before the WC. I would think the players need to get comfortable playing at their positions and make necessary adjustments before the WC. Well, I hope his strategy works. Meanwhile, us fans are hungry to see good performances, we probably wouldn’t have minded to see the same formation and players Shin used against Honduras when they played Bosnia.

  3. I will take that as just a failed experiment. If the result was different, would we be blaming Shin?
    I just hope the KNT can solidify all their tactics and personnel before their next two friendlies so they can work out any kinks. They seem to lack chemistry obviously because they don’t play with each other much but also due to all change s in tactics or personnel due to injury…
    I think Korea will surprise a lot of people

    • I hope your optimism is warranted Gordon. We will present tactics in the coming days and weeks that we think will be successful. Just don’t count on Shin to take our suggestions.

  4. Man with this performance and recent fixtures. If we are going to give up this many goals and have such a weak defense, we should play for a high scoring game. Problem is out offense isn’t exactly great either. The only scenario I see us getting out of this group is a fluke 2-1 win against Sweden, tying Mexico, and hope we dont get crunch against Germany and barely advance with 4 points. Most likely scenario is 1 point and even that might be generous.

  5. This is why trying to glean positives from the Honduras game is a no no. A few people on twitter (maybe tavern members also) mentioned Kim Minwoo changing that game for the better. Maybe true, but today he was god-awful. Maybe it was just a mismatch with Visca, but yikes….

    • I was guilty of hyping up Kim Min-woo after Honduras. The thing that annoyed me the most in his performance was his awful crossing. Unable to pick out any attackers, hit an awful cross into the stands! Just keep it on the ground, his through balls against Honduras were good. In terms of his defense, Kim Min-woo was done absolutely no favors by the tactics. If he has pushed forward as a wing back, a CB is supposed to cover the space in behind. Oh Bansuk never did that and so Kim would get torched for speed by Visca. Just awful tactics.

  6. And now there are all these comments from the team about our defense. Just shows that nobody has any freaking clue what is going on defensively. These guys should all have the same idea about what to do and be on the same page.
    Our defense has been terrible for nearly a decade now. Not sure why there’s a mad scramble to try to fix it 2 weeks before the World Cup. If we have low expectations for this WC, I would think it would be a great opportunity to actually focus on improving our defense against the likes of Germany and Mexico to build for the future. Shin Tae Yong obviously wants to focus on attack, but that’s never really needed a lot of fixing. I don’t get it.
    Frustrating… we have known for so long that there are holes and nobody is doing anything to fix it.

    • You’ve hit the nail on the head right here Jon. The players are incredibly confused by what Shin wants defensively. Different players shouldn’t be saying such different things about the tactics. That says that Shin can’t figure out the defense. We have to hope the assistant coaches can fix it. The back 4 on Monday showed promise, if that group keeps training together we have to hope they can get it together. All we should do is be realistic and hope for the best!

  7. All this experimenting is really frustrating to witness. That way we will keep seeing just flashes and never improve. Shin should settle on one lineup and just let thm play through till the world cup, making small adjustments after each game. We dont have the time to invent Asias ManCity. The players and assistants should really make that clear to Shin otherwise its gonna be a desaster.
    Do you guys really think Son didnt see Hwang? He did the same against Columbia where it was obvious he saw him…Ive actually never seen such a selfish player.

    • Paul I totally agree that Shin needs to settle on a system and stick with it for the next two friendlies and at the World Cup. Hopefully this disaster will be the end of his constant experimentation.

      In terms of Son, let’s not rush to say he is such a selfish player. He is the striker and star of the team. He’s under lots of pressure and Jae put it well on Twitter when he said Son is trying too hard. I think Son saw Hwang and made a bad choice. He must’ve decided that Hwang wasn’t in the best position to score. After he did all that dribbling, he absolutely had to score! It looks bad that he didn’t but there’s more to this than just being selfish. It’s just as much a rushed decision because he’s trying to do well for the national team, something he has struggled to do in the past.

    • I don’t exactly blame Son for being selfish because I’m not sure I’m confident Hwang can bury that shot. I’d give Son a higher likelihood… BUT… the point is (and where I kinda agree with you) it’s just a friendly. Win/lose doesn’t matter- Son should have used the opportunity to work with Hwang and build that trust because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if they score or not. Maybe son is trying to build his own confidence within the KNT at this point but I kinda doubt it- we know he can score with the KNT and the other guys have to build their confidence as well.

      • This is a very good point Jon! You could see the frustration on Hwang’s face that the pass didn’t come. Even if he ultimately does miss that shot, it still builds trust and chemistry between them if Son passes, which they have been lacking!

        • Aw shucks..
          Anyway hope these guys can make the most of the opportunity. Not progressing from this group is no failure. Not building towards the future is a huge failure.
          1- Italy, Netherlands, Chile, and USA have zero opportunity and are gonna be watching the tournament from home. There’s no guarantee SK will make it in 2022.
          2- Australia had the worst draw in 2014 and still played great, with pride, and building young players for the future- even though they didn’t advance, it laid the seeds for them winning the next Asian cup. They’re in a shitty group again this year but just destroyed Czech Republic in their friendly today. Who knows what will happen- valuing the opportunity at hand is the name of the game

          • Great point about Australia! We have to fight hard and build for the future regardless of the results. If we do well, we can celebrate but we must show fighting spirit in every game.

    • I don’t think Son is selfish or greedy, as most netizens would say. I think he is anxious and he is easily crumble under pressure. That has to do with his mentality.

      Set aside that he’s still not fully healed yet from his ankle injury (his ankle probably still needs some rest), he is faced with huge amount of expectation from the press and nation to do good. In such a way, he is trying to prove himself and SK that he can do it. Because of this type of thinking, he crumbles under the pressure. If he gets the belief that other can do the goal scoring, then he wouldn’t make such action.

      While Son did score a banger in Hondura game, I think Son still needs time to get fit again. It seems to me that his ankle is not fully healed. His shot lacks the power and expertise that he usually has.

      • I don’t disagree with any of this. But I am curious- are expectations really high in Korea right now for this team? They have a very tough group and the team has been pretty bad for awhile. Also, my friends in Korea don’t seem to care much about the sport these days, even the KNT. I know the World Cup has brought a certain “excitement” in Korea since 2002, but I’m not there right now and get the impression that it has decreased a bit since 2014.

        If there really are high expectations, that is a huge problem (I know how Koreans can be with expectations, but still… in this case, I’m still surprised). Because it is entirely possible that we beat Sweden, tie with Mexico, and lose to Germany, and we don’t get out of the group. And I would consider that an incredible success with the group we are in and the players we have…

        Also, consider that the most important position in football is the goalkeeper. Son could score 4 goals, but our goalie could let in 5. That’s not Son’s problem… and honestly, I wouldn’t even blame the goalie! I blame the KFA for not building our defense and goalkeepers when we’ve been in dire need of it… there’s a reason only attack-minded Korean players find success in Europe, and it has a lot to do with the Stone Age mindset of select Korean ajeossis.

        • So every time the World Cup comes around the pulse of the nation does still return to the KNT. I cannot measure it because I don’t live there anymore either. But I think it’s the World Cup, Korea are always expected to chase the dreams of 2002 and when they don’t, the fans are mad. That’s Korea.

          Your expectations are correct, but Korea wants to advance to the round of 16 on foreign soil for just the second time in their history! That’s expectations I would think. A commenter like Tavern writer Jae Chee can back me up or disagree on this.

          The point about the defense is absolutely right on the money. Why the KFA youth system is still struggling to produce good defenders is beyond any of us. Park Ji-sung and a German youth coach have begun to revamp the youth program, hopefully we see results. On the GK front, this is the last generation of poor goalkeepers. The next generation is very strong. Song Bum-keun already starts for Jeonbuk Hyundai at age 20 and got offers to play in the Bundesliga but turned them down to get experience in the K League first before trying to move to the EU. I imagine he gets an exemption soon and goes to an EU club. Gu Sung-yun is 24 and made the reserve list for the WC and a journalist that we know covering J League actually rated him as the best Korean GK in the J League, over Kim Seung-gyu. We will finally have a successor to Lee Woon-jae!

    • And by the way, Paul, you said you’ve never seen such selfish player, have you seen Ronaldo play? Ronaldo rarely pass his teammates, he’s the standard model of selfish player. Only thing is Ronaldo can get away with it even though sometime he misses the chances.

  8. Great post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post.

    I wonder if Coach Shin ever watched the Tottenham games where Eric Dier had to fill in for CB because those were overall, not great. So I don’t even understand why he would think KSY would be a good fill in as CB especially as a lone one especially when he probably has not played that role professionally.
    But Korea has to go with a 4 back system to be able to keep up in the WC. It was cringe-worthy to watch the defense get wrecked like that today. Shin needs to get his act together, be smart about his decisions, and be realistic. There is a lot of talent in the KNT, but Shin is not utilizing the players to their fullest potential.
    It will be interesting who Shin will keep in the roster for the WC. Can’t wait to find out.

    Thanks for the post and keep up the good work.

    • Thanks so much for the support! I read Ki practiced the CB role only the past few days, just a terrible idea from Shin to have him learn a new role so quickly. It is just discouraging to watch Shin trying to fit players into tactical roles that they aren’t ready for. He just isn’t using players in their best positions and it showed in this match and also against Honduras. We will have the news of the final squad very soon, stay tuned!

  9. I think Shin just really likes the back 3 and maybe wanted it to be korea’s main formation. He definitely needed at least 6 months to work on it. Hopefully, this game will be the final wake up call to give up on it.

    Also, I hope he doesn’t call out players in the media again. It can hurt the relationship between players and him. Stielike had this problem. Alex Ferguson made up all kinds of excuses like blaming the grass and referees to protect his players. Instead, he bashed and cursed at his players in the locker room. Hair dryer treatment?

    • Yeah, overall a puzzling post match press conference to say the least. There had to be frustration from everyone that they couldn’t get the win in front of the fans, but it’s the manager’s job to stay calm and accept responsibility for the loss and talk about doing better going forward.

  10. Alright so maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised about Korea losing this game… There goes any sense of optimism I feel about this team for a while. But, it’s not like we were anywhere close to playing to our potential. Playing at Ki at center back and experimenting with a back 3 at this stage is maddening. Also, is Suk HJ free to partner with Son up top? Can someone check his calendar? Alright, going to let it go now and accept that Suk isn’t going to the World Cup. Let’s put Lee SW up top with Son. Hwang’s touch absolutely failed him. And I don’t get the sense that those two enjoy playing together… Hwang’s pass behind Son early on and then Son denying a wide open Hwang. Sigh. Back to the drawing board. Wish we had Kim Min jae and Kim Jin su.

    Also, is it just me or is Cho Hyun-woo the better keeper? Why doesn’t Kim Seung gyu want to catch anything? I know it’s not his fault that Bosnia scored 3, but I just don’t feel very confident with him between the sticks.

    • Cho Hyun-woo is the more confident keeper, that is my take. Kim Seung-gyu can make great reflex saves. However, when Kim is asked to make a hard decision to come out or stay on his line, or has to jump for a cross, he struggles.

      Son and Lee SW have good chemistry. That’s your best bet, Suk is going to the Asian Games so watch out in September for him.

  11. Yeah, Son has gotten into the habit of getting tunnel vision at Tottenham. I like how he’s always hungry to score, but he’s no Harry Kane.

    Maybe the lack of solid defensive players has made Shin want to go with a 3 backline. Not sure which team he wants to implement this tactic against. Mexico is too fast- Chicharito and dos Santos will chew them up. Germany’s B-Squad is too clinical for the Korean midfield to control the ball. Sweden’s weakness in central mid might allow for this to work but Forsberg coming from the flank is going to give the defense nightmares with his precision crosses. Sweden’s defense is underrated in my opinion. I don’t think Son or Hwang or whomever is going to impose their will in this formation against them.

    With such low expectations, maybe this tactic isn’t such a bad idea. Go big or go home. The threat of getting embarrassed is probably more of a motivator so I doubt he will actually implement this.

  12. Keno, I am going to politely disagree with you on the back 3. If you don’t have solid defensive players experienced at playing a back 3, it doesn’t help you solidify the back line. What we saw this morning was chaos at the back because no one knew where they were supposed to be. These defenders are just more comfortable with a back 4 and we should play one.

  13. Guys, great to see a lot of thoughts being exchanged on this site. I actually just found this site while searching for some extra info on the upcoming Korea-Bolivia match. Having followed the South Korean national team since ’02, I would also like to share some of my thoughts regarding the Korea-Bosnia match. First off, Korea was never gonna beat Bosnia with that lineup and the type of formation they deployed, especially at home. I also agree that right before the Worldcup, Shin shouldn’t be testing too many different formations. Our team has never been good defensively and always lacked teamwork. The only reason we did so well in 2002 was because we stayed compact and pressed while defending most of the time. Its too late to try something new at this stage IMO. I still think we should stick to the basics- The guys still have trouble communicating with each other. Their first touch is horrible, they don’t look for their team mates to make that through pass, they’re always 1-2 second late to react (how many times do we see someone pass to a teammate only for the ball to go out the byline), they lack focus/concentration, and they’re always shifting responsibility to one another. The best players in the team as we could all agree are Son, Ki, and Huang. Its a mental thing. Because they play in Europe, they learned to play with more agression, have better movement, use their body well, and also, play selfishly without being concerned whether their teammate(s) will complain about it. Some people say Son should’ve passed, but I don’t agree. The game against Honduras, he could’ve passed, but instead, he took that shot and scored. Had it not been for his goal, I think that game would’ve ended up being 0-0. I cannot stress enough that our players are not that bad. Its just they always seem to be afraid of the ball sometimes. That WC 2010 game against Algeria was so bad. Apologies for going back and forth when this page is supposed to be about the Bosnia match. I want to believe that Korea can go through to the knockout stages by taking second place. I also want to believe these extra friendlies can help the players’ confidence and enable them to beat Sweden, draw with Mexico, and with the third match against the Germans, which could be a game the Germans don’t need to win, Korea could snatch a point and progress. This could only happen if the Koreans can stay compact and work hard for each other.

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