Korea 1 : Costa Rica 3 recap + video

Just like that, a 1-3 loss to Costa Rica, coming right after last Friday with Uli Stielike’s first game and first win (vs Paraguay) in charge of the KNT. Pop. But lest anyone is tempted to start throwing sh*t (or yeots for that matter), this was an international friendly – an ongoing experiment –and if there was such a thing as an appropriate loss whereby more can be gained in examination than lost – this could be it. That begs the question: what exactly did we learn in this match? There’s a hanguk word that comes to mind – ‘Ku-sae…’  

Before we go further, my router died right before HT, I missed Korea’s goal and the subsequent backheel by Borges at the restart. What better time for a router to die, am I right?  Thanks to my buddy Sung Mingi, he brought his router to the Tavern and it was game on again.  However my impression of the game was limited, but why don’t we hit the highlights and then take some positive and negative snapshots juxtaposed together? Shi-jak!

Uli continued the conventional 4-2-3-1 with a more trad look about the starting XI:

well trad except for Jang Hyun-Soo, who normally plays in the backline, he was installed as a deeper mid. According to Jae, 3 KNT managers, Choi Kang-hee, Hong Myong-Bo and now Uli have experimented with Jang as a deep mid – who normally plays in the back at Guangzhou R&F.  Some more changes from the Paraguay match, Cha Du-Ri at RB and Kim Seung-gyu as netminder.


Other than Lee Dong-Guk up front, we got to see Park Joo-Ho at LB. Fresh from winning Asia Gold and military exemption, he looked eager to get things started right and had a good look at goal with a long distance shot, just wide and high in the 11th minute. Unfortunately Park would leave the game just a few minutes later with what looked like a scary ankle injury after a Costa Rica player rolled on top of him.


Kim Min-Woo was the surprise sub, playing out of position in place of Park. Korea as usual went gangbusters on the offensive early on, but the Costa Rica strategy in absorbing the attack partly consisted of lots of fouling -followed by nada Korean goals from the ensuing free kicks.  It would be Costa Rica who would get closest to getting one in the net, a goalmouth scramble looked like the ball was on the verge, but quick reflexes of Kim Ju-Young cleared it off the line.


It was an entertaining first half, a fairly well fought battle between the 2 sides, but shit got real in the 37th minute with the first strike by Borges, a cross that was mis-cleared off 2 Korean defenders before the Costa Rican international swept it to the right of the outstretched arms of Kim Seung-Gyu. I’m going to paraphrase from Takeuchi musing on BSK forum -he breaks down the defensive letdown as there’s several moving parts in all this: Son was slow in defending the early cross, Kim Young-Gwon doesn’t cut off the cross but instead.. leaves it to Kim Min-Woo against Costa Rican target forward (clear height advantage), and Jang Hyun-Soo fails to track/mark [Borges] who scores from the knocked down ball.


Korea regrouped efficiently, with newcomer Kim Min-Woo so close to scoring -his shot clanging off the crossbar. And then it happened: a nice build up to equalize right before HT. From what I can gather: Jang Hyun-Soo to Nam Tae-Hee -he finds Son who weaves his way in from the right and delivers the killer cross to Lee Dong-Gook who manages to flick it in for the equalizer. However, right after the restart, David Ramirez was giving all sorts of trouble right of goal, crosses to Borges who elegantly backheels to finds the back of the net again – another defensive lapse. Wash, rinse, repeat. At this point, let’s show the youtube highlight reel of the goals scored


The 3rd goal, headed in by Oscar Duarte on a Ruiz corner was kind of flukey – it should’ve been called back for obstructing the goalkeeper.  Still it points to backline fail on yet another set piece, with what appears to be Kim Young-Gwon ball watching.  



Son Heung-Min, despite not scoring this international break – put in a decent shift and was Korea’s most consistent attacking threat to Costa Rica. In the 2nd half he had a magnificent run, but with defenders trying to close him down by the edge of the penalty area, opted not to shoot but passed it off to Lee Dong-Guk.  The 35 year old Jeonbuk man couldn’t latch on and complained to Son that it was too heavy weighted for him to get to it. In hindsight, perhaps Son could’ve been a bit more selfish and taken the shot.   Late in the game and fighting time in search of another goal, Ki Sung-Yeung in an advanced position tried to get on bouncing ball sent in the area but whiffed on the ensuing volley shot. To make up for it, Ki scored on a set piece with 2 minutes to go- but was ruled offsides, just by a hair.  As the game was coming to a close, Ki sent a killer pass into the area, but while Han Gyo-Wan couldn’t get onto it, Lee Dong-Gook did. His shot passively went right to Navas. Final whistle blows  – Korea 1 : WC mojo intact Costa Rica 3.


Things we learned from the game: 

      • Lee Dong-Guk: you can look at him in one sense – that he scored the only Korean goal, but one can make the case that Korea only managed to score a single goal and not more –because of him.  His movement off the ball and ability to disrupt Korea’s attacking flow is a clear liability for team Korea. Sure, Korea enjoyed 57% possession, but their effectiveness in the final third is suspect. LDG, like his performance with Paraguay,was mostly a clogging affair -except when he happens to be luckily in the way and scores. The striker problem for Korea continues…



  • Kim Seung-Dae and Lee Myeong-Joo- why weren’t they utilized during these friendlies?  Staying on Lee Dong-Guk for a moment longer, a slightly troubling quote from Uli in the postmatch:

Hmmmm….It’s best if we just move on…

  • Nam Tae-Hee, not a flawless game, but impressed overall.
  • Kim Min-Woo -nervous initially after coming in for Park Joo-Ho – played out of position but settled and had a decent performance.  Nice vision and crisp passing.
  • Speaking of Joo-Ho, fortunately he only has an ankle sprain and should make a timely recovery for Mainz. (Whew!)  I know it’s just a mere friendly, but I wonder how the game would have been imprinted differently had Park stayed for the full 90?
  • The experiment with Jang Hyun-Soo as deep mid might be over. He was found lacking – though to be fair he was part of the build up to the one Korean goal.
  • Despite his boss Lippi in the stands, Kim Young-Gwon had a number of things going wrong for him at CB tonight. Is it time for a new CB?  The defense as a whole has holes – but hey, what’s new?
  • Han Kook-Young- better as a super sub than a starting holding midfield partner with Ki?


Stay tuned, Jae will be really deconstructing the 2 friendlies, the first series of games with new boss Uli Stielike in charge.  Jury is still out, with only 2 games in. Nothing to over-react to, there are things to be excited about, yet things to continue to be concerned about (defense and striker position – again nothing new there).  2 more ‘Asia Cup tuneup matches’ in November – against Jordan and Iran. Stay tuned.


PS, our old pal Guus Hindink is in a bit of pickle, Netherlands losing their last 2 matches, including a Euro qualifying match yesterday to Iceland! Ki’s Swansea teammate Siggurdsson scoring the double to seal 3 points for team Iceland. Huge upsets in the qualifiers so far including Germany posting a rare loss and a draw this weekend has me wondering if the football world order is upending – or just a sign of the impending apocalypse?


Meanwhile, John Duerden posted in the Guardian his top 40 future ’97 prospects including Pohang’s Seo Jung-Hyun. Did you know: Pohang’s U18 defeated Manchester City’s U18 last year at a tournament in the UAE?


Finally, we talked in our last Tavern Hangout about Lee Seung-Woo -is there a danger of ‘Freddy Adu’ syndrome if he is brought to the KNT senior squad too quickly – or is that being too cautious?  If his trajectory is such that he can eventually live up to the hype, then what’s the best timetable for his integration into the squad?  There’s no clear answers, but the NYT did a piece on just the subject of young teen footballers and the dilemma of burnout playing for club and country and the debate about best practices – with Raheem Sterling as their lead-off subject. You can read that here.

About Roy Ghim 454 Articles
The old Tavern Owner

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