Yesterday the East Asian Cup came to a close. It started with so much promise. But the last two games, especially last night’s, really took some of the optimism and shine away. A full tournament review will be up tomorrow, but for now, a short review of last night.
Hong Myeong-Bo sent out the same XI that started the game against Australia.
Alberto Zaccheroni also sent out the same XI from Japan’s first game against China.
Korea started brightly, using Hong’s “Korean style” of play. A bit direct, physical, and high pressure in midfield. And it seemed to work, for the most part. Japan struggled to put their mark on the game, instead settling for counters here and there, but mainly just absorbing pressure. Korea used their fullbacks well, and Kim Chang-Soo in particular found lots of space and crossing chances. Unfortunately, Kim’s crossing leaves a bit to be desired, and no real chances came from them.
Japan eventually started dropping deeper, and became a very compact defensive side. Most Korean attacks were easily stifled as they neared the Japanese final third. Japan did well to really change their tactics, from being a passing, midfield-oriented team to being a defensive, counter-attacking team.
The game really never changed in terms of it’s flow or style. Korea pretty much always controlled the possession with Japan looking to be more opportunistic.
In what was Korea’s biggest (and only real) test of the tournament, I would give Korea a barely passing grade. Maybe a C+ overall. There are certainly areas that the team did well, but others that were still quite poor. The team has a wealth of midfield talent, but is lacking in other areas that desperately need to be addressed. Forward is certainly the most pressing concern now that the defense has been straightened out a bit with the emergence of Kim Young-Kwon and return of Hong Jeong-Ho. At the very end, for a few minutes, Hong tried a strikerless formation. Something I’ve been thinking about, and Jinseok is in the process of writing about. I’m not sure if it’s the final answer, but something must be done, or at least tried, to remedy Korea’s scoring drought.
Credit where it’s due. Japan did well. You can point to the poor possession stats, the few shots they managed, the constant pressure, but Japan did what they needed to. And ultimately, that’s what matters. When I watched the Japan side at the Confederations Cup last month, I commented that they lacked a plan B. A way to cope with sides that force Japan out of their normal style. Granted this Korean team isn’t on the same level as any of the Confed Cup opponents, but Japan showed they can adapt. They defended well, and their first chance was very nicely taken. It be a B or C team, but Japan seems to be a good track (as much as I hate to admit).
Jung Sung-Ryong 5.5 – Not much he could have done on either goal. A little shaky at times though. Still makes me think we really need to be looking at future alternatives more.
Kim Chang-Soo 5.0 – His crossing remains fairly poor, and was badly caught out on Japan’s first goal. Why he was so far behind the others is a mystery. Also got caught out a bit for Japan’s second.
Hong Jeong-Ho 6.0 – Largely comfortable against the Japanese attack, but suffered a bit towards the end as Korea threw men forward.
Kim Young-Kwon 6.0 – Defensively comfortable, but not able to impact the game as much on the offensive end like he did against Australia.
Kim Jin-Su 6.0 – Did okay. His crossing was better than his right back counterpart, and his set piece delivery was acceptable.
Lee Myeong-Joo 6.0 – Did fairly well. Was his usual self.
Ha Dae-Sung 5.5 – Not as good as against Australia. Battled as usual, but seemed at bit off the pace of the game at times. Confirms to me that he is a useful squad player, but not good enough to be a regular.
Go Yo-Han 5.5 – Combined well with Kim Chang-Soo, but didn’t do enough for me in attack.
Lee Seung-Gi 5.5 – Kind of like Ha Dae-Sung, a potentially useful squad player, but not ready for the big time yet.
Yoon Il-Rok 6.5 – Scored a screamer of a goal.
Kim Dong-Seob 5.0 – Too anonymous this game. Had one good chance early when put through, but his took too many touches and narrowed his angle too much. Doesn’t seem to have the necessary striker confidence at this level yet.
Hong Myeong-Bo 6.0 – His starting tactics were spot on, but his changes left a bit to be desired. In the first Hong vs Zac battle, the victory goes to the Italian.
Go Mu-Yeol 5.5 – Came on and was fairly quiet.
Cho Young-Cheol 5.5 – An attempt at a false 9, that didn’t work too well.
Kim Shin-Wook S.V. – Came on for the last few minutes. Won his aerial headers as always, but no end product or anything useful.
I won’t say much about the sporting aspect since that will be covered more in tomorrow’s post, but I did want to briefly talk about the political stuff. In yesterday’s game both sets of fans brought Korea and Japan’s complicated, and bitter, past into the stadium. Korean fans displayed a banner that read, “There is no future for those who forget their history” as well as one that displayed the picture of Ahn Jung-Geun. Ahn, is a man who assassinated Ito Hirobumi (the Japanese Prime Minister and Resident General of Korea in the early days of Japanese colonization of Korea).
The second banner is a protest to the Japanese government, who over the past several years have attempted to “white wash” their history. Changing the texts taught in Japanese schools, and politicians who have come out recently to deny the evils and wrongdoings done during the colonization.
Of course, Japanese fans were not clean as well. With one managing to bring in the controversial ‘rising sun’ flag. The flag if you’re not familiar with it is widely seen in Asia as a symbol of Japan’s militaristic past.
While politics and football go hand-in-hand in Europe and other parts of the world, it is highly uncommon in Asia and Korea. It’s unusual to see such openly provocative signs at matches, even ones as high tension as this, in Korea.
While I’m a huge fan of charged rivalries, it’s unfortunate that these things made it into the stadium, and that the officials in charge either, A) allowed it to happen or B) did their jobs so poorly. All three things are quite large, so it’s not like they snuck them in under their shirt or anything.
I’m hopeful that in the future, these kind of things can stay out of the stadiums.