Korea 1:0 Philippines / Close Shave to start Asian Cup campaign (v.2)

알막툼스타디움(두바이, UAE)/ 2019 AFC 아시안컵/ 남자A대표팀/ C조/ 조별예선 1차전/ 한국 vs 필리핀/ 황의조/ 사진 정재훈

Rashid Al-Maktoum Stadium, Dubai / United Arab Emirates

In their bid to erase a 60 year hex, Korea started on their Asian Cup journey, gathering 3 points in less than satisfactory fashion and avoiding the shocking upset narrative running throughout the opening matches of the tournament (who could’ve forecasted Australia to lose to Jordan or India dispatching Thailand, resulting in Milovan Rejavac getting sacked immediately afterward). A 67th minute Hwang Ui-jo strike along with some heart-attack inducing saves from Kim Seung-gyu was enough to hold off dark horse Asian Cup debutants Philippines, led by decorated manager Sven-Göran Eriksson.  A concern post-match is Ki Sung-Yeung- the Newcastle holding midfielder left the game with a hamstring injury and was seen limping to the locker room. Let’s get to the plot of the match before making some assessments of this first game.






Bento sends out a standard 4-2-3-1, having seen his 3 man backline experiment sputter to a scoreless draw in the January 1st friendly with Saudi Arabia. Kim Seung-Gyu with the nod at GK despite Cho Hyun-Woo’s heroics for the KNT since the World Cup. With Hong Chul still in injury-recovery mode, Kim Jin-Su (who recovered recently from a long term knee injury) slotted in at leftback. Of course, no Son Heung-Min until possibly the last group stage match with China – as per the deal negotiated with the KFA and Tottenham for his participation in the Asian Games last summer (if you’ve been living in a cave and just emerged, Korea won the Gold medal and with it – a dramatic last ditch military exemption for him and his teammates).


Korea started the match with the lion’s share of possession, but was too slow and/or lacked passing precision to cause too much problems for Philippine’s keeper Michael Falkesgaard.  Philippines for their part played ultra defensive 5-4-1, but as Korea created more headaches for themselves with sloppy play from heavy touches and misplaced passes, the ‘Street Hounds’ sensed counter attacking opportunities. Indeed, those chances came and Korea scrambled to contain a rampaging Shröck down the left flank (who artfully weaved past Kim Jin-Su) and Buriram United’s Javier Patiño. Fortunately for Korea, the appearance of calm confidence from Kim Seung-gyu was backed up by several brilliant saves, 2 from point blank range.

Korea kept on the attack, finding Hwang Ui-jo several times, but Hwang was unable to find the back of the net. To be fair, Ui-jo was unlucky with 2 of his strikes – both bobbled past Falkesgaard, but one slightly deflected away from goal and out of bound – the other cleared by Woodland.

The first half ended and one could feel the frustration building somewhat in Korea’s camp, as the ponderous start to their campaigned similarly mirrored events from the Saudi Arabia tune up match a few days ago. Some of the few positives included an overwhelming 70% ball possession enjoyed by Korea; however the team seemed out of sorts compared to the fluid ‘Bento ball’ style that had impressed the critics since the Portuguese manager assumed control last summer.  Several players didn’t look match fit, including Kim Jin-Su and Lee Jae-sung. Lee Yong, while he had some effective crosses, had his share of eye rolling moments (dribbled the ball out of bounds while under no pressure). Jung Woo-Young and Koo Ja-Cheol gave away the ball far too often. Lee Jae-Sung and Ki started to become invisible as the half wore on.


The ponderousness continued on into the 2nd half with Hwang Hee-Chan and Hwang Ui-jo missing chances created. Cue the Philippines to take advantage of Korea’s disconnect, which this Tavern live tweet illustrates:

Not long after Philippines comes back at Korea after enduring waves of fruitless Korean attacks, Kim Min-Jae and Jung Woo-Young beated with clever footwork by Patiño, only for Kim Jin-Su sliding in to tackle the ball away momentarily – ball makes a fortuitous hop back to Patiño – he shoots point blank and Kim Seung-gyu comes up huge to making another death defying save.

Ki had to come out in the 58th minute with a hamstring injury (currently at a hospital awaiting an MRI). Bento hit the reset button, starting with Hwang Im-Beom for Ki and 5 minutes later with Lee Chung-Yong in for Koo Ja-Cheol.  Bento also moved Hwang Hee-chan more centrally; he had been playing on the wings, but appeared to link up with Ui-jo more efficiently. It paid off dividends as the attack, which constantly sputtered with each misplaced pass by a number of their attackers, started to look far more composed and precise.

Suddenly in the 67th minute, a promising Korean buildup finally had a pay out: Lee Yong carves out space with a fake kick, gets it to Lee Chung-Yong. The Blue Dragon frees up Hwang Hee-Chan – he drives towards the goal under pressure but turns his body and quickly chops the ball back toward Hwang Ui-jo lurking nearby.  He takes a touch – with defenders closing down on him on all sides, takes a shot while falling backwards and violà: GOAL.  Not an easy strike to pull off at all – it’s a fantastic goal to conclude a well executed and exciting buildup.


Korea would stay on the attack, all the Hwangs (Im-beom, Hee-chan) connected to get the ball to Ui-jo who found himself one on one with the keeper – only to shoot straight at Falkesgaard and preventing a doubling of the scoreline. Several more mouthwatering Korean chances go by the wayside before the Philippines tried to claw back an equalizer. Korea would wind up hanging on to the 1:0 until the full time whistle.






  • Not Korea’s finest match, but 3 points is in the bag. It is said that some tournament winning teams start slowly with the objective of improving chemistry and efficiency for the long game. Korea has high expectations to go far in the tournament and perhaps that long game general idea is also in Bento’s war plans.
  • The lack of goals and ruthlessness against Asian Cup debutants was alarming. Hwang Ui-jo cuts an interesting figure, at times a punching bag when he’s not clinical or when he’s unable to link well with teammates / other times hero for scoring pivotal goals for club and country. Somehow in one match both sides of Ui-jo were on display.
  • What will the effect of Ki Sung-yeung out injured mean for team Korea? When Lee Chung-yong left the 2015 edition of the Asian Cup injured – the loss of an effective attacking midfielder might have made the difference as Korea defeated Australia in the group stage – only to lose to the very same team in extra time later on in the title match. Still it might be too early to tell what’s going to happen – Ki might return if injuries aren’t too serious.  Korea can still take stock in the fact that Hwang Im-beom, deputized in for Ki in the 2nd half, did very well in the holding mid role.
  • While Kim Jin-Su had a slightly better 2nd half, his first half can be singled out for criticism.  Did Bento err in not selecting Park Joo-Ho now that Hong Chul is injured and Kim Jin-Su is still trying to regain his pre-knee-injury form?
  • Hwang Hee-Chan casts a similar conundrum with Hwang Ui-jo in which he seemingly has as many positives as deficits he brings to this tournament. He’s hard working, fast, has some tricky footwork in his locker, (occasionally) clinical and dangerous on the counter – but also displays some cringe worthy moments with misplaced passes or heavy touches.  Nevertheless, like Ui-jo, he was a difference maker today with the incisive cut-to-the-inside pass to Ui-jo that delivered the game winner.
  • We mention Lee Chung-Yong yet again as his introduction in the 2nd half, replacing a sloppy version of Koo today, was a positive Bento move that saved the day for Korea. Lee was magnificent and the veteran showed why he’s still so valuable despite being 30 years of age. Moving the ball adroitly, he injected not only precision -but as odd as it is to say it- a sense of joy to a team laboring under the weight of its own mistakes. In the build up to the goal, Lee’s sense of when to release Hwang Hee-Chan was spot on. When Korea had the goal advantage and played keep away for a spell with Philippines, Lee’s sparkled with some swaggering footwork.  For a team that doesn’t usually display champaign football – Lee seemed to be willing it closer to that mark.

Steve Han made this observation (with passing map) on twitter re: Bento moving Hwang Hee-Chan from left wing to a more centrally positioned role in the 2nd half:


Still to make an entrance in the tournament: Lee Seung-woo, who joined the team after several injuries, notably Na Sang-ho, left Bento with mere hours to secure the services Hellas Verona player (on holiday in Korea).



Next up:  on Friday January 11th at 11am US EST / Saturday January 12th at 3am Korea Time.  


Extra Time: in the other group match, Kyrgyzstan looked en route to upsetting China and ahead by a lone goal. The cinderella storyline came to a crashing halt as Kyrgyzstan conceded 2 goals in shocking fashion and eventually lost 2:1. The first goal conceded was a howler own goal, netminder Matiash failing to tip the ball over the net – instead tipping it right into his own net. The 2nd, Matiash came off his line too quickly, allowing substitute Yu Dabao to round him and score easily.


Extra Extra Time: been meaning to update on events in Europe for awhile now – but you may have missed Kwon Chang-Hoon‘s return to Dijon. About time: he scored in Dijon’s 1:3 win at Schiltigheim in the 3rd round of the French Cup. A welcome return to action for the former Suwon Bluewing’s midfielder -who missed out the World Cup for Korea agonizing fashion having a terrible knee injury in the last match of the season for Dijon (a breakout season in which he recorded double digits for his Ligue 1 club).


About Roy Ghim 454 Articles
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  1. I have been shaking my head at Kim Seung Gyu playing instead of Cho Hyun Woo. I’ve never been that impressed by him to be honest.
    Today I take it all back, because that dude saved our asses. Philippines could have beaten us if it hadn’t been for him. I guess Bento knows what he’s doing.

    • My thoughts exactly, always felt KSG was a bit disappointing cuz iirc a lot was expected of him (heir to Lee Woon Jae etc.), never did seem to live up to billing. Never so happy to have my gut proven wrong.

      • Both GKs came to play today. Falkesgaard’s point blank save on Hwang Uijo was really good. I think the Philippines are gonna be 2nd or 3rd in this group and should get to the knockout rounds. Good defense, decent counterattack, good coach. Hats off to them for a stern test to start off.

    • I really didn’t give Kim Seung-gyu as much credit as he deserves today in this recap. His goalkeeping interventions were spot on and saved Korea from utter disaster. I didn’t see anything to complain about in his execution today, except…his distributions were ok, save for one error that he didn’t get punished for.

  2. The way I’d like to see it, this game of 2 halves is like the friendlies in Aus: 1st half was the Aus tie, all rusty & out of sorts. 2nd half was Uzbekistan, or at least closer to it.

    Now that 1st competitive match jitters are out of the way, hoping things click from here on out, all the guys find their groove & team synergy and all those nice things. And when Son arrives, he slips right in w/out missing a beat 🙂

  3. This is a perfect assessment to the match by Ghim. The Koreans were slow and unimaginative. It looked like they were waiting for the Philippines to just let them score. The Koreans weren’t just taking it to them. I couldn’t but help to imagine how this squad’s performance would have been embarrassed against one of the World Cup nations.

    • Umm, but we’re not at the World Cup right now. Yeah, we got embarrassed at the World Cup twice. This was the first game of a different tournament. Also, Philippines might sneakily be the second best team in the group. We just gotta look better against Kyrgyz Republic and China.

      But yes, Iran, Japan, and maybe Australia would’ve beaten us today. But I mean, we’re still one of the favorites for the tournament. We go again on Friday.

      • Gotta agree. Don’t overreact (yet). We had to get 3 points and we got it. In a tournament like this, there’s no point in smashing a team like the Philippines. Also, you can’t judge the team fully yet. I would be worried if we let them score on us, but we kept a clean sheet. One goal is enough, 3 points, move onto the next match. We have to build up to the tougher competition.

        The team said that they played the game exactly the way that they wanted and expected to, and I actually believe them.

        Also, remember that at the last Asian Cup we started off pretty slow as well.

  4. First things first: the team got the necessary 3 points. Let’s not forget Korea started the 2015 Asian Cup with a narrow 1-0 win over Oman. That tournament, the team really didn’t start clicking until the knockout stage… Korea really benefits from the China match being the last one of the group. Gives the team a chance to gel and get some of the nerves out of the way. They still created chances this match and retained a ton of possession. Really think if a few bounces went a bit differently, scoreline could’ve been more than just 1-0 (though, the same thing could be said on the flip side if it weren’t for Kim SG).

    Let’s also not forget that this team is missing its absolute best player right now. Imagine Argentina without Messi or Portugal without Ronaldo (wait, I suppose Portugal won Euros without CR7…). My point being that Son will bring a steadying presence to the squad and help create and convert a bunch of chances (hopefully his blistering hot Spurs form carries over).

    What’s the latest on Ki? This would be a huge loss if he’s out for the rest of the tournament, which seems likely at this point? An even bigger loss than Lee CY going out injured at the 2015 Asian Cup.

    Finally, I can’t believe there isn’t a service that I can pay for to stream these games. I am willing to spend my money to watch the Asian Cup from the states! However, I wish the game weren’t weekday mornings here on the East Coast… quite disruptive with work.

    • I actually don’t think it’s gonna be that bad if we lose Ki. I hope he doesn’t get a long injury but even if he misses a few matches we have the players in the squad that know what his role is and can try to fill it. And him coming off the bench if that’s what works best for his health should work too.

      In terms of the streaming rights in the US, it does kind of stink. I wanted it to be on FuboTV since they get BeIN Sports. But unfortunately, there is a difference between the BeIN European channels and the Middle East channels. Because yes, I too would pay for these games. I feel like it is just the life of Asian and African football atm. Not deemed as good enough for the rest of the sports world to care.

  5. Any reason why KSG is playing over CHW? I applaud KSG recent performance, but it seems that Bento hasn’t given CHW the same amount of quality chances that KSG is getting. Does it have something to do with their respective club performances (I don’t follow these results)?

    • It probably doesn’t have much to do with their club performances. Both KSG and CHW are the No 1 GK at their clubs and play consistently there.

      It’s just more of Bento’s choice right now that KSG is a better fit. Bento leans more towards the modern, play out from the back GK who can play with his feet well. Between the 2, KSG right now fits that role better. The best example of CHW not fitting that role was the Panama draw. The sequence that led to the Nam Tae-hee back pass mistake was started by CHW being indecisive about passing out from the back. His pass was dangerous, Hwang In-beom barely won the 50-50 to keep possession and by then Nam was under a lot of pressure.

      That seems to me the most glaring moment where Bento may have decided that CHW wasn’t the right GK for right now. Both GKs are very close in terms of skill, but KSG edges it out with better passing.

  6. I think this Asian Cup is something that every footballing nations should keep an eye on. The next World Cup in Qatar will be similar to UAE in terms of climate and date. Players that are not used to playing in these conditions struggled a lot. I hope Korea can overcome desert climate conditions and start playing their best.

    • Good point. The next match Korea plays, kickoff will be 9:30pm local time – temperatures fortunately at 70 degrees F/ 21 degrees C. next week the daytime temperatures rise to 82 degrees F/ 28 degrees C. Who knows what the temperatures will be into the AC knockout stage but I can’t imagine the WC played in the middle of summer over there.

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