Korea 2 : Saudi Arabia 0 in Test Friendly

I can’t believe I woke up for this – we didn’t make a lot of noise for this test friendly match between Saudi Arabia and Korea in prep for the Asia Cup for fear it could be a bit ugly (it was). Nevertheless, a few of the writers woke up in the middle of the night for this and here’s a quick rundown (which we will press upon the twitter option heavily to assist).

This was going to be a test of players who could compete for the essential Ki Sung-Yeung and Lee Chung-Yong roles – those 2 rested as they just joined from their festive season run of games in England/Wales.  Additionally, the question of defensive mid partnership with Ki, can Koo play the center, how the backline would fare and could someone, anyone show up and play up top as the center forward -all these would get some sort of answer tonight. Here’s a video highlight reel

Starting XI

…                  Lee Keun-Ho


Son Heung-Min         Koo Ja-Cheol  (captain)      Cho Young-Cheol


…                 Park Joo-Ho           Han Kook-Young


Kim Jin-Su     Jang Hyun-Soo    Kim Ju-Young      Kim Chang-Soo


…                           Kim Jin-Hyeon


First half could be summed up in one word: abysmal.  Some bright spots was Son Heung-Min. Actually the only positive worth mentioning as he was the only real offensive threat to the Saudis, getting in several quality shots at goal, one that deflected off their keeper only to rattle off the crossbar.

The bad?  The clean sheet by Korea belies the shockingly bad performance as a team in the first half.  The inability to string passes and link up (see Koo and Lee Keun-Ho), players getting caught out of position and losing possession in dangerous places (see Park Joo-Ho and Kim Jin-Su), it was clown football and Korea was lucky not to concede 2 or 3 goals. Only some excellent saves by Kim Jin-Hyeon prevented spectacular embarrassment.  The Saudis had quite a bit of time on the ball and space to work with – and nearly pulled off a bicycle kick goal -Nawaf Al abid taking charge but again Kim to the rescue with a brilliant save. Set peice defense was cringe worthy -Korea didn’t seem confident they could clear them effectively.  Here’s how the half ended:

2nd half, Uli makes some changes: Koo Ja-Cheol, Kim JIn-Su, Lee Keun-Ho, Kim Jin-Hyeon off. On: Nam Tae Hee, Lee Myeong-Joo, Han Kyo-Won, and Kim Seung-Gyu. Koo gave his captain armband to Park Joo-Ho -who I believe switched to left back, leaving LMJ to take over as defensive mid. 

  Here’s that last goal sequence on youtube:  Son’s free kick causes enough confusion for the Saudis to knock it in themselves, then a debut goal by Lee Jung-Hyub – this on his late substitute debut for the KNT.  Has Korea found their ‘diamond in the rough’ forward? Let’s figure out what we learned tonight:

    • Koo center of the mid and Lee Keun-ho up top doesn’t seem to work. That was double confirmed by their exit in the 2nd half, when the changes brought more cohesiveness and organized offense.  Too many miss-directed passes, lack of organized plan despite an energetic workrate was part of the reason the Saudis claimed an unusual lopsided possession rate in the 1st half.



    •  Son HAS to be on pitch for Korea. The only threat the 1st half, he was always in the mix in the 2nd half going forward. Great footwork as usual from the Leverkusen man – he provided quality on target shots, only some equally good saves by Saudis keeper prevented Sonaldo from getting on the scoresheet. Well, he sort of did, his 68th minute free kick lead to the on goal and broke the deadlock. He was a constant dangerman for Korea. Not sure but I thought perhaps he had a center forward role in the 2nd half – that’s something Uli was considering as an option.



    • Ki Sung-Yeung and Lee Chung-yong being rested was a good call. They need the rest and Korea needs them to be close to 100% for the Taeguk Warriorts to have any shot at the Asia Cup. We could all see how Korea in contrast looked very shaky without them.



    • Park Joo ho as defensive mid not effective tonight. Seemed to be a better fit as left back when he switched over in the 2nd half. (note: Kim Jin-Su had an off night, but I expect the Hoffenheim LB to get back to his usual consistent form during the tournament).



    • Nam Tae-hee was by far THE better option in the middle.  He had an outstanding run and cross to set up last goal.



    • Kim Chang-soo is starting to look like a decent RB option (decent footwork, surprisingly good runs, excellent vision to pick out Son long range). Credit Kim with the assist for the last goal – got onto Nam Tae-Hee’s cross before a calm pass to Lee Jung-Hyub  (can both Nam and Kim get credit with the assist?)



    •  Korea’s defense overall, especially in the first half, still left a lot to be desired. They looked more in sync in the 2nd half, but again, that first half…they were very lucky not to concede at least 2 Saudi goals.



    • Lee Jung-hyub has 1st game with KNT as a late 2nd half sub AND gets his 1st goal! During the most recent Tavern podcast previewing the Asia Cup, we wondered whether he could be the ‘Ji Dong-won’ of this tourney.


        Other test results: Oman defeated Jordan earlier but lost to China 4-1 yesterday. Today Iraq lost to Iran 0-1, Bahrain downed Jordan 1-0, and Japan won 2-0 against Auckland City.   We’d be remiss if we didn’t roundup the last several days of KPA action in Europe:

        • Kim Bo-Kyung was an unused sub in Cardiff’s FA Cup win against Colchester on Friday.



  • Ki’s last game with the Swans before flying to Australia ended on a personal good note on New Year’s Day: he notched his first assist of the season, just in the nick of time as they were down 1-0 against a stingy QPR side with only minutes to go in stoppage time.

Ki had a great game overall, long range passing simply brilliant – and footwork to evade the Rangers was lovely. His defensive game has also come a long way.  Swans were undone by some terrible officiating, Rob Green should’ve been red carded for handling the ball outside the area after Ki’s pass to Routledge.  Refs didn’t catch that and later committed another blunder when they red carded Routledge after he got dangerously taken out by Karl Henry (good news, yesterday the red card was recinded. FYI Anthony Taylor was the referee on the pitch). Swan’s draw leaves them in 9th place, Ki and Bony will be out for the rest of January, Ki of course for Asia Cup duty and Bony to Ivory Coast for Africa Cup of Nations duty.  QPR was without Yun Suk Young – he’s out for a few weeks with ligament injury.

By the way, I had a chuckle as I was checking this post off in the  ‘South Korean National Football Team’ category when I saw that someone included Pink Floyd as a separate topic category in the Tavern.  Confess! Which Tavern writer added ‘Pink Floyd’ as a Tavern category?  and why?


Early morning here at the Tavern -I’m headed back to bed. Korea wins in ugly fashion. Ok, I’ll take it. Maybe a good omen for my birthday, who knows. Tto bo-jah!


update: 1st half I want to wash from memory. instead here’s a 2nd half replay on youtube:

About Roy Ghim 454 Articles
The old Tavern Owner


  1. Oops, I forgot to write a preview for this, apologies.

    We get the result but performance was less than stellar. This is what I mean by, if we win games this Asian cup, it will be thanks to individual talent.

    I am innocent, I did not make pink floyd a category, hahaha

  2. Good game & great extensive coverage on the story. Thanks for doing this for people who weren’t able to watch (like me) – it was really helpful

  3. Tim: no worries, preview withstanding, it was going to be a very different game being a test match.

    Nick: you’re welcome. I was curious how they would dare without ki and lcy. Thanks for tuning into the Tavern!

  4. I finally finished watching the friendly..

    1. SHM + KJC +LKH just doesn’t work. Koo had his usual game but ineffective (along with being sloppy at times) with SHM + KJC both trying to occupy the same half-space. It got worse with LKH drifting toward the area without doing anything. LKH was my biggest frustration & that included CYC doing absolutely nothing in 1st half (he was better as false 9 in 2nd half but still horrible). LKH should only be used as defensive winger.. chasing after balls when Korea needs to close a game out.

    2. I didn’t think SHM had a good game. Better yet, I thought he was downright selfish with few of his shots (especially in 1st half).

    3. SHM is better with other attacking players who are much more direct with some pace. NTH did well in positioning himself based on SHM’s tendency to drift inward. NTH either dropped down or moved to flanks & still involved himself in overall play.

    4. LMJ feels like less talented version of KJC, but one who keeps it simple. Neither truly has a set position (although #8 might be their best role).

    5. 1st half.. the pressing, spacing, and defense in general was atrocious. KJY made your “KYG” type of error in 10th min, except he got lucky and wasn’t punished for his poor clearance. JHS.. while didn’t make “big” errors, he often got exposed with players running the channels behind him.

    6. PJH was much better as LB compared to one of double-six role with HKY.

    7. Gratz to LJH for his debut goal.

    • on SHM’s selfishness: when you’re the only threat it’s difficult to not fall into that, i would think. and it’s hard to blame him. in fact, depending on the context it can even be excusable as long as it doesn’t become a bad habit.

      • I have nothing against Son being selfish actually. However, perhaps it was frustration but he forced his shots in 1st half & he wasn’t doing well overall (he had poor misplaced passes like KJC).

    • Good observations. I didn’t single out Cho but agreed he wasn’t very effective. I hope Koo can play a role but not in center this time around.

      I’m surprised you thought Son didn’t have a good game. I understand what yr saying though. Maybe the shots were somewhat forced. But I still thought Saudis had a rough time dealing with Son.

      If Lee Jung-hyub can continue to find the back of the net, we’ve got quite a storyline here

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