Korea 2:0 Honduras / World Cup Tuneup Debuts Lee Seung-Woo + Son & Moon Strikes

Lee Seung-Woo's 1st cap for Korea. AP Photo/ Lee Jin-Man

Lot to take away from a feel good World Cup tuneup match friendly against Honduras in Daegu today, but we are short on time at the moment, let’s recap quickly and go to some talking points. We have a podcast recorded immediately after FT whistle, we’ll get that edited and out soon, stay tuned.

Starting XI

Shin Tae-Yong trots out a quasi experimental roster in 4-4-2 shape, with Son and Lee Seung-Woo roaming freely and overlapping in the attacking third. No Ki Sung-Yeung and Lee Jae-Sung (recovery from niggling injuries), no Koo Ja-Cheol, Kim Jin-Su racing to recover in time for Russia and Kwon Chang-Hoon tragically missing out with a severe ankle injury (just had surgery in France).  Injuries have forced Shin Tae-Yong’s hand with the need to experiment  – particularly with Lee Seung-Woo and Lee Chung-Yong coming into the starting XI. While the Blue Dragon looked a bit rusty (not bad, but definitely not up to par with 2009 version of Lee Chung-Yong), Lee Seung-Woo was a revelation for his first KNT cap. Incisive dribbling, vision for crucial passing, fantastic hustle to win the ball more often than not, and good composure and maturity beyond his years, the former Barcelona academy player clearly looked like a natural fit in uniform for the KNT. He had a couple of swash buckling runs and fired off Korea’s first several shots on goal. Korea dominated possession in the half, had a few half chances (Lee’s throughball to Son on the right flank produced some headaches for their keeper) but ultimately couldn’t find that killer pass in the final third. Meanwhile Honduras didn’t offer much trouble for Korea’s backline. 


Here’s Jae Chee, who manned the Tavern Twitter during the match on Lee Seung-Woo


In the second half, Hong Chul, who struggled at LB with imprecise dribbling and crossing went out for Kim Min-Woo, while Lee Chong-Yong left with a minor injury, Moon Seon-Min getting the surprising nod off the bench. These substitutions would prove to be game changers -more on that later. The moment of Lee Seung-Woo’s vital impact in the match -his pressure helped take the ball off a Honduran, then driving forward with defenders starting swarm en mass, Lee calmly found Son Heung-Min, his 30 yard shot rocketed past Hondura’s Izaguirre outstreched hands (and nearly took out the netting behind him). 



It’s here that the narrative takes us through another surprising twist: Hwang Hee-Chan did well to get past his mark on the left, passed to none other than the journeyman Moon Seon-Min. The Incheon midfielder, who had his share of nervous touches and erratic passing coming into the game, did well with being in the right place at the right time to show for the ball. With a defender stretching out to knock the ball away from him, Moon deftly shimmied from him and reflexively shot the ball into the left corner for his first international goal. A remarkable moment for the journeyman.


FT Korea 2:0 Honduras. Not definitive of how Korea will do in Russia but a glimmer of hope that things could go better than expected.


We need to wrap things up but a few more talking points before getting ready to face Bosnia:

  • Go Yo-Han with a solid shift at RB. If Shin Tae-Yong wanted to experiment to see how Go would do, he might be pleased to see more options on the table with Lee Yong also available to him. Expect Lee Yong to get his chance on Friday.
  • Hong Chul disappointed with his day at LB. If Kim Jin-Su can recover in time, the Jeonbuk man will be the preferred option. But let’s not forget Kim Min-Woo, who Steve Han noted on Twitter provided the “needed width to open up the final third. He played the through ball (to Hwang) that led to the 2nd goal.”
  • Son Heung-Min was appointed the captain’s armband today, he eventually placed it on Kim Young-Gwan after being subbed off. He showed everything that he usually does – not the greatest playmaker or dribbler – but given a bit of time and space can severely punish opponents.
  • Ju Se-Jong with a decent shift in a deeper mid role – the question remains, with Ki healthy, could he find a position on the pitch?
  • 4-4-2 mixed verdict.  The first half was a bit more chaotic, but defensively the formation seemed to smother Honduras in their tacks.  Previewing the podcast on Korea v Honduras, Michael Welch argues going forward, would Lee Seung-Woo be better served up front and Hwang Hee-Chan wider right?
  • Lee Jae-Sung returning on Friday will be much welcomed back to the starting XI … but where to place him with Lee Seung-Woo now proving his worth in an attacking setup?
  • Kwon Kyung-Won – might be interesting who will win out the CB race vs Jeong Seung-hyeon. Or maybe Shin needs them both for rotational purposes in Russia? Oh Ban-Suk received his first cap, replacing Jeong, the Sagan Tosu centerback put in a quietly competent performance and may have booked his spot for Russia.



Lee Seung-Woo’s 1st cap for Korea. AP Photo/ Lee Jin-Man

Last word: Lee Seung-Woo —some will now ask, why hasn’t he played sooner for the senior KNT squad?  For the Tavern in particular, we’ve been tracking Lee’s progress since he was 14 years old at La Masia in Barcelona.  Of course, not every La Masia product goes on to world class footballing fame, and Lee certainly hasn’t been helped by the hype in the Korean media as the “Korean Messi.” We’ve seen his trials and tribulations, through the long 3 year ban as collective punishment for Barcelona’s underage transfer policy. We’ve seen his highs, his U16 Korea AFC tournament and U20 World Cup glorious runs that just made for picture perfect viral videos screened across the world. We’ve seen his lows, the frustration of coming back to Barcelona to see friends and teammates like Carlos Aleña go up the Barca ladder while his future with Barca B in doubt. And the reality of how difficult it is to crack top flight professional football, particularly in his first season at the now relegated Hellas Verona in Serie A. But through it all, there was always the sense that he is one vital cog in Korea’s football future. His desire to be among the best has never been in doubt. And through the unlikeliest of circumstances, the devastating injury in particular to Kwon Chang-Hoon in the last minutes of the season finale for Dijon, Lee has found his way, despite his young age into the senior squad. It’s hard not to overplay the meaning of Lee Seung-Woo’s first cap, but the cheering, the oohs and ahhs from the Daegu crowd, and the rousing standing ovation for him as he left the game, THAT was a fair, honest and objective indication from the crowd that Lee Seung-Woo has on a number of levels, arrived for the KNT. Whatever happens in this World Cup, there is still the future. There’s still players like Lee Kang-In who are on the radar for Korea. There’s still a good number of years for the ballers in Europe in Kwon Chang-Hoon who had a breakout year with 11 goals for Dijon, Hwang Hee-Chan with double figures in Salzburg, and of course Son Heung-Min’s goals for Spurs that has made him a higher profile on the international stage. And there’s Lee Seung-Woo, with swagger and with agility, he made it finally and there’s no reason to doubt that he will continue to be a bright spot in Korea’s footballing future.


Extra time:  The LSW lovetrain continues apparently. Let’s continue: part of what was impressive about LSW’s performance was how well he gelled with his teammates. In post match conference, Lee said this of his first cap: “I’ve worked with the manager whilst playing for the U-20 team. I understand how he wants players to pass and attack. The ‘hyungs’ helped me a lot, and I’m quite satisfied with how I played with them today, considering that this was my first game…I’d obviously be really happy to score, but I’d be happier to help the ‘hyungs’ score. I want [Son] Heung-min hyung, [Hwang] Hee-chan hyung and [Kim] Shin-wook hyung to score more goals than me.”  (thanks to Steve Han on twitter for the quotes)

and this from Hondura’s manager:



AND Here’s what awaits Korea on Friday – a much stiffer test defensively for Team Korea.


That game will be on Friday 7am US EST / 8pm Korea time. Dae Han Min Guk ya’ll.


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  1. I’m convinced now. Lee Seungwoo should definitely play an important role on this team. He’s still very raw, but he has skills that no other Korean player has. He was surprisingly mature and had good chemistry with Son. It didn’t look like he got his first cap today. I also like the idea of him playing next to Son as a striker. Hwang had a decent game today, but his playing style forces Son to drop deep into a playmaking role. Son needs a playmaker next to him like LSW. Lee also showed today that he can press aggressively like Hwang. I’m really looking forward to him playing against a more physical European team.

  2. Pump the brakes! Listen, Honduras sucks. Look at this roster, and you see that this squad was not even their A-team (if you can consider Honduras having an A-team). Nearly all these guys play in the Honduras league- yikes, that’s even worse than some AFC leagues. They were likely jet-lagged. It might have even been their first trip to Asia haha.
    I just worry a bit when I read hyperbole (“Son Heung-Min, his 30 yard shot rocketed past Hondura’s Izaguirre outstreched hands (and nearly took out the netting behind him)”- I love the writing, and it’s always exciting seeing our guys score… but come on, Son scoring against these guys is kinda like cheering for a bully pounding on the little guy. Son has scored against much better defenders in the Premier League/Champions League- this is nothing.

    But still, definitely some good things to look at and learn from.

    – we didn’t lose; we didn’t even give up any goals!
    – Lee Seung Woo definitely looked great
    – Moon Seon Min scoring in his debut- AWESOME. I only found out about him thanks to the Tavern. Bring the man to Russia
    – nice to see the Korean fans (even though there weren’t a ton) excited about the team
    – Shin finally found a way to use the Wookie- as a substitute while we’re ahead to protect Son from injury! Yay!! (no more badmouthing KSW from me…)

    Negatives: Can’t really think of many! But see below for “Realism”
    -Hwang Hee Chan- I love him, but he goes down way too easily. Diving? Probably- if not, then it’s even worse and he’s just too clumsy or weak against defenders. He made up for it with the assist to Moon, and even he admitted this was not a good game for him, so I’ll give him a pass.

    Not Negative, but Realism:
    -Again, this is Honduras. They are not a good team. They barely try to score. Yes it is nice for our defense to keep a clean sheet, but this match does not really test our defense. Especially at home in Korea (where we usually play well!! Remember we freaking beat Colombia last year but couldn’t beat N. Ireland, Morocco, or Russia abroad). This victory should be an experimental morale booster and that is all. Not trying to be negative, but just look at recent history to see.
    -similar to the point above, this was an ideal start for Lee Seung Woo. Because not sure he’s gonna be able to play like this on the biggest stage, away from home, with everyone watching him. Honduras may have been surprised- Sweden, Mexico, and Germany certainly won’t be. Just can’t picture him maneuvering through German defenders the way he did through a jet-lagged sub-par Honduras defense (still, he’s gotta come to Russia and hopefully play substantial minutes haha).

    – how is Lee Chung Yong? My one worry about this match was the potential for injuries, so I’m hoping he’s still an option for the team
    -Why did Shin elect Cho Hyunwoo as the goalkeeper instead of Kim Seunggyu? Just testing? Seems like this close to the WC, the #1 keeper needs all the practice he can get. Does this mean Cho Hyunwoo has taken over? That was actually my biggest shock of the lineup since I thought KSG was a given.

    Looking forward to Friday!

    P.S. Just saw this quote, and it sums up my feelings perfectly. Well-said by the (now mature!) vet:
    Ki Sung-yueng: “We aren’t going to let this win fool us. I’m going to tell the players, and so will the manager. I also think it’s disappointing that the teams we’re facing now aren’t close to the level of our World Cup opponents.”

    • No doubt – this was a C+ or B- Honduras win. As I said, it’s not definitive of how Korea would do in the WC. It’s a feel good win. The better test is on Friday.

      Son’s strike, despite it being Honduras, was still a ballin’ shot. Space was given partly b/c Honduras didn’t immediately try to close him down but rewind that moment – there Lee Seung-Woo was streaking down the right after giving Son the ball and Hwang Hee-Chan parallel with LSW also crashing the box, the defenders are left with dwindling choices on the chess board. Step to Son, get beat via Son pass to his options left and right. Son reacted immediately upon assessment and regardless of the quality of the opposition, delivered a world class strike. I’m not a Son apologist, he has his weak points in his game, but when utilized correctly, Son’s can be deadly even against staunch opposition. For the KNT setup, the question always has to be asked if STY can do that. We’ll see in Russia.

      • All true- hopefully you didn’t take offense to my comment! I love your articles and all the articles at the Tavern.
        I just worry when we as fans overreact to anything good, even victories against shitty teams. It’s important that this team goes into the WC with an underdog mindset, because I think they can win that way.
        I just kinda wish they could have played against Costa Rica’s World Cup squad as that would have been better prep than Honduras’s b-team. But no WC team is gonna travel to Korea right now, so this is the best they could do.

        On another note, I kinda like that most people are saying we have no chance to advance out of the group. We got talent, and an upset can be brewin… (and if not, great building block for the future)

        This is actually an honest and fair look at what we’re up against. I’m getting excited for Russia!

        • No need to worry about overreacting here lol. I think the regular visitors of this site are pretty knowledgable of football.

          Yeah I wish Korea had a stronger test too, but they really needed this confidence boost. Even thought Bosnia hasn’t qualified for the world cup this year, they have quality players like Dzeko and Pjanic. Also, they will be playing world cup qualified Senegal right before the world cup. It’s going to be interesting to see how Shin Taeyong will rotate the team in the remaining games. I would definitely try not to change the back four too much. The CB’s especially really need time to develop good chemistry.

        • Overreact? What else are we supposed to get excited about when everyone is injured and things sucked for a while and we’re still in the Group of Death? But lets get serious here, LSW gets 2 goals, 2 assists in the WC because everyone is focused on Son, then he leaves his crappy team in Verona and comes back to La Liga.

          • I wouldn’t call our group the Group of Death. Germany is one of the best teams, and that’s it. The other 3 in the group fight for second place.
            Maybe from our perspective it is death because we’re so bad, but… that says more about us than the group. It’s actually not as bad as it could be.
            I’m sure Iran feels like they’re the ones in a Group of Death. They’re literally dead because the top 2 spots are gonna go to Spain and Portugal, no question. Basically 0 chance for them or Morocco to progress, and those teams aren’t bad.

            Korea has a chance, even if it’s small. And if this is a learning experience for our team, I’d rather it be against tough opposition for the young guys to learn from.

            P.S. Hope your prediction about LSW comes true!

        • re: the link Jon posted. that’s a really good series to follow about the chances of every team at the world cup.

          I agree Honduras was weak. I wish we had stronger opponents, but you can only beat what’s in front of you. And maybe this team needed some momentum anyways. Losing 4-0 to Ghana in June 2014 wasn’t exactly the right tune-up.

  3. Did not expect Lee SW to start and get his first cap. Maybe Shin TY has more tricks up his sleeve than we thought!

    Despite that this match was played at home against a B team Honduras squad that was probably jet lagged, I will venture to say that playing Lee SW gives us the best shot against our WC opponents. It’s a gamble, but we all know that if we play it safe offensively, we’ll just end up losing 0-2 or 0-3 each time. Playing Lee SW frees up Son a bit from all the defensive attention. I would play Hwang further wide (look at how he set up Moon’s goal) and then you hopefully have Lee SW linking up with Ki and whoever else the KNT plays in the center midfield, and then Lee JS out wide on the other wing.

    Let’s see how Friday versus Bosnia goes (Bosnia tied Montenegro today 0-0).

    Also, shoutout to the Tavern for putting Moon on our radars!

  4. I agree, not a great performance, considering how weak Honduras is. They lost 6-0 against the US, while we didnt manage to create any clear-cut chances apart from the goals.
    Moon Seon Min scored a goal but other than that he showed a fairly poor performance, losing the ball all the time and misplacing passes. His off the ball movement was great though.
    The Build-up play was horrible. I think 90% of the build-up attempts from the back failed whenever Honduras pressed. I hope this will change with KSY and J.Hyunsoo returning otherwise the WC teams will have an easy one.
    Im also quiet worried about the dense shedule of the team. Theyll play 2 games per week till they got less than one week to rest before their opening match. The other teams have only 2 friendlies till the world cup. After a long season the players will need to rest. We cant really afford to rotate much either, since weve still not played one game with our WC 11.

    Overall the preperations are a real mess with all the injuries and the insufficient time. But it is the way it is now and I hope the team can still make the best out of the situation.
    In my oppinion it is absolutely crucial that we keep Shin Tae Yong no matter what happens at the world cup. We really need to bring some consistency into the team, so we can develop a philohophy for the future, settle on a first 11 and avoid having such a hustle before the next World Cup again. Lacking the individual quality, we need a strong team chemistry which can only be built over years under the same coach.

    Lee Seung Woo did really surprise me, as I didnt expect him to play so confidently in his first match. Its only been Honduras, but still Lee managed to impress, while many of his more experienced team mates failed to do so. Looking forward to seeing him in the next friendlies.
    Ive recently seen a match from Paik Seung Ho and he extremely impressed me. Looked like a more mobile KSY. Has really developed nicely. Hope he can step up into Gironas first team next season.
    Anyone know why Koo Ja Cheol isnt really considered by STY? Would rather see him next to KSY than Jeong Woo Yeong. JWY isnt that much stronger defensively than KJC who is quiete aggressive in his tackles(^와이?! 와이?! 와이?!^) …or is he? Dont know him too well.

    • Yeah, we showed flashes of things but overall not the best performance. The first match of the World Cup is still 3 full weeks away, hoping that more time together will help the players get better chemistry. Moon Seon-min is one of my favorite players so I’m hopeful he continues to improve. He was clearly nervous but misplaced passes are a thing for him week in week out. He’s only 25, gotta get better.
      I’m also kind of a Shin believer and think we should keep him regardless of what happens at the World Cup. I think he has the pedigree to do well for us and also KFA is surrounding him with a good team of assistants. I want him to stay and possibly bring us an Asian Cup in January.
      In terms of Koo Jacheol, he was injured towards the end of the season so I think he was rested with Ki. I want to see Ki and Koo partnered on Friday. I’ll have a lineup that I think could work for them in the next few days.

      • Yeah I do also believe in Shin. Hes got lots of good ideas, I think he needs some more experience and more time to get to know all the players at his disposal. Above all though hes a perfectionist clearly trying to do his best. Thats what Stielike was lacking. Felt like he was just doing his job, nothing more.
        Are you going into the stadium regulary? Whats your motivation behind it? Just interested, as Im quiet worried about korean league football. The stadiums are emptier than before.

        • I’m not living in Korea these days but I did a few years back. My friends in Korea are just as worried about the K League as you but I’m working on a piece with some ideas to improve things in terms of attendance. I’m going to be looking at what some K League clubs are doing to improve attendance and engage fans, what I want to see being done, and my hopes for improvement. Look for it today!

  5. Re Honduras- eh. It’s OK to be a bit optimistic. We’ll just have to see what happens in the next few weeks. Nobody expects shit from us, and I say that’s awesome. It’s been awhile since we’ve been in this position, and I for one am kind of excited.

    Not saying Lee Seungwoo is our savior or that his game today was outstanding. Just promising. I’ll say this World Cup could be a breakout performance for LSW, a way for the world to see a new talent that most didn’t know existed. Sadly, on the other hand he could also be bullied to no end. I didn’t realize just how small he was until I saw him hugging Son. Good lord, the defenders at the WC could eat him alive.

    I just hope that whatever happens at this tournament, the netizens give him a break. This is a great opportunity for him. The media already set him up for failure a long time ago by calling him the Korean Messi. Dumbasses… just let the kid do his thing. Messi wasn’t Messi until he was Messi (get it?)
    I will say, he is not lacking for confidence- as a striker, I say that’s a good thing. Something he was able to get from training outside of Korea at a young age and not giving a shit what others deem to be culturally acceptable. It’s great that he has the backing of Shin- they seem to know each other well.
    Now if we can get our fucking defense together, we could WIN THE DAMN WC!!!!!!!!!!!!! (kidding… one can dream…)

    • The media does need to get off of his back. That being said, he craves the attention and likes the pressure. I suspect much of the rest of the team doesn’t, so…

    • Could it be that Lee seung Woo is shorter than 170? There was a picture of him and Nagatomo (170) and Lee was at least 5cms shorter. Same with a 170 player from Honduras were Lee appeared to be 5cms shorter too. Former Leverkusen player Ryu Seung Woo is 172 and his height is just above Sons Eyebrows, whereas Lee is just below Sons eyes.
      Him being 165 would explain why he looks so extremely short on the pitch whereas tons of other 170 players dont.

  6. Few thoughts –

    1. Lee SW wasn’t good in 1st half. He showed flashes but it wasn’t until the 2nd half, where he started a bit deeper from midfield .. and more centrally.. was he effective. In 1st half, Lee SW & Son HM were often next to each other slightly behind Hwang HC.

    2. 4-4-2 is not a good system, especially if you are to start Lee SW. He is willing presser, opportunistic in his challenge to win the ball back .. at the same time, I realized he is a big liability defensively. He sort of ruined the 4-4-2 flat defensive formation. The midfield or 2nd “block” wasn’t compact nor does Lee SW track back (well). At one point, Son HM covered for him in 2nd half…

    I want to see Lee SW start.. but in central position. Might be best to play 4-3-1-2 (or 4-4-2 diamond/4-3-3) that switches to 4-5-1 defensively (two FWs moving over to wide position). At the same time, if Lee SW starts.. you have to wonder if Lee JS in midfield is good enough defensively. Lee JS has the motor but he could be pushed around. I wonder if the midfield of Ki + whomever will be too soft & ill-disciplined.

    3. Moon SM.. aside from the goal.. was awful tbh. He makes the team due to injuries but when you consider the players likely in front of him as sub (Kim SW, Lee SW and so forth).. doubt he sees any mins (or much). I still question his selection over guys like Ji DW, Yun IR or even Nam TH tbh. If there was one Incheon player I preferred as surprise selection, it would be Kim Yonghwan.

    4. Honduras was bad… btw, Bolivia will be worse as they called up kids w/ new interim manager I believe.

    • Another possible formation w/ Lee SW in starting XI.. is 3-4-1-2/3-5-2. A hint you saw against Honduras… however, Shin TY has to choose between Lee SW or Lee JS even in this setup imo. Does he take the overall balance approach or go with Lee SW, who can make Hwang HC & Son HM FW partnership sort of work as the key creator (in 4-4-2 setup w/ Lee SW starting from the left.. HHC + SHM partnership was poor.. as it often is the case when they play together for Korea).

      • I think he’s a defensive liability in any midfielder/winger role for KNT. Maybe, he can come off the bench in one of these roles when Korea is desperate for a goal. As suggested by some of the writers here, a 442 with Lee SW as a starter could work if he plays as Son’s striker partner. He has shown that he can press aggressively and can be a playmaker that allows Son to play in a more advanced position. The “Korean Messi” can play like Messi(not with the same freedom of course) in Barcelona’s 442.

        • 4-4-2 requires you to drop Hwang HC. I don’t have a problem with it… but again, not a popular choice. What’s more important? Overall balance or one who can create & is offensive spark? Depending on what you value … it’s either Lee SW or Lee JS/Hwang HC.


          if Shin TY wants 4-4-2 to work, I would go with something like what I listed above. probably good enough to match vs Sweden. Forsberg, the playmaker for Sweden often drifts centrally & isn’t fast. KJC & GYH in compact midfield should be able to disrupt Forsberg….while Jang HS offers height as RB.

  7. Why play Jang Hyunsoo at RB though? While he does offer height, we have also seen his indecision and poor timing cause him to lose out on aerial challenges he should win. While Ko YH is a good RM, I actually think he should stay at RB and we should see how Hwang HC fairs as a RM in that lineup.

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