Good times are here again – or are they? The quasi new look KNT defeated Venezuela at Bucheon Stadium near Seoul, a come from behind friendly victory that seemed to point Korea in a positive direction after weeks of KFA turmoil after rejected offers in hiring a new foreign manager. Lee Dong-Guk came back to the fold and in his 100th cap found a bit of glory: 2 goals in the 2nd half that elevated him in 5th place for all time KNT goal scorers. But the match wasn’t without it’s share of troubling questions that remains unanswered.
After a blistering start and a offensive onslaught by the Taeguk Warriors, they couldn’t get that finishing touch to put them ahead. Instead it was Venezuela, who despite being hemmed in their own half, was presented with 1 goal scoring chance midway through the 1st half, personally gift wrapped by goal keeper Kim Jin-Hyeon. In what seemed like a horror movie in slow motion, a straightforward dropkick clearance by Kim went straight to Mario Rodon. He sent a shot back high over Kim’s head and on into the net.
Korea 0 : Venezuela 1
Let’s rewind a little, Kim actually had a fantastic save when Venezuela caught Korea’s back with their pants down, a one on one opportunity saved by Kim’s quick reflexes. However that mis-clearance that led to the conceded goal instantly put him on track to becoming a shelved player for the KNT. Here’s Tavern contributor Takeuchi with some background on Kim:
Well, not too surprised by Kim Jin-Hyeon’s mistake. Downright awful with Cerezo Osaka this season
— Takeuchi (@Takeuchee) September 5, 2014
Despite going behind, it was increasingly apparent that Venezuela had some gaping holes in their defense. Korea kept probing and 12 minutes later struck gold with a counter by team Korea. Ki’s laser sharp pass found Son charging down the left, he dodges Venezuela’s defenders around the corner of the area and connects with captain Lee Chung-Yong – his shot deflects to Lee Myung-Joo – who, with tight angle, blasted it in!
Korea 1 : Venezuela 1
2nd half turned into the Lee Dong-Guk show. While the Jeonbuk man had a quiet 1st half, a backheel attempt missing wide earlier, a halftime presentation to honor his 100th cap seemed to invigorate him. He put his head back in the game – literally. Nice header from a Kim Min-Woo corner kick in the 55th minute tucked it’s way into the upper right corner for Lee’s first goal of the night.
Korea 2: Venezuela 1
The Lion King wasn’t done yet. Venezuela’s defense continued to practice their impression of the keystone koppers, and a comical clearance 10 minutes later gifted Lee in front of goal- and unlike Venezuela’s forwards, he didn’t whiff.
FT Korea 3: Venezuela 1 Interim coach Shin Tae-yong promised a more aggressive approach before the match and sure enough, that’s what everyone saw. In a more unusual formation that what we’re accustomed to from Korea, they trotted out a 4-1-4-1 / 4-1-2-3 if you count advanced wingers -pretty much a classic Barcelona formation (-thanks Jinseok!)
Shin did as Jinseok predicted, he experimented with positioning captain Lee Chung-Yong in the middle (Koo out- injured I think), with Lee Myong-Joo on his left and Cho Young-Chul right. Playing #9 was Lee Dong-Guk with Son Heung-Min sort of playing on the left, but ended up playing a free creative forward, to roam where he saw fit. Experiment ended somewhat in positive territory: Son looked incredibly dangerous, especially in the first half as he dodged and weaved his way into the area, setting up some tasty opportunities for Korea. Chungy and company kept pressing, yet maintained decent possession particularly in Venezuela’s half. Alas the actual business of creating legit goal chances is still somewhat problematic. Let’s be clear, they created some decent chances, but against a clown defense. Despite the goals LDG put away, striker options remains a major concern, which we’ll get to later*.
Jinseok pointed out that Lee Chung-Yong’s central move would beg the question, how to fill the void on the right wing -the position Chungy usually occupies? Answer: old man and left back Cha Du-Ri. Back on the KNT, he looked sharp and as Jae put it (in his player ratings), was bombing the right flank all game. He did get dispossessed once in the 2nd half, though he can be forgiven as he was a constant nuisance to Venezuela.
You could say Ki Sung-Yeung put on a quieter display, but that wouldn’t do justice. What can be described as his modus operandi – calm and collected – is what makes Ki such a deceptively impactful player. As the lone defensive mid – today he played deeper than usual, and put on more defensive posturing, but his positioning did seem to help shut down some of the Venezuelan counter attacks. The more positive contribution was his distribution: in one word – devastating. That first Korean goal can be traced back to Ki picking out Son in transition.
Quick note, I absolutely concur with Jae, [we put out twitter musings at the same time coincidentally] wondering why Son Heung-min wasn’t subbed out earlier? Seeing him get targeted by Venezuela and on the ground in painful agony –not once but several times in the 2nd half was mind-blowing. Why on buddha’s green earth risk injury in a game like this? Son’s potency was already proven in the 1st half, what more was there for Shin to do or prove by leaving Son on the pitch in the physically testier 2nd half?
The Korean defense, despite conceding just one goal [that giveaway by Kim is going to replace my current nightmare – where a tsunami wipes out the physical Tavern], Korea’s defense was lucky – very lucky not to concede a few more goals. If not for an almost equally dismal Venezuelan offense (that nearly matched their defensive brethren), their lack of finishing golden opportunities was a part of their undoing. However, several clearance attempts and set piece defensive arrangements left much to be desired from Korea’s backline. Here’s to the backline for a job
Overall, more positives than negatives – with an interim coach, it was an interesting experiment, both in lineup and in formation. I theorized earlier on the last Tavern Hangout that because the coaching staff is in transition and operating as a committee, other than instructions to be attacking, the coach/committee would give the veterans more leeway in managing the flow of the game. Other than the defense, midfield and forwards overall looked fairly attractive. However, expectations should still be tempered, and should Korea fall to Uruguay, it’s not yeot throwing time (yet).
*Almost forgot Lee Dong-Guk. Now you could count me as a critic, but give the man his due – 100 caps and a brace to boot. Shin was more than obligated to give him the call of duty, it made sense as Lee is once again the K-League scoring leader, overtaking Kim Shin-Wook for that distinction in recent weeks. But the 35 year old Jeonbuk striker is 35. Short term, ok, perhaps Lee might be of some use. But his first half today was reminiscent of his KNT form back when he was the derided favorite of then-KNT coach Choi Kang-hee, hesitant and wasteful. 2nd half was a different story and while his 2nd goal had a bit of luck on his side, what can you say, there’s a point about putting oneself in the right place at the right time. He will ride into the sunset relatively soon, but as the KNT tries to get more mileage out of Lee, I wonder out-loud, what’s the longterm striker solution? With Park Chu-Young club-less at the moment, he may well indeed have seen his best days behind him. Or not. Park Chu-Young is 29. So is Falcao is 29, coming back from injury and minimal playing time at Monaco -and may give a lift to Manchester United’s early woeful form. It’s absolutely incorrect to evenly compare, their trajectories have been vastly different taken the last 3 years. But it’s not out of the question that the one time high flying striker could become a Phoenix rising from the ashes in the future. [That or I will be once again wrong about Park Chu-Young…we shall see].
For now, both old men Cha Du-Ri and Lee Dong-Guk supplied some veteran power to the KNT win today. If you haven’t seen Jae’s player ratings, check here.
A truer test of this quasi new look KNT will be on Monday when they face Uruguay, who defeated Japan 0-2. Today’s game was Japan’s first under their new manager Javier Aguirre.
Last note: had a quick conversation with Rachel Hur, who tweeted this after finding a live stream:
The Tavern was able to send a congratulations to Ji So-Yun via twitter for doing this yesterday:
— Chelsea Ladies FC (@ChelseaLFC) September 4, 2014
Ji scored what ended up as the game winner, Chelsea defeats Arsenal 2-3. Boom!