Korea 3:2 Qatar / Come from behind win belies defensive frailties [+video highlights]

Nervy win for Korea in World Cup Qualifications as they had to overcome a 1-2 HT deficit, a red card to Hong Jeong-ho and a very suspect referee who gave blatantly incorrect rulings on field to eventually grab 3 points from Qatar with a 3-2 result at Suwon World Cup Stadium.

Questions about Uli Stielike after lackluster win over China and scoreless draw with Syria last month weren’t eased up as the defensive lapses and inability to efficiently covert chances amounted to a shocking 1-2 lead for Qatar going into the locker room, with Ki Sung-Yeung’s early 7th minute goal the only punctuation mark for good possession but saw instead Qatar goals against the run of form. We’ll bring you up to speed after the jump, stay tuned…


Korea started brightly, with this starting lineup:

The early surge led to Son finding Ki, the Swansea midfielder’s long distance 25′ shot from the edge of the area scooted along the ground and on into the net; excellent vision to pick out a weak spot and Korea was on top 1-0. Ki nearly doubled the lead a minute later, While Korea kept up the attack, they weren’t ruthless enough to find the back of the net. Suk Hyun-Jun had beaten the Qatar defense on a cross but in front of net, merely headed it over the bar.

On a counter, Qatar’s Soriano ‘earned’ a PK and a Hong Jeong-Ho yellow card for pulling him down – though on replays, it was very questionable, and one can see it looked like Soriano fell on his own accord in the area. Ref saw it otherwise (the first of many highly questionable decisions).  Hassan Haydos converts, Korea 1:1 Qatar.

Suk Hyun-Jun had a difficult 1st half, unable to dribble through Qatar’s defense – final third attacks for Korea looked more and more anemic. Qatar took advantage, and on another fast counter, thanks to Hong Jeong-ho’s mis-clearance, allowed Soriano to shoot, then scrambled past the Korean defense who bunched up on the left and connected with his teammate’s pass to knock it past Kim Seung-Gyu. Suddenly, Korea was on the backfoot, down 2-1 to a team who has traditionally struggled to score. It also blew down the house of cards illusion about Korea’s stalwart defensive record – perhaps attributed more to past Asian opponent’s lack of clinical finishing than defensive prowess. Korea’s attack before HT saw a Ki shot on target, blocked by a Qatar defender’s hand. Despite a good angle to view, the ref didn’t call it while Ki argued for handball.


Darkness fell on Suwon as muttering from the netizens descended. The honeymoon has already been over for Uli – could this be the end?  I tweeted this out during the break:

Suk out/Kim Shin-Wook in was the HT change and with it some tactical tweaking -the narrative more than suggests it worked. In a nutmeg of a nutshell: it did work.


First: left back Hong Chul picks out the Wookie, surrounded by Qatar CBs. His height allowed him to head it laterally to his teammates. Initially his header pass deflects off a Qatar defensemen, but the trajectory didn’t really change as 3 attacking Koreans charged into the area. The ball fell to Ji Dong-Won and the Augsburg forward continued his club form, settled the ball momentarily – and as the crowd gasped for a split second wondering whether Qatar’s defense would smoother the chance, Ji calmly knocks it clinically into the bottom left corner of the net: GOAL!  Korea 2:2 Qatar.

Less than 2 minutes later Korea was back on the attack, Jung Woo-Young (I think it was him, replay hard to make out exactly) as the lone holding mid, calmly finds Ki Sung-Yeung on the left, immediately tees up Son who breaks through the defense and one times it into the back of the net – Korea 3 : 2 Qatar!  The comeback nearly completed, the narrative was interrupted with another questionable decision: a second yellow card for Hong Jeong-Ho on Soriano. It was a foul for sure – but extremely harsh decision as it wasn’t dangerous collision, just a tangle over the ball. Just like that, with 20 minutes to play, Korea had to defend the fragile lead. Stielike brought on CB Kwak Tae-Hwi for Koo Ja-Cheol. More questionable decisions, some really outrageous as Kim Shin-Wook kept getting fouled, but the ref remarkably called it for Qatar instead. Here’s another example:


The litany of outrageously poor referee decisions by Mohd Amirul (Malaysia) and assistant refs Mohd Yusri and Mohamed Abidin (also from Malaysia) started to garner further scrutiny:

I’m calling for the AFC to investigate these refs. I don’t want to outright accuse the refs of bribery for kind decisions to Qatar (who is hosting the 2022 WC) without any direct proof, but the on field decisions were beyond ridiculous. The AFC needs to review and deliver consequences to these refs at the very least.

20 tense minutes with terrible ref calls later and Korea hangs on for the win. Kim Seung-Gyu made some decent -slightly nervy -but decent saves through a wave of direct free kicks towards the end. Son breakaway promising – but out of gas couldn’t find the open Korean (not sure who was at the top of the area).  Taking out Son who was out of gas and installing Kimbo should’ve been done sooner by Stielike- still the former Cardiff city man was bursting with energy and kept Korea from falling on backfoot.

4 minutes added time came and went:


Despite the refs, despite Korea playing a man short, they did enough to win, get 3 points and provisionally are on top of the WCQ group. Update: Iran pulls out 0-1 win at Uzbekistan -tied for points with Korea but goal differential puts them slightly ahead. Guess who Korea plays next?




Yonhap News
Yonhap News


A few thoughts from the Old Tavern Owner:


Ki Sung-Yeung: excellent performance. 1st goal + superb assist for game winner. Constant menance. Excellent vision: for example picked out Suk Hyun-Jun earlier that resulted in a good chance. Seemed hurt towards the end – need to get his back and neck examined by team doctors asap. My Man of the Match (even though it seems like the KFA called it for Son)

Son Heung-Min: particularly in the 2nd half, maintains his Spurs scoring and dribbling form. Brilliant movement, one timer to find game winning goal. Fouled with his achilles heel badly clipped – hobbling toward the end of his 88′ shift. Dare to send him back to London to recover instead of facing Iran? BTW: he just won this:


(check out the dab post goal celebration) …and 1 more interesting stat to note:


50th cap + assist + goal winner = Son still on fire : and the puns for this on form player keeps on coming…

Ji Dong-Won: vital goal to equalize, keeps up Augsburg form. Good energy, great hustling.

Kim Bo-Kyung: Should’ve come in sooner!!!!   Creative and dangerous players shouldn’t be on the bench – except for a glut of good left wing players for the KNT.

Hong Jeong-Ho: not a great day at office, but red card was extremely harsh. Still, his move to China Super League may not be a good one for his defensive form. Timing seemed off.

No Lee Chung-Yong or Lee Jae-Sung: with yellow cards piling up, Uli needs the Crystal Palace man and the crafty Jeonbuk midfielder desperately for the upcoming Iran match.

Hong Chul provided the cross that found Kim Shin-Wook. Not bad going forward, ok yet not spectacular with defending.

Jung Woo-Young started chain that resulted in 3rd and game winning goal.

Kim Shin-Wook: did well to head ball onto the path of Ji for equalizer. Still, his holdup play up front left further into the 2nd half left something to be desired (footwork not as impressive as his ACL game against FC Seoul either). Perhaps I’m being harsh on the Wookie as he was the target of repeated fouls that the ref overlooked or inexplicably called the other way.

Two ways to look at Uli Stielike’s turn at managing today. Poor AND…better at tweaking with contingency for plan B.  His Korea record when Korea conceded first is statistically not prevalent.  Korea usually go ahead and either runs up the score against minnows or defend defend defend.  This time, narrative suggests Korea displayed the right stuff in composure and mentality to comeback, and yet…on paper, it should not have been this close.


Next up: Iran v Korea Tuesday October 11 at 10:45AM US EST and 11:45 PM Korea time for WCQ.  Stakes are high as both are tied on points (7 a piece) on top of Group A, but Iran just a tad ahead on goal differential. Iran yet to concede a goal in this round of WCQ.


Extra time:

Japan barely edges out Iraq at home 2-1 with a 95′ minute goal to squeeze out victory.

China falls 0-1 against Syria. Shocking setback for China, who’s been poring money, money and more money at their football program.

Iran edged out Uzbekistan 0-1. Uzbekistan misses out on opportunity to top Group A.








About Roy Ghim 454 Articles
The old Tavern Owner


  1. What a match. I agree on many accounts, except that Uli Stielike have been getting too much heat in my opinion. Hear me out, but I think his successes so far for KNT should allow him to even experiment a bit more.

    Someone needs to post a replay of that handball – i briefly saw it before cutting away & it looked very obvious (Ki headed the ball and it hit one of Qatar’s defender’s elbow – clearly away from the shoulder). I scoured over YouTube, but I got nothing.

    But it was basically 12 Qatari players against 10 SK players for awhile at the end.

    Good win. I’m very proud of us.

    • To a degree, yes, Stielike should be allowed room to experiment. I’ve called on the ex Real Madrid defender to do that – but today his choice to play Hong out of position (left CB rather than right CB) is one of a few puzzling choices. I don’t fault him for Suk – normally impactful -just not his day or jetlag got to him so HT sub for wookie was right move. But he did leave Son in far too long – hindsight hard to predict that he would get injury -but with Kimbo’s skillsets – why not bring him in sooner – Son got his goal, then out of gas, so why not bring calvary relief sooner? Could’ve been calamitous. So I have both kudos and legit criticism for Uli. AND yes – clear handball!!! That should’ve been called. Ref can say it was unintentional, but we’ve all seen plenty of refs who wouldn’t hesitate to give the PK decision. Again, really have to wonder whether there was something fishy with these refs – and I really am not prone to conspiracy theories. However the AFC as an organization hasn’t done much to allay their image of corruption and at the very least – abysmal ineptitude.

      • Gonna come to Stielke’s defense just a bit. I think he kept Son in because he’s our best chance at getting a goal if needed. We were only up by 1 and then a man down. With Qatar already netting 2 and needing at least a draw if not a win for the CHANCE to qualify, I don’t think Stielke was alone in worrying that they might get a third goal. If Son’s gone, does the team have the confidence to find a winner? I know they have other goal scorers out there (Ji and Ki scored before Son after all), but sometimes just KNOWING that you have one of the best current Premier League players with you is what helps other guys play their best. Hindsight’s 20/20 I guess.

        • I hear what you’re saying…in the chess match of things, given certain factors such as jetlag for KPAs, etc, conventional wisdom would say if the bench is a deep one for certain positions like left wing, subbing Kimbo for Son earlier would make sense given the score (3-2) and fresh legs from Kimbo provides boost with KNT being down to 10 men. But as you say, hindsight 20/20… However now that Son’s injured – not sure the extent, Uli’s risk of extending Son’s time on pitch vs Qatar will have backfired should Son become unable to play given that KNT has to face Iran next.

          • Word. Thanks for responding. Definitely hope Som plays. I’d say the hardest team in the AFC is Iran in Tehran. Australia and Japan would have trouble there too. Hoping Son drops some bombs on them.

  2. I’ve been saying that the Korean defense has been suspect and that the Asia Cup performance was Fool’s Gold in regards to the play of the backline. Korea has creative and talented offensive players, but until we get a goalie and a decent backline we’re going to exit the WC during group stage again. SMH.

      • HAHAHAHAHAHA!! cringe worthy eh? Matter of debate. the challenge is then out there for Tavern goers: what would constitute a good and original post goal celebration? send up your youtube submissions and we’ll post them for the court of Tavern opinion to decide.

        BTW: Kim Seung-Gyu didn’t do well in your opinion? It looks fairly solid to me, good reaction, maybe bobbled a save or two here but did his job and distributed as well as can be expected…

      • Agreed. Son should change his celebration. There are too many other players that made the dab celebration famous like Paul Pogba. He needs to come up with something that’s more original.

        I think part of the reason why Korea’s defense has been poor is because the CBs change too often. I think the chemistry between two CB’s is the most important in a soccer team. Stielike needs to pick his two and stick with them. Also, he needs to stop picking JHS at RB.

  3. I dreamed that we won 5-1 haha.
    Couldn’t watch the game since it would be 4 AM for me and I’ve got school.
    I wasn’t too shocked at the score when I checked on Instagram though.
    but man those refs though smh smh. Comments on thekfa Instagram post had a lot of people commenting about the referee.
    And HJH’s red card… wow. So dumb.
    But in the end we won and got the 3 points so go Korea 😀

  4. Korea really needs to work on defending against counter attacks. Also, there has not been anyone really giving it 100% in our backline. Can’t remember which player exactly, but for Qatar’s second goal, the player ran into another of ours and lay there for a while which provided plenty of time and space for the Qatar players to play a simple open pass to set up the goal. Get the f up.

    Players like Hong Myungbo and the rest of the 2002 WC crew defined the ‘투혼’ mentality and it hasn’t really been seen since. We can definitely see sparks of passion from Sonny and Lee Seungwoo, and I hope that rubs off on all the others.

    • iirc, Ki and Son took part in a light training session today while the other team did a bit more work. Both seem like they will be available for selection on Tuesday.

  5. I really don’t know what’s questionable about Hong’s foul. He had his arm across Soriano, who knocked the ball past him, and stuck out his leg, making no contact with the ball and only tripping the player. It’s poor defending and a clear foul.

Join in the Tavern's conversations -Leave a comment...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.