Argentina. When you think of them in terms of past footballing history – World Cup titles, players who will be etched in eternity like Maradona or Messi, it is a brand as much as a national team, rich in football culture and international stature. Argentina’s participation in the U20 World Cup is no exception, having notched 6 titles – more than Brazil and Portugal. The 2017 U20 World Cup in Korea just got more interesting as the plucky hosts took down team Argentina in a hard fought 2:1 victory today. The win means passage to the knockout stage of the tournament – the first team to make it through. Korea might have been an afterthought among some international football observers on the youth level. No longer – especially with the high profile players of Lee Seung-Woo / Paik Seung-Ho making immediate and devastating impact. In uniform for the Taeguk Warriors, the pair also are Korea’s representatives (along with Jang Gyeol-Hee) at the world’s most renown football academy in Barcelona. The Barca Boys did not disappoint; as they did in their first game against Guinea, both netted the pivotal goals against Argentina, who before the tournament began, most would have pipped to win the group. Instead, the narrative has completely flipped – it is the Argentinians who are in effect out of the tournament- (correction: there is a slim chance*). Yet another packed stadium in Jeonju, all who could get seats were treated to an electric matchup -Korea’s biggest test in what some would describe as the unofficial group of death (debatable but lets talk about that later). It was an impressive result, a tale of 2 halves that says a lot about Korea’s strengths and areas of concern looking ahead to their round of 16 adventures.
BTW: The Tavern will have a Koreans Abroad European season roundup – the good/bad & ugly of it – but one good definitely that came out of it was Son Heung-Min and his shattering Cha Bum-Kun’s 30 year goal scoring record – Son won accolades & now the most prolific Korean in top flight European football. Stay tuned for that post this week.
Korea’s game in a sentence equation? Moments of brilliance 1st half / struggling to hold on after conceding early 2nd half + 5 TENSE stoppage time minutes = joy/relief/fatigue.
>>>>And with that I will have to leave you (for now) with some video highlights —I’ll return when the Tavern kids allow me to – meaning after I get them off to bed. There’s a bit of analysis to share + more contrived internet controversy about Lee Seung-Woo and his over the top post goal celebrating
UPDATE: I’m back for a moment,
FIFA has their very short video recap.
What I didn’t talk about yet was the way Korea got the 2nd goal, a ballsy effort by Cho Young-Wook to latch onto a bouncing long ball that looped in behind the defense – he did but not before keeper Petroli charged off his line and recklessly careened into the Korean forward. Both took a nasty tumble, and immediately the ref correctly assessed a penalty awarded Korea. Football (sometimes) favors the bold. Cho was stretchered off (later re-entered the game) and Petroli got a yellow and medical attention for his troubles. When he was able to get back up, Paik Seung-Ho nailed the PK by sending Petroli the wrong way and did an interesting goal celebration. This next tweet sums it up:
— The Taeguk Warriors (@taeguk_warrior) May 24, 2017
Paik takes revenge for Maradona’s antics at the draw with a “Where’s ur paper?” celly.
You can’t see the nutmeg that Colombatto did to Kim Seung-Woo, but it freed up their substitute Torres to fire in a goal within 5 minutes of the 2nd half. There were a few other cringe worthy moments by team Korea in the 2nd half that made that last 45 minutes all Argentina – the inability to get the ball out of their own half practically made life far more difficult than necessary for the Red Devils. Nevertheless, as Tim predicted based off of Korea’s impressive pre WC victory over Uruguay, the 3-4-3 by in large worked tactically, clogging vital space, and forcing turnovers in the final third. They did just enough defensively (good confident work by keeper Song Bum-Keun) and stayed organized enough to fend off waves of Argentinian attacks. The 1 goal lead and invitation to attack with a lack of consistent 2nd half passing on another day would have meant an Argentine comeback. Fortunately, Korea survived and after 5 very tense stoppage time minutes, Korean players collapsed before eventually getting back up to celebrate.
While this edition of Argentina representing at the U20 level will certainly not will rank as one of their greatest – there are names you will surely hear of in the future, make no mistake. There’s amazing quality of skills many of these players possess – and the gulf between some of the Koreans who play amateur ball on the university level vs professional youngsters is quite demonstrable.
That said, two things come to mind:
- Shin Tae-Yong seems to know the quality on hand and the realistic level the young squad are operating on. If individuals are perhaps not up to the level their Argentinian counterparts possess, as a team -Shin Tae-Yong has installed a well rehearsed group who make up for some deficits with positioning and counterbalancing defensive teamwork.
- Shin also knows he has some exceptional talent on hand as part of the make up of the squad. Apart from the Barca Boys (who, as expected from their LaMasia pedigree, demonstrated their mettle thus far), others like Cho Young-Wook that may be flying under the radar of opposition coaches are also stepping up and handling the tournament with aplomb.
There’s more I want to update including Lee Seung-Woo’s extended goal celebration (personally I found hilarious, over the top, and totally LSW), he apparently got some netizen criticism from some in Spain. However, several bloggers and writers stood up for him. Me, this is nothing new. LSW got the skill and moves to score on Argentina – let him celebrate. ‘Nuff said.
Got to go, ACL Round of 16 tomorrow with Jeju facing Urawa at 2AM EST. Korea v England on Friday – STY will probably will rest some key players. Dae Han Min Guk ya’ll!
Korea has struggled in the past against South American opposition.
— SBSSPORTS (@SBSSPORTSNOW) May 24, 2017
The 3-4-3 : a necessary evil
As we had all expected including in our preview, Shin Taeyong lined up Korea in a 3-4-3 shape akin to the one used to beat South American champions Uruguay in a pre-tournament friendly. The main objective of this was certainly from a defensive point of view. Coach Shin explained post-game that his scouting intel informed him of the dangerous threat that is the second striker Palacios. All the more essential, then, to play an aggressive libero. The man for the mission was Kim Seungwoo, who would proactively come out and mark Palacios all around the pitch in the first half. Though this sometimes created chaos in an otherwise orderly system, the gamble generally paid off in this first frame with Song only being tested by a tricky cross and poor angle shots. That said, the midfield’s easy collapse meant the Koreans absorbed a lot of pressure. Luckily, on this night, our centrebacks and final third defending was on point, Jeong Taewook in particular was a beast, covering for Lee Youhyeon on the unfortunately numerous occasions on which he was beaten, while the centrebacks squeezed space in the box and defended well.
In the second half, the wingbacks dropped deeper with the Argentines knowing even a draw wasn’t an ideal result in terms of their qualification and heaping on the pressure. After Korea conceded a goal in the first few minutes due to Kim Seungwoo’s over-aggressiveness, Shin brought on a defensive mid (Lee Seungmo) and the Koreans saw out the second half with remarkable calm. As one Korean football pundit put it, “it is true that Shin Taeyong soccer is strong in attack but weak in defense. But after today, it is true to say Shin Taeyong soccer can actually be defensive too.”
Tim’s Player Ratings
Song Bumkeon – 8.5 – Never put a foot wrong and was tidy in front of goal. Don’t like his habit of punching when unnecessary a la Jung Sungryong but eh. It worked. Don’t blame him for the 1v1. Could have made himself bigger but he came off of his line well.
Yoon Jonggyu – 6.5 – In terms of static defending, the Korean backline as a whole did well. But he got beaten a lot by Conechny on his side and struggled all while contributing little going forward.
Lee Yoohyeon – 6.5 – Similar to Yoon.
Lee Sangmin – 8.5 – Cool from the skipper. Maybe could have done better at picking up his run that led to the Argentine goal but I’ll forgive him since the defense was solid today.
Kim Seungwoo – 8.5 – Again, nutmegged and ran out of steam in the second half but boy oh boy was he a head of steam in the first. Got his instructions from the manager and never looked back.
Jeong Taewook – 9.5 – Wow. What a beast. Won every aerial duel, was calm, composed and efficient. Used his monster height to his advantage. Not a perfect ten just because there were a lot of pass misses from the backline, including from Jeong.
Lee Jinhyeon – 7.0 – Sure. You can see he has good vision, but he and LSH were stifled in midfield today and weren’t the most crisp on a passing level. There’s still work to be done here – Korea never really controlled the tempo of the game and that is down to the midfielders and defenders making a good few passes to relieve pressure and then transition into offense gradually.
Lee Sangheon – 5.5 – Sink hole. Han Chanhee or Lim Minhyeok would have been a better option.
Paik Seungho – 7.25 – Wasn’t his best game and faded in the second half. Extra 0.25 for the celly.
Cho Youngwook – 9.0 – Incredible work rate and indefatigable stamina. Off the ball movement was sharp, in essence created both Korean goals without tallying up an assist. Some say he’s a one-trick pony but I’m okay with it right now.
Lee Seungwoo – 9.5 – Need I say more?
Lee Seungmo – 8.5 – DM that came on around 50th minute and brought markedly more strength and competent defense. Also, for the second game running, almost got a goal from distance, this time a sweet sweeping shot that was just barely stopped by the opposition keeper.
Other subs: Lim Minhyeok, Ha Seungwoon – no rating, nothing remarkable in their stints.
England. Give the players a rest. Doesn’t matter whether or not you win the group – when you’ve just beaten Argentina you’ve got to be pretty confident you can beat anybody.