Korea mens squad opens Asian Games with 6:0 win over Bahrain

In football, as in life, there are no guarantees. Korea facing Bahrain in Asian Games football might be one of those exception to the rule. Korea cruised to a comfortable 6 goal to nil victory in their opening Group E match at Jalak Harupat Stadium in Indonesia, with goals provided by Kim Jin-Ya, Na Sang-Ho, a hat trick by Hwang Ui-Jo, and a late game curling freekick beauty of a goal by Hwang Hee-Chan, with several comedy prone errors by Bahrain’s keeper to gift Korea the very high scoreline (Stay tuned, at the end of this recap, we’ll have a video recap of the match).

Despite Bahrain appearing to wave the white flag by halftime, they regrouped enough to ask some questions about Korea’s defenses, evidenced by Cho Hyun-Woo, the guardian goalkeeping hero of Korea’s World Cup campaign a month and a half ago having to actually go to work.  He was much busier in the 2nd half, hustling to provide some of his trademark flying acrobatic saves to keep Bahrain out of the net. It was clear from this performance why they called him up as one of 3 overage players in this U23 tournament, along with Son and Hwang Ui-Jo. While this match might not draw out lasting conclusions about Korea’s Asian Games squad, we got some observations that might point to Korea’s direction going forward into the tournament. While other national football programs won’t take this tournament too seriously, it deadly serious for Korea – one with high stakes with little room for error as a gold medal will mean much needed military exemptions for the squad – and allow for Asia’s best player in Son Heung-Min to continue playing in the Premier League and Champions League (see Son’s Pathway to military exemption/conscription).


Kim Hak-bum fielded a starting XI that preserves Son Heung-min for the later tournament games:




3-5-2 on paper that really acted as a 3-4-1-2 with the fullbacks pushed higher in the first half.  In the 2nd half, Korea dropped deeper to set up in a more counter attacking format. Here’s a timeline of events:

Tim Lee, manning the Tavern Twitter barely got the 4th goal tweet when Hwang Ui-Jo notched a hat trick before HT whistle, with Hwang In-beom sending a ball over the top, a miscommunication between a Bahrain defender and the keeper allowed Ui-jo to cheekily ‘steal the bacon’ and send the ball into the net past a sprawling and panicked keeper.





Talking points:

  • Hwang In-beom might not get the headlines that Hwang Ui-jo will get for his hat trick, but the 21 year old was busy being the creator of 4 of the 5 goals scored in the 1st half. The Daejeon/Asan midfielder bossed the ball around – finding ways in/around/above Bahrain’s defense. We tweeted this out earlier, but for Korea to get gold medal hardware, they’ll need him to remain healthy in this tournament.
  • Bahrain’s keeper Ahmed provides a rare talking point for comedy gold. There were several howlers which contributed to the high scoreline in the 1st half. He settled down in the 2nd half to keep out a few on target Hwang Hee-Chan shots, but conceded eventually to the ex-Pohang and current Red Bull Salzburg forward with a beautiful hit curling freekick that dinged the upper right corner and on into the net 3 minutes into stoppage time.
  • Kim Min-jae did well to keep Korea free and clear of danger from Bahrain most of the game. When he was subbed out for Kim Gun-woong in the 70th, the organizational shape and leadership from the back evaporated, allowing Bahrain to register some dangerous shots, only to fall short to the virtual wall of veteran keeper Cho Hyun-woo to keep the ball out of the net. Nothing to panic about, but it’s an area of concern, particularly as the future of Korean football going forward (vis a vis military exemption for this squad) is in the hands of this somewhat wobbly defense.
  • Hwang Ui-jo, who had been a controversial over-age selection, did well to sail effortlessly in the Bahrain box and notching a hat trick in the process, part Ui-jo being on target and Bahrain’s abysmal defense.
  • When Ui-jo and In-beom rotated out, Lee Seung-Woo and Hwang Hee-Chan rotated in for a wrestling-like tag team action. Lee played the In-beom role in creating chances for Hwang Hee-Chan, only to see his on shots get parried away (and in the case of his first chance given to him on a platter by a cheeky backheel from Lee, curling away and off target). While Hwang Hee-Chan made amends with his free kick beauty, he wasn’t as clinical today, but there’s still a long tournament left.
  • An area of concern: defensive midfielder Lee Seung-mo’s passing. Several unforced errors had his name on it in dangerous positions.
  • More on the defensive struggles after Kim Min-jae’s rotational departure, manager Kim Hak-bum said this:


If that wasn’t a cover for the poorer shape of the defense in the latter stages of the game, it’s a awkward and not-very-diplomatic admission from the manager indicating that he was conducting the affairs of the 2nd half more like a training practice. 

To conclude: Korea earns an expected result with some positives and a few areas to work on. No yellow cards, no injuries, and more minnows upcoming in the group stage. The real test won’t come until the knockout stages.


Korea’s mens squad next faces Malaysia on Friday 8am EST/ 1 am Saturday in Korea. 

Korea’s Women’s squad faces Taiwan on Thursday at 4AM US ET and 5pm Korea time. 

You can catch up on the composite of Korea’s Asian Games squad and players to look out for in their epic search for the Gold at the Tavern:




and stay tuned for…


Don’t forget to check out Son Heung-Min’s Pathway to military exemption/conscription – there’s a nifty flowchart for journalists and non-journalists alike and a surprising shock possibility that awaits Son if he fails to earn military exemption.

About Roy Ghim 454 Articles
The old Tavern Owner


  1. Anyone else wonder if Na Sang-Ho was pissed about Hwang Ui-Jo nearly stealing that 3rd goal. He didn’t look too happy about it, at least from the highlights I saw.

    • I think they gave that goal to Na Sang-ho anyway though. Because if it went to Hwang, he would have had 4 goals, not 3. I did see the look on Na’s face but it’s probably nothing that Captain Sonny can’t fix with a nice handshake after a great performance from Na all match!

  2. Let’s hope the defense took a more relaxed approach in the second half due to the score. There were too many shots on goal for comfort.

    • It seems like Kim Min-jae is pretty important to the defense. It was after he was subbed off that the defense got shakier. He seems able to read matches well and organize the backline too.

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