Korea – Senegal Recap: Closed Doors and a 2-0 Loss

Phota Credit: Steve Han

This morning, our Taeguk Warriors played their final friendly match before the World Cup kicks off against Senegal. Senegal will play in Group H and figures on paper to be one of the strongest African sides going to the World Cup.

This match was supposed to be behind closed doors, but luckily Tim was on the case and tapped into the Senegalese Twitter world to get us those timely updates this morning (he’s a Twitter pro!). I’ll recap with all the info we have and give you my take on this match! Hopefully there will be a lot to talk about in the comments!

For this friendly, Shin stuck with the 4-4-2 that yielded a 0-0 draw with Bolivia last Thursday. Steve Han posted the line-up and here’s what it might have looked like on the tactics board.

A couple things that I want to take note of in this line-up. Cho Hyun-woo was the starting GK one match before the World Cup begins. Pair this with the fact that Kim Seung-gyu was substituted at halftime in the Bolivia match and it seems like the No. 1 goalkeeper for the tournament has not been decided. In addition, Kim Min-woo started the match because Shin Tae-yong revealed that Park Joo-ho had a little pain in his knee and was rested for the match. In midfield, it is interesting that Koo Ja-cheol was tested out in the center of the midfield with Ki Sung-yeung, a departure from the usual Ki-Jung pivot. Finally, Hwang Hee-chan and Moon Seon-min were ruled out of the match to rest because they picked up knocks in last week’s training. Both are on course to be fit for Sweden.

Also, here is Senegal’s line-up for the match:

Now let’s discuss what happened in the match and what that means going forward. First of all, let’s not get too carried away with a 2-0 loss to Senegal. Senegal are a great side led by Sadio Mane and I felt that this would be a really good test for the Taeguk Warriors one week before the Sweden match. During the match, Lee Yong went down injured in the 37th minute after a collision and was replaced by Go Yo-han. Lee Yong got stitches to his head but Shin said in his postgame comments that he will still travel to Russia and there is no need to call in a replacement. In the 57th minute, Jung Woo-young was brought on in place of Lee Seung-woo. I don’t know how this changed the formation but it could have allowed Shin to revert to his normal Ki-Jung pivot and pushed Lee Jae-sung farther forward into more of a 4-2-2-2 or 4-3-3 formation. In the 67th minute things got interesting. Korea let in an own goal but it is looking like there was some weird scramble at the back because the KFA and Senegal have attributed the goal to different players! Have a look!

Whether or not it was Kim Young-gwon or Kim Shin-wook who caused the own goal we’ll never know but it’s certainly odd to see. For the last sub, Korea introduced Ju Se-jong for Kim Shin-wook in the 84th minute. Good to see Shin playing this like a competitive match and only using 3 subs. Finally, in the 91st minute Moussa Konate converted a penalty to make the final score 2-0 (the KFA didn’t release who conceded the foul). There was some Twitter chatter that Son scored a goal deep into stoppage time but it wasn’t counted so the score stayed 2-0.

Let me give some quick positive takeaways from what little I know about this match. For one, Kim Shin-wook once again proved that he doesn’t have the ability to influence matches at the international level outside of the AFC World Cup qualifying cycles. Just imagine if he had banged in two goals with Hwang Hee-chan injured and we were forced to endure him starting against Sweden, a team that were designed to neutralize him. Yuck! Another line-up surprise that might be telling is that Jung Woo-young was not given the start with Ki. It was interesting to see that Koo was tried out in CM role and it will be interesting to see if that is Shin’s plan A going forward. Koo played a lot of different midfield roles for Augsburg this season so he would be up to the task if asked to partner Ki. Ju Se-jong was given a substitution late so this could be an indication that he has fallen down the pecking order in the CM battle. Finally, let me address that own goal. There were rumors that Kim Shin-wook might even be placed in a back 3 in the lead-up to this match. We have no idea what happened on that goal but if at any point Kim was instructed by Shin to play defense that would be very odd. Anyway, so far it seems like the back 4 will be Park Joo-ho, Kim Young-gwon, Jang Hyun-soo, and Lee Yong. Unless Jang Hyun-soo was culpable for the penalty or the own goal in some way I do not see him losing his spot at this moment.

Alright, let’s move on to a very odd post-match press conference from Shin Tae-yong. The videos and transcripts from that have been floating around Twitter and they don’t look good. Tim posted up some very good quotes and I’ll post the part of the thread that works into a point I want to make about Shin.


From the point last year when Shin was appointed KNT manager, his comments to the media have always been puzzling. Today’s press conference was no different. He expresses his wish to take away the phones of his players because the media criticism is affecting them. He mentions feeling nervous and says his plan is collapsing. He goes on to comment that the Korean public’s excitement for the World Cup is falling because of the media criticism. Frankly, this is nonsense. Every manager must be able to deal with criticism when the results are as poor as this. And why wouldn’t Korean fans be less excited when the team is having trouble winning in friendlies leading up to the World Cup?

So my conclusion regarding Shin is a bit grim. All his talk of “tricks” for Sweden have clearly gotten in his head. He is paranoid about the media criticism, at a loss for how to get the best from his players, and still not sure if his plan will work. He needs to relax, take responsibility for his poor results, and encourage his players to give their all in training and leave it all on the pitch against Sweden. No more tricks Shin, you’re only tricking yourself.

About Michael Welch 89 Articles
That Halfie Korean-American who loves football (I mean, soccer).


  1. Yikes. own goal plus giving up another last minute goal. Outside of that, I guess you could say the defense must have played somewhat decently assuming the own goal was an unavoidable deflection. As for the offense, Shin must realize by now that Hwang should be the starter over the Wookie, right?

  2. With our recent bad luck with own goals and last minute goals, we’re due to be on the other side of this trend in the next 3 matches, you know?

    • There’s some positivity that I like to see! I hope our luck changes next Monday and that Hwang is given the start up top. The Wookie has had all the chances he needs to show his stuff, he showed nothing.

  3. I remember when the groups were announced, I thought that we just had to go into it with nothing to lose, and Shin Tae Yong has to give the guys an underdog mentality with the belief that they can beat any team. If they did that, they could surprise the world. Well, obviously we are still underdogs, but I can’t help but feel disappointed with the direction the team is going in under STY. I know these are just friendlies and don’t mean anything, but in the past few weeks, STY has really disappointed me. Coaching is so important.. it really sets the tone for the team, doesn’t it? I’m hoping the guys feel more optimistic than I do now.

    Anyway, from my perspective, the Bolivia game meant nothing, and we couldn’t even watch the one today so who knows how good/bad we were. 2-0 isn’t good, but I’ll try to save my complaining since I’ve done that enough. No matter what, a few things have to be abundantly clear by this point:
    1) The Wookie is a plan C, if that. I hope we never see him on the pitch. I’d rather have Lee Seung Woo and Son Heung Min leading the attack to get a last minute goal. No hail mary long balls, for the love of god. If STY doesn’t get this by now, he’s never going to get it. It’s not too late to make the right choice Mr. Shin!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please god listen to some voice of reason.
    2) Regardless of the results of this WC, our defense has so many holes and no depth (not even sure we can call it a lack of depth when our starters aren’t that great). Please KFA, start retooling- we said that after 2014 but nothing has changed.

    On a positive, at least the guys know how tough it’s gonna be. Senegal is a better test than the past 3 friendlies.

    Hoping after all the talk of strategy and formation/tactics, Shin is somehow able to pull a rabbit out of his hat.

  4. The KFA just posted on Twitter that the Wookie was in fact responsible for the own goal: https://twitter.com/theKFA/status/1006333953546993665

    It’s difficult to draw any conclusions from today’s friendly given that it was closed door. But Senegal is a fairly strong side that should be competitive in Group H, and this was a good test for the KNT. Hopefully Lee Yong is alright and Hwang HC will be ready in time for the Sweden match.

    I actually remain sympathetic to Shin, and I’ll continue giving him the benefit of the doubt before the WC. Now, if he starts Kim SW in the WC, that will change. But, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think a friendly or two makes that much of a difference in bolstering team cohesion. So, the media really should lay off the criticism. Did we all forget that when the draw came out, no one gave the KNT a chance? And did we all forget the disastrous qualifying run? I don’t understand why suddenly everyone has such high expectations. I am also not entirely convinced by the importance of these friendlies. The KNT lost 0-4 in a friendly to Ghana right before the 2014 World Cup. Coach Hong played a side against Ghana that was largely similar to his starting squad versus Russia. I don’t think the Ghana friendly made his squad any better or worse prepared.

    The sample size to base any of these judgments is so small. Yes, if this Korea team were to play Sweden, Mexico, Germany in 1,000 simulated matches, I think we would lose most of those matches because our team is not as talented, cohesive, or tactically adept as the other teams. But in one single match, I think we have an underdog’s chance. We have the benefit of the schedule, in terms of sequence of opponents. And we will have some of the most talented players on the field in the Sweden and Mexico matches. That alone gives me some hope. If we are able to scrape a one goal win over Sweden, and Mexico gets thumped against Germany, that will set up the all pivotal match versus Mexico. If we then eke out a draw, then it will all come down to GD. Let’s hope Germany take their foot off the throttle and take it easy in that third match. That’s our (not so easy) path to advancing. I have basically talked myself into being optimistic about this team again! But I’m also prepared to get knocked out with 0 points. I’m excited to see Son, Ki, along with Hwang and Lee SW on the world’s largest stage, win or lose.

  5. Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.

    Wookie must go, period. What a waste of space. Shin Tae Young’s love affair for Wookie is too obvious and outright insane. Wookie has no business being on this team.

    The coach.
    I was hoping Stelike would have been our answer and stabilizing force, but that did not work. I do applaud the KFA giving him time to at least work. However, I am very doubtful that Shin Tae Young is the answer. I have said it before, and I will say it again, we should have gone with a Euro coach.

    Does anybody know the influence or the roles of the Spanish asst coaches on our team?

  6. These last three comments are very very good! Lots to get to so I’ll try to address each of you guys!!

    Jon, I have been so disappointed by Shin too but I hope he can pull it together miraculously. The KFA are only just started their retool to be honest. Bringing in Park Ji-sung and a German youth specialist should hopefully direct the youth development and get better defensive coaching across the board.

    David, I absolutely agree with your optimism. I am making sure to think along those lines as well. In terms of the media criticism, I think this is just Korea. It is hard to be a coach of the KNT and I think Shin will have to adjust. If he can’t, he’s not right for the job.

    Lionel, I do not think Wookie has any shot at getting off the bench now. He got 2 starts and wasted both of them. Shin can’t be so dumb to think this will work against Sweden. I liked Shin when he was appointed because he wanted to evolve the tactics and play attractive football. I really hope he gets his ideas together and comes good. We could go for a Euro coach again but it’s just too hit or miss I feel. I do not know what influence the Spanish coaches have, but hopefully they can give their insight on what’s not working right now.

  7. Just wanted to say thank you.

    I have an unhealthy obsession with South Korean football…..my wife thinks I get manic when I watch World Cup games.

    Thank you to the Tavern, may we be a place to share, laugh, and console one another.

    Lionel Lee

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