Korea squeaks by Kyrgyzstan 1:0 in Asian Games group finale

A must win match as Korea scrambles to regroup after a shock loss to Malaysia a few days ago.

After some profusive apologies for the Malaysia loss on Friday, Kim Hak-Bum trotted out this XI:

Son wore the captain’s armband. This lineup saw Hwang In-Beom and Na Sang-Ho returning, Hwang Ui-Jo up top with Hwang Hee-Chan rotated out.  With a 4-2-3-1 formation, Korea found themselves struggling to break down a compact defense with a lack of creativity, tactical acumen and poor execution.  It wasn’t necessarily abysmal, Korea ended the first half with plenty of possession and shots (12) but simply could not find the back of the net. Missing from the starting roster: Lee Seung-Woo (leading some to speculate whether he has a niggling injury from the Bahrain match).


Halftime arrived, no breakthrough:

Hwang Ui-Jo was taken out for Hwang Hee-Chan and the attack improved to a degree.

Cue to the 63rd minute, Jang Yun-ho corner kick zeroed in on Son Heung-min and the Spurs wide man made no mistake as he one timed it into the Kyrgyzstan net. Relief followed by a bit more frustration as Korea immediately went on the attack to cushion their lead, Hwang Hee-chan with a golden opportunity skied his shot in the box high in the Indonesian night sky.  Lee Seung-woo entered the fray late in a bid to get more breathing room and keep the attacking engine going. In the 88th minute, a promising counter attack later and Hwang Hee-chan fires on target, blocked but the rebound comes to Son, but Kyrgyzstan packed the goal line with 4 defenders and his shot inevitably couldn’t find a way into the blockade. A nervy few minutes of stoppage time and Kyrgyzstan corner kicks allowed them several heart attack inducing chances to even the score. Finally the whistle blew: Korea hangs to their slim lead and advances to the knockouts as runner ups to Malaysia. It’s another lackluster performance and the questions about this squad under Kim Hak-Bum continues unabated.

Celebrating the goal: Son Heung-min / Photo: Yonhap News

Korea winds up as the runner ups in Group E. Malaysia and Korea both have 2 wins and a loss to their record but Malaysia, having beaten Korea earlier 2:1 tops the group on head to head records. Korea will play Iran next in the Round of 16.


With so much on the line, one has to wonder if the magnitude of military exemption factors in as a major distraction to playing simply with poise and confidence, rather than the frenetic haphazard way in which they’ve gone about their business during group staging. It’s difficult to pin down what are the precise factors plaguing this team for the poorer execution. Is it this generation of U23 players in general or is it lack of due diligence by Kim Hak-Bum in his roster selection process? Or is it overall lack of tactical acumen by said manager?  Regardless, Korea will need to sort out things in short order to advance further in this tournament – high stakes for Korean players –  not so much for the other national programs, Japan and Iran both are fielding U21 teams.

Son Heung-Min certainly took fate into his own when he scored the eventual game winner, though with the way Korea was managing their affairs, there was nervous uncertainty with when/how they would break the deadlock.


Next up: Iran, which again is fielding a U21 team on Thursday August 23 at 8:30am US EST/ 9:30pm Korea Time. They top Group F despite losing to Myanmar.

We’ve included a bracket for the knockout stages, as you can see, Korea’s path to a gold medal will likely include going through Uzbekistan in the quarterfinals and Vietnam in the semifinals, baring any major upsets. On the other side of the bracket, should Korea advance to the Gold medal match, likely opponents could include China, Japan and Asian Games 2014 runner ups North Korea who South Korea beat in the closing minutes of the final to win Park Joo-ho, Lee Jae-sung and others military exemption in the previous edition of the tournament.

Extra Time: Korea’s Women trounced Maldives 8:0 on Sunday. Hat trick by Son Hway-eon + goals by captain Ji So-Yun, a late goal for Lee Eun-mi, a double for Moon Mi-ra, and own goal by Amninath. Korea has 2 wins in group A, they face hosts Indonesia on Tuesday at 7:30am US EST/8:30pm Korea Time.

In Europe, Ji Dong-Won started for Augsburg and registered 60 minutes on Sunday, they won 2:1 over Steinbach.

Lee Jae-Sung played 90 minutes for Holstein Kiel in a dfB Pokal cup match at 1860 München. Holstein won 3:1 and Lee Jae-Sung assisted Shindler in the last goal of the game.

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  1. Hwang Hee Chan is Lee Keun Ho reincarnate, except, Hwang can’t even manage to kick it straight to the keeper for at least a shot on goal.

  2. I feel like the team should stop trying to penetrate the middle against parked busses, especially with son positioned in the middle.

    I wasnt surprised that the play got better as Hwang HC got subbed in on the wing with the team trying to penetrate over the sides. Ive always wanted to see both Son and Hwang on the wings. Son cant do shit in the middle if the bus is parked, no room for explosiveness. Both of our CMs dropped very deep today, so the fullbacks shouldve pushed much higher from the beginning, like they did in the second half.

    If we can continuesly create overloads on the wings, with son/hwang having the option to pass to the overlapping fullback, dribbling, crossing or shooting, while switching sides constantly, we will create lots of chaos. All big teams do that against parked busses. We dont have world class wingers, but on this stage son and hwang are sufficient to play these roles.

    • Yes! There were a couple times when the fullbacks were completely open out wide and the players forced passes down the middle instead that led to turnovers.

      Like Kevin said below, I seriously question the ability of the coaching staff. I still can’t understand the tactics against the Malaysia and their inability to make adjustments. I’m not sure if they’ll be able to get past Iran. Hopefully, they’ll prove me wrong.

    • Good observations with the fullbacks pushing up higher = better results. Korea did just that as I recall in the 1st half against Bahrain, not so much in the 2nd half of that match when they “intentionally” dropped deeper. I suspect solving compact defense will be the challenge going against a U21 Iran tomorrow.

  3. With so much on the line I won’t blame the players, the effort is there. I blame the coaching and their lack of coaching ability. Something hasn’t worked in the last two matches and they still haven’t figured it out.

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