Brazil 2 : 0 Korea. Many glancing on their cellphone at the score would nod and mutter, ‘sounds about right’. However, like transformers, there’s more than meets the eye here – including a FoxSports analyst disputing the merits of the penalty awarded Brazil during the live US telecast. [We’ll have more on a breaking story about FIFA rigging the brackets for the Women’s World Cup as well as catching up with Kang Su-il’s “moustache-gate” controversy + Korea U22 in France – they were poised to win – what happened?]But before we’re accused of sour grapes – we’ll call it honestly a deserved win for Brazil – followed by this: anyone looking for a bit of fatalism, looking for any excuse to ignore Korea’s Women in the World Cup, would be missing a potent ball-busting team, capable of a possible group stage comeback for the ages.
You may have already seen Tim’s recap – summarized succinctly: 2 bad backpasses for why Korea lost. He’s right – and the only thing I can add is this: psychological presence of mind. Korea’s 1st half was emblematic of a lack of confidence and nerves getting rattled. Sure there’s pressure, but playing against the US in a friendly tune up is one thing, starting out the first World Cup match in 16 years against football powerhouse Brazil is another. The lack of confidence was apparent in a number of players losing their cool. Kim Do-yeon underhit backpass to Kim Jung-Mi was painful on a number of levels. Overall, if the first half strategy by Yoon Deok-Yeo was to sit back, absorb and then counter – it was an absolute fail. Tactically, the team was a mess. Their inability to string even 3 passes together made anyone who watched them flow against the US in May wonder if that was the same team on the field that night. The lack of a high press additionally gave ample room for Brazil to boss the game around.
But the 2nd half (and my working definition of Korea’s 2nd half was after conceding their 2nd goal in the 53rd minute) woke Korea – or another theory – their inhibitions were gone, down 2-0, the eujah’s collectively and unconsciously regrouped.
But back up a tic, I did say the penalty awarded Brazil in the 53rd minute was more controversial that originally thought. No one on the field other than Cho So-Hyun protested the decision -a PK awarded after an uncharacteristic badly hit under weighted pass by Ji So-Yun in the back forced Cho to bring down Formiga, who was lurking near the area. I didn’t question the call at all at the time. Bad pass = Formiga chopped down by Cho – clear as day. Several minutes afterward, US viewers on FOX Sports1 joined in on a live conversation between the ladies calling the game and Dr. Joe Machnik, FoxSport’s resident rules examiner: he claimed it was not a clean penalty but instead embellishment by Formiga. Going over the slow motion replay, she hooks her foot on Cho So-Hyun in the attempt to latch onto the ball, but Cho did not impede her progress. See for yourself:
[Perhaps a number of refs would’ve also awarded the penalty -but good observation by Dr Joe. Had the ref gotten a better angle, perhaps it would not have been awarded].
The goal didn’t take the sails completely out of Team Korea. In fact it’s at this point we saw Korea and their potential. They did re-established themselves, began to string passes again, organized better defensively, were fearless going forward, and tactically pressed higher up to win the ball in Brazil’s half. Brazil started to look very vulnerable. Take a look at this composite of Korea’s performance in the 2nd half:
Note: on the video a little after 2min – you can see example of organic progress -from winning the battle by #22 Kim deep in Korea’s half, moving it efficiently forward – Ji So-Yun critical to this sequence as she delivers brilliantly, not once but twice, JUST missed out latching onto by Kang – Brazil fortunate that their keeper had the sense to come way off her line to snuff out danger.
Further into the video (91st min mark during game) Lee Eun-mi gets run around by Marta pulling off a marseille turn. Here is one of the world’s best footballers, oozing class and getting by a defender. Korea’s defense get their share of flack for sure, but the team collective come through on this occasion, Cho closing the gap with her slide tackle.
Even into the dying moments of stoppage time, Korea still fighting, creates yet another tantalizing opportunity.
Going forward from here:
Ji So-Yun: off night 2/3 of the game, but like the rest of the team, came alive and showed why she is so valuable to Korea. Could the English professional 2015 Player of the Year for Chelsea be the clinical finisher as well as playmaker?
Finishing: So Korea is missing their center forward, Yeo Min-Ji, injured right before the World Cup start. Despite going down 2 goals, Korea created their chances to stay in the game – but still needs others to step up, execute, and find that finishing touch. Sounds awfully familiar… Though they scored in spades in a practice match earlier against Sky Blue FC.
— Nicole Chung 정니콜 (@0Nicole0_) June 4, 2015
Physical presence: Brazil, especially in the 1st half, just outmuscled Korea. Sounds familiar? Happened as well against the US in the tuneup back in May. Why isn’t Park Eun-Sun in the game? She can give a huge lift in her physical presence – and more importantly, she can score. Should Korea exit the World Cup, coach Yoon will have to answer for not including Park to give them support.
High press: It’s a gamble – should Korea press high early in the game? They dropped back deeper in the 1st half vs Brazil – but once they pressed higher in the 2nd half, they looked far better.
Confidence: if they resist the temptation to wallow in self pity, Korea does have an excitable squad. We just saw a sampling of that against a world class team like Brazil. But to do that -they have to believe in themselves and their ability -not to mention ignore the lack of support and interest shown by most Koreans, both in the peninsula and in Montreal (only 10,000 showed up to watch).
Past youth performances: sure, winning the U17 World Cup (2010) isn’t the same as playing in the World Cup, but add the decent U20 showings in 2012 and 2014 and you can see why there’s some potential for Korea to be a darkhorse. They just need to show their mettle to prove that they belong on the bigger stage.
Spain and Costa Rica are newcomers: inaugural World Cups for both squads. That gives Korea a decent chance to get group points needed to advance from Group E.
Turf vs Grass: bad backpasses are bad passes period, no excuses. Still, I can’t help but wonder if part of the lack of confidence in the first half was training on grass vs the reality of playing a World Cup on artificial turf (an indirect legacy of FIFA’s lack of respect towards the women’s game). The ball moves differently, and it’s certainly faster on turf. I just wonder: did the Koreans overthink about the possibility of overweighting passes -then calibrated incorrectly? I don’t have a terribly strong argument to make here, it the weakest link no doubt -probably nothing here for serious examination. But personally, I just wonder if there’s a psych-out factor here with trying to readjust passes differently between familiar grass and unfamiliar turf.
THIS JUST IN: (well, actually on Thursday) Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated wrote about the imbalance to the Women’s World Cup groupings – FIFA admitted to Grant in an interview that they rigged the procedural draw, playing havoc with the brackets in order to attract better attendance and TV ratings. That would never happen in the men’s World Cup; that’s because of the random drawings into groups for seeded teams. That’s not how FIFA organized the Women’s tournament. From the Sports Illustrated article:
“FIFA decided before the draw which groups all the seeded teams would be in at the Women’s World Cup…”
In particular, the Germans (#1) and the French (#3), should they win their groups and win their Round of 16 games (as expected), they are “on a collision course” by design.
Matt Bonesteel writing in the Washington Post reported that FIFA had actually admitted to Stephen Wade (AP) of doing this in previous World Cups.
@GrantWahl Covered 07 WWCup. FIFA rigged draw, giving China slot so it advances, avoids PRK. Wrote it. FIFA shrugged. Said WWCup different.
— Stephen Wade (@StephenWadeAP) June 12, 2015
Attendance has been a concern, only 10,175 showed up to see Korea v Brazil in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium with a capacity of 61,000. Also on Tuesday, only 11K showed up in Moncton to watch a doubleheader.
To the men’s game for a brief moment, Kang Su-il – and the very strange saga I’ll dub “Moustache-gate” …I so wanted to see him play for the KNT and see how he’d do. He would’ve become only the 2nd mixed race Korean to represent the Taeguk Warrior. Instead of getting on the pitch on Thursday, he found himself at the brink of a 15 match ban for failing a drug test. His is a very strange case, one that made the rounds even in the western football media (the Guardian picked up the story yesterday). But the case is not clear cut, and Kang is not necessarily doping. Summarizing Jae Chee on twitter during halftime of Korea’s 3-0 win over UAE:
Kang Su-il tested positive for methyltestosterone. An oral form of testosterone made to withstand digestion. It is Kang’s first positive test for a substance on the banned list. As such he faces a 15 game suspension…the story is that Kang wanted to grow a mustache and a friend gave him some hair growth tonic. Kang applied to tonic to his face, and in the tonic was the methyltestosterone. Kang’s story timeline apparently fits the timing of the sample taken as well and the list of ingredients in the tonic also works. Kang has one-week to submit a B-sample to the testing agency to clear his name (until the 18th)...From what I’ve read methyltestosterone is not a particularly good drug to use for doping for professional athletes…the effects are relatively minimal and it has potentially significant health risks (mainly to the liver) if used long enough. Sites say athletes use it mainly if they want to up their aggression level which in turns allows them to push themselves harder. That combination could be useful for Kang, but given the availability of more “sophisticated” substances it seems unlikely he’d use it.
Ok, so Kang still has a chance to get back into the squad, but to do so, his B sample needs to be submitted soon. From my understanding, the appeal would not be in time for Korea v Myanmar on June 16th, their first World Cup Qualifier for 2018 (Jae, is this right?) but could be still available for the East Asian Cup in August.
EXTRA TIME: the U22 Taeguk Warriors were in France for an exhibition match. They played yesterday against hosts France and were down a goal when Moon Chang-Jin equalized with a fantastic goal. Drama in stoppage time: Yoo In-Soo was brought down in the area, Conte sent off with a red card to set up a nice 1-2 win. Not so fast: Moon Chang-Jin steps up for the PK and tries a paneka. The French goalkeeper was beat, net wide open… and the ball calmly sailed over the net. Game over, France 1 : 1 Korea.
Ryu Seung-Woo and Choi Kyong-Rok both played their first games in some time after getting injured for their respective clubs in Germany. Ryu hadn’t played since March. Coach Shin Tae-Young indicated that both showed potential despite the rust. I don’t know much about this player, but Choi Bong-won apparently plys the trade in the Czech Republic. He was also in the squad for the friendly.
The U22 team (which will eventually be the U23 Olympic squad) is set to fly to Tunisia to play their U22 on June 14th at 12:30pm EST/ June 15th 1:30am Korea time