This post was originally going to be an experimental post with some video footage and pictures I shot in Seoul, but after reviewing what I took I wasn’t too pleased with it. So, it (virtually) all got left on the cutting room floor. C’est la vie. Lessons learned, and maybe they’ll appear in another post.
Some bullet point thoughts on the game and players:
- Lee Bum-young – Obviously I was thrilled that Lee BY got his first senior cap. The Busan stopper was solid, but not great. He had the one excellent stop just before Uruguay scored, but largely was untested. The biggest issue he had was his long distribution. He didn’t look very comfortable “playing” as much as he needed to, and this might be an issue with the difference between how the national team plays and how Busan plays. I think he cemented his back-up status, but think Kim Seung-Gyu (barring a disastrous Asian Games) is still the next number 1.
- Ki Sung-yueng – Started in the middle of defense and put in a solid showing. But should he continue there? While Ki is a serviceable defender he’s not excellent or even very good. More to the point he’s not better than the central defenders currently available to the squad, mainly Hong Jeong-Ho. That combined with the fact that Ki’s offensive input is limited when he plays as a centerback leads me to believe that he’s a bit of a waste there. The team certainly looked better once Ki was given more freedom to move out of defense and into midfield.
- Son Heung-min – Son shined brightly in the first half against Venezuela, but failed to reach those heights after. The one thing that struck me about Son was that he tends to, to use a basketball phrase, take lot of low percentage shots. Not only are they far out, but they’re from very difficult angles. I don’t know if he hears it, but every time he gets the ball, the anticipation builds. As he gets near the goal, the cries of “shoot” start. I’m hopeful that as he continues to develop as a player, he either vastly improves his finishing or he becomes smarter with his shot selection (or learns how to get himself into better positions). To be honest I worry a bit about Son. He seems to have the strength to be “the guy”, but there is an awful lot of pressure on him, and it’s clear the public at large have identified him as the next big hope for Korea.
- Lee Dong-gook – If Venezuela showed his strong points, Uruguay certainly showed his weak points. He was rarely involved in the game as he was far too static and Uruguay’s superior defenders (compared to Venezuela) easily marked him out. Should Lee DG get cap 102? Maybe, with the big caveat that it comes against a certain style or level of team. Against quality teams, Lee will probably struggle again, but he could be useful against the “minnows”.
- Cha Du-ri – Tons of energy again and if he continues to perform well for FC Seoul (or whatever club side he plays for) and wants to continue internationally I don’t see any reason to preclude him, particularly if Mr. Stielike wants to use wingbacks. I’m not sure about Cha are a more conventional fullback, but his willingness to work the flank and try the “audacious” flicks and nutmegs in attack make him an excellent wingback option.
- Lee Myeong-joo – A solid, but quieter game against Uruguay. I suspect that is largely due to the slight change in the system. As the attacking player in a midfield three Lee MJ can excel and show his best. As a more conventional central midfielder he seems a bit more average as he’s not excellent defensively. In some ways, Lee MJ seems similar to Lee DG. Used properly he can be an effective player, but if not given his ideal circumstances the team may be better served with other options.
- Lee Chung-yong – Another hard-working night for the captain, but again lacking in end product. Lee CY played in a slightly more normal position for him, but it seems clear that he’s going through a re-invention of sorts. Will it work out? Time will tell, but if the team wants to succeed it will certainly need Lee CY at his technical, tricky best.
- The system – I think this was the first time that the team was openly in a three-man backline system. While I do like the three-man backline, I’m not convinced it’s the best system for Korea, at least not in the iteration on display in Goyang. Ki was a waste at centerback and the duo of Lee Myeong-joo and Park Jong-woo, while hardworking and energetic, doesn’t quite cut it (as we’ve seen before) at the top level. I also feel that perhaps Son Heung-min and Lee Chung-yong have a bit too much individual freedom in their attacking positions. Often they both dropped very deep into the midfield, leaving the attacking flanks bare.
- Shin Tae-yong – A commendable job by the temporary coach (interestingly, you may have noticed in the video, he was introduced as a coach and not the manager). Should he be considered in the future for the full job? Maybe, but I’d like to see him pick up a bit more experience first.