Instead of a second qualifier match, the Taeguk Warriors faced Brazil in a friendly match, played in the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in the UAE.
The end result was a 3-0 victory for Brazil. It sounds like a blowout, but Korea put up a good fight and was not dominated against. The Korean side was able to launch many on-goal shots in a fast paced match. The true end result is a mix of ambivalent feelings, commending Bento and his squad’s efforts and buildup while wondering what caused such a disappointing scoreline.
Bento played this match with a 4-3-3 formation. Playing goalkeeper was Cho Hyunwoo, which was relatively surprising since Kim Seunggyu is usually Bento’s goalkeeper of choice. On the defensive line, Kim Jinsu, Kim Younggwon, and Kim Minjae returned, while Lee Yong was subbed out for Kim Moonhwan. On the midfield line were Jung Wooyoung, Ju Sejong, and Lee Jaesung. Hwang Inbeom, who has been criticized heavily for his poor performances recently, was not included in the starting XI. Up top were Son Heungmin, Hwang Uijo, and Hwang Heechan, a 3-top many fans have been dying to see.
Even against a strong side like Brazil, Bento wanted to play the buildup. As Brazil was not playing a 10-back defense as teams frequently do against Korea in qualifier matches, the buildup seemed a little bit easier. Jung Wooyoung dropped back to make a three back line for the buildup, and Kim Moonhwan and Kim Jinsu pushed upwards.
Although it was easier to play the buildup against a more attack-minded team, Brazil’s physicality and speed offset the increase in space. Both squads were quite energetic, and the ball was constantly moving. The defensive line worked hard to complete the buildup, but Brazil’s pressure led to multiple mistakes. As Brazil took advantage of some of Korea’s passing errors, Lucas Paqueta scored the first goal in the ninth minute.
Korea definitely did not give up after conceding the first goal. They continued to attempt to play the buildup. The attack definitely was alive, particularly between the 20th and 30th minutes. There were multiple corner kicks, and Son Heungmin was able to find enough space for a couple of shots. Korea kept the pressure on, but they could never quite finish. On the 35th minute, Hwang Uijo fouled Fabinho in a dangerous area just outside the penalty box while playing defense. Coutinho took the free kick in one of his favorite zones, and just like that, the score was now 2-0.
On the 41st minute, Son was fouled in the center region outside of Brazil’s penalty box. Jung Wooyoung took the free kick, and Alisson handled it poorly. Coutinho tried to clear it, but almost scored an own goal as it hit the post.
Throughout the first half, Brazil’s attack was left-side-heavy, meaning Kim Moonhwan had a lot to handle. He made no mistakes and was able to stop crosses, but was not given enough support as Hwang Heechan tried to play as up front as possible. Korea held a fair amount of possession and did not have trouble getting to the second third, but could never make the definitive pass to the final third.
Korea started the second half strong. They opened with a good opportunity linked between Kim Moonhwan, Hwang Uijo, and Hwang Heechan, but Heechan opted to pass to Son instead of going for a shot. Son’s volley missed badly.
As the game approached the 50th minute, Brazil started to push. For the next ten minutes, they had the majority of possession, and Korea struggled to launch successful counterattacks. A pass from Brazil’s leftback Lodi which somehow found a way across the penalty box was received by Danilo, who launched a bullet for the third goal in the 60th minute.
After this third goal, Brazil dropped back and allowed Korea to attack. Korea persisted and tried to play with energy, but continued to struggle to find the key pass which would lead to 1 on 1 opportunities. There were numerous distance shots on target, most notably Kim Jinsu’s, but none were enough to trouble Alisson. Bento substituted Na Sangho, Kwon Changhoon, and Hwang Inbeom for Hwang Heechan, Lee Jaesung, and Ju Sejong, but none were particularly impactful.
The match ended 3-0, leaving the KNT unsatisfied. The team was successful in proving that they could play a possession based build up against a team like Brazil, but had no results to show for it. On the other hand, Brazil showed their class by taking full advantage of the opportunities presented to them and not allowing Korea to penetrate their back four.
Cho Hyunwoo: 4 Perhaps I expected too much out of Cho, but Cho was not in his World Cup form today. All three goals could’ve arguably been saved, and Cho has saved shots like them in the past. He comfortably stopped crosses, and had one notable save in the first half, but was definitely not in his top form. Bento most likely utilized Cho over Kim Seunggyu for Cho’s diving abilities, but Kim Seunggyu made better saves in the Lebanon match.
Kim Jinsu: 7.5 Kim Jinsu was probably the most impressive player out of the Korean side. He was aggressive, pushed the attack, and was steady defensively with multiple successful tackles. His long distance shot in the second half was particularly impressive. Although his decision making was questionable at times, and his physical weaknesses were also exposed on occasion, Kim showed lots of grit throughout the game.
Kim Younggwon: 5 Kim Younggwon made a few passing mistakes in the first half which led to throw ins for Brazil. Although he was a little more reliable in the second half, his passing was not particularly impactful. He did not make any notable defensive plays.
Kim Minjae: 6.5 Kim Minjae also made a few passing mistakes from Brazil’s heavy pressure. He played a solid defensive game, showcasing his speed multiple times, but similar to his CB partner, didn’t have many opportunities to make a significant impact. Both center backs followed Bento’s orders in the buildup sufficiently.
Kim Moonhwan: 7 Brazil’s attack was centered around the left, leaving Kim Moonhwan with the near-impossible task of single-handedly defending Brazil with limited support from Hwang Heechan. Still, Kim Moonhwan played a solid game. He was never beat, and forced a corner multiple times in situations which could’ve been even more dangerous. Furthermore, he still managed to play in the attack at times, and was far more dynamic than Lee Yong’s usual performances which rely on crossing. Kim Moonhwan’s stamina shined in this match.
Jung Wooyoung: 7 Jung Wooyoung played a solid match and definitely showed his value to the KNT. He completed the back-three when the team was on the attack, and was able to switch the direction of attack from right to left and vice versa numerous times. On defense, he made multiple strong standing tackles and interceptions.
Ju Sejong: 6.5 Ju Sejong made a return to the KNT replacing Baek Seungho, and also played a solid match in the midfield. Similarly to Jung, he switched the direction of attack multiple times and showcased his long-kick abilities in the first half as he made successful passes to the cutting Hwang Heechan and Son Heungmin.
Lee Jaesung: 5 I personally feel Lee Jaesung plays better in the winger position in comparison to the middle. Lee Jaesung’s foot skills were not good enough to penetrate Brazil’s defense, and although he took a shot or two, he did not create many opportunities. Lee has been on solid form all year in Germany and should continue to be a regular on the KNT, but may not have been put in a position for success today.
Son Heungmin: 6.5 Son fired many shots on target today. He seems to be understanding a little better when he is most dangerous, and was more focused on attacking rather than play-making in the past two matches in comparison to his history with the KNT. What’s important now is that he continues to take this positive path in the future.
Hwang Uijo: 4 Hwang Uijo probably played his least effective KNT match in the past two years today. He had very limited ball touches and zero shots. The ball could rarely reach him on the attack, and although he managed to hold a somewhat sturdy presence against Brazil’s defense, he frequently looked lonely with limited offensive support.
Hwang Heechan: 6 I had great expectations for Hwang Heechan in today’s match, since he has scored against Alisson already. Although he showed flashes of speed at times, I was disappointed that he couldn’t do much more. Lodi locked him up on defense, and on multiple occasions Hwang failed to penetrate.
Na Sangho: 5 Na Sangho always gives his full effort and has exceptional work rate. He was substituted for Hwang Heechan at the 64th minute. He was his usual self, but did not make much of an impact as a substitute.
Kwon Changhoon: 4 Kwon is in a bit of slump struggling to find playing time at SC Freiburg. He substituted Lee Jaesung in the 75th minute. He played fine, but similar to Na, did not make a noticeable difference in the game.
Hwang Inbeom: N/A Hwang Inbeom played about five minutes in today’s game, and took an ambitious shot from distance within that time.
As a KNT fan, this match was discouraging, but not for the usual reasons. Korea played with purpose and energy, but still lost 3-0. It showed that in order for Korea to win against top tier teams away from home, they still have a long way to go. I’m proud of Bento and Co. for keeping up and boldly trying to play the build up, but it was tough to see the team lose 3-0 despite a solid strategy. Perhaps the victories against Germany and Uruguay, as well as the recent club performances of Son and Hwang Heechan, made me a little too confident about this match. The match showed that the individual skills of the Brazilians are quite exceptional. Check out the highlights below.