Open Bar: Thoughts on the Gut-Wrenching 1-0 Loss

Here at the Tavern, we have a lively Facebook groupchat that is always humming with messages between our writers. It is sometimes playful, sometimes argumentative, sometimes very profound, and other times downright silly. Today, it is none of those things. It is just a group full of writers gutted to watch their Taeguk Warriors fall to Sweden 1-0. However, it is also full of tactical insights so we felt it was worth sharing with you – we’re calling it the “Open Bar”. I have edited it to highlight the best bits that have come out of our chat. Also, I have edited the names so that you can recognize the writers who are speaking. Feel the emotions with us!

Excerpt #1: What was Ki’s role?

Jae Chee
Did anyone else think Ki was kinda poor tonight?

He had one good tackle.
That was it.

Yeah, Ki had an off day sadly.

We have to blame Shin for that.
That’s Shin’s fault.

Any chance Korea has, Ki has to be on all cylinders.
Oh, do you mean the heavy conditioning workouts?

Not really, I just think you don’t play Ki that deep. It just doesn’t work.


If you want to play a CDM, play Jung Woo-young or Ju Se-jong.
Ki is best as a CM, not as a CDM and that was what he was asked to play today.

Jae Chee
But beyond that I thought Ki’s decisions and distribution were poor.

But … Korea was playing super deep anyways.

Yeah, I don’t blame Ki. I just thought it was bad tactics.

He’s not the player who can change games on special moments.
He can control games and dictate tempo at his best but I don’t know. To me, he didn’t do worse than Koo Ja-cheol.

Jae Chee
I dunno. To be cliche I thought he never got out of second gear.

Excerpt #2: Is Shin Tae-yong the Korean Mourinho?

Jae Chee
He’s the Korean Mourinho right?


Jae Chee
(Just without Jose’s trophy haul).

Or his tactical acumen.

Or anything.

Jae Chee
He has Jose’s penchant for baffling comments at press conferences though.

He’s blaming the penalty kick now.

Jae Chee
See? That’s very Mourinho!

Yeah, that is classic Mourinho.
I agree with Jae.
Shin’s behavior right now to me is just like when Mourinho is about to get fired.

Excerpt #3: What is the KNT’s fatal flaw?

I’m still annoyed we build up with our fullbacks so much.
Let me rephrase that. It’s not build up but the fact that we use them as the final ball in the last attacking phase (or whatever tactical language I should be using).

Jae Chee
Lol, is this your first time watching Korea Tim?

This is the exact same problem we had in 2014.

Lol, I know, I know.

Jae Chee
Korea lacks what I call “needle” players. Needle players are those who can receive the ball in tight spaces and have the ability to turn and make space.
My point was we go wide because the central players can’t do anything with the ball under pressure.

We never get into the channels between defence and midfield.

Jae Chee
Ahh, the legendary half spaces.

We never get into any threatening position or a half space.
We’re just stuck out wide, stuck out wide, back pass and then a cross.
Lol, I read a whole thing on Spielverlagerung (another football website) on half spaces… I drank a lot of that Kool-aid lol.

Jae Chee
Well, it has truth to it of course.

Excerpt #4: Do we have a strategy?

Let’s talk about how Shin Tae-yong is only focused on facing the opponent.
He never focuses on playing our own strategy or playing to our strengths.

Wasn’t playing 4-3-3 the most “Let’s just play our own strategy” thing ever?
Let’s be real, that caught 90% of us here by surprise!

That wasn’t a 4-3-3 though.

Yeah, it was. Sometimes it would morph into a 3-4-3, but it most definitely was a 4-3-3 for 65 minutes.

In my opinion, it wasn’t.

Then what was it? I was obsessing the whole first half about whether it was a 4-3-3 or something else!

Also, it was actually the most un-let’s just play our own strategy.

Seemed more like a 3/5 back to me?

It was specifically to hold off Sweden, right? Playing deep, trying to get them to come forward, trying to remain robust on the second ball and then pushing them out wide.
So let’s get focused back on the formation. It was 4 at the back for sure. Look at the pass maps on Twitter.


Ki was playing as the CB on rare occasions when building up, but defensively, it was almost always a 4-man back in a 4-3-3.

Only sometimes 3-4-3 when Ki Sung-yeung dropped between centerbacks but even then they didn’t push out that wide.

I just remember Ki sandwiched between the centerbacks.

Modern tactics though, right?

Must’ve missed that part lol

He was sandwiched in only when building up from the back, and only rarely.

When we were defending, didn’t we have like 10 behind the ball and Son Heung-min at fullback?

For real, I couldn’t believe it was a 4-3-3. We got pummeled into thinking it was going to be a 3-4-1-2, or maybe a surprise 4-4-2, or a possible 4-2-3-1. So, I was watching super closely. STY actually tricked us for real! I kid you not lol.
Jinseok, yeah, I thought Sonny and Hwang Hee-chan did fabulous defensively as the wingers. At least, I felt that way in the first half.
Then, in the second half we switched to a 4-2-3-1 when Jung Woo-young came on. That sub was planned before the penalty was conceded. My biggest point today would be that Shin should have cancelled that sub when we conceded the goal.
We should’ve gone to a 4-4-2 with Lee Seung-woo when we gave up the goal.


That’s just a little taste of where we are right now in terms of analyzing that match. We will have more in-depth looks into the stats and tactics of this performance in the coming days. But I just couldn’t let today go by without sharing these little gems from our chats. We imagine you had some similar chats like these with your friends after the match! Join the Open Bar and share them with us down in the comments!

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


  1. Ki can have a bad game, that’s not a problem, but it baffles me why people are quick to blame tactics or the coach whenever he has as bad game, whether that be for the NT or Swansea City. He’s unfortunately not the most consistent player, even though he’s mostly been great for the NT specifically for the last few years.

    • Except… the error in the tactics was not necessarily related to Ki? Personally I thought they should have pressed more. Too passive and letting Sweden come on to them. Sure Ki made some errant passes and wasn’t on top of his game but everyone was a little off…

  2. I don’t know. I blamed the tactics because I just thought that Shin made a tactical set-up that wasn’t really meant to play to Ki’s strengths. Or the rest of the squad’s to be honest. The only thing I thought Shin got right today was Cho Hyun-woo.

  3. In the back of my mind, I probably shouldn’t put any hope on any Asian team at all, but I was hoping for Korean team to have better chance of getting somewhere than nowhere like my team.

    I thought about how Koreans need to learn to trust each other in order to play off each other before the WC started. And I hate that I’m right about that. When I watched SK in friendlies games, I thought that SK need to learn about basic football. And then SK vs Sweden came, the same flaws happened again.

    SK really need to focus on basic football foundation, like first touch, ball control, close control, crossing, long range pass and finishing. The only ones who are decent are the ones playing in foreign leagues, but it’s not good enough because football is 11 players sport, not 4 players sport.

    On one hand, at least SK didn’t lose so terribly like Saudi Arabia against Russia. At least SK didn’t concede so many goals, but at the same time, it also showed that Sweden will have tough time to pass since they are kinda shit. Their offense are very questionable.

    So for Koreans, they just need to pray for miracle to happen.

    • Animuia, you are right about so much here! We will be praying for a miracle and we also really do need to improve the technical side of Korean football in the long term! That was a great point. Keep the faith, keep watching football, and keep believing that we Taeguk Warriors can become great at football again!

      • Welp, at least Japan won their game, so now my bet is on them. LOL. Koreans should’ve played like Japan, focus on their strength rather than covering up their weakness. SK cannot rely on parking the bus tactic when their defensive capabilities are lacking.

        • Animuia, you are just setting the KFA and Shin up in flames! You are exactly right. The tactics displayed by Japan today were far better than Korea’s for the exact reason you mentioned!

      • That would also be the coaching staff’s fault unfortunately. After a long season where the KNT suffered lots of injuries, maybe they could’ve been safer on that front. It’s all speculating though.

        • they definitely looked lethargic from the start. No doubt. I think it has to do with the intensive training they received 2-3 weeks before the start of the world cup and not enough recovery time.

      • @Tim Lee
        LOL, no, your team suck at defense and have very questionable skills. That had nothing to do with being tired. Other than Son, Ki, and Lee SW, Korean team is terrible on basic skills overall. Crossing is your biggest weakness outside of touches and ball control. For some reasons, your team doesn’t know how to do headers despite you have a tall striker, very strange.

        I know Hwang has somewhat of a potential, but he needs to work on finishing. That boy wasted chances. He is not a natural finisher and his finishing needs work. And I’m not even gonna talk about your other tall striker who constantly missed chances. He cannot score to save his life, so that’s done. Not sure what’s Shin’s plan for putting him there, but yikes.

        • LOL I think I’m freaking aware we suck at defense. Crossing is of course awful, and KSW has proven he can’t do shit against European opposition. Well documented by me and others on the site. What I’m saying is what we saw in terms of fundamentals and movement was extremely poor and THERE WAS A CLEAR drop in physical fitness in the bolivia friendly. that clearly didn’t go away.

          • It’s easy to use fitness as excuse for losing, but I guess it’s a combination of all these factors, isn’t it?

            But congrats to SK for winning against Germany. It’s good that they finally won a game in WC.

            In the future though, I hope SK would foster more talents and hone their skills. I think SK does have potential to be better (ex goalkeeper), but they need a place to develop and hone their potential. In hindsight, Son is not getting any younger, so SK definitely needs to foster more talent in near future, especially on defenders.

  4. I am not wanting to blame tactics for losing (though it certainly is the case). I am quick to blame tactics because it made SK look like crap.

    Ki may not have been great, but he was playing not so great in a position that isn’t where he would be BF best utilized. If he were higher up and sucked, at least it’s all on him. But, to me, I do give a pass to Ki, no pun intended, because why tf is he constantly used as a CDM or even quasi-CB!? His nickname was not Ki-squets. It was Ki-rrard for a reason. Obviously he’s not nearly as good as either, but we’re talking about his strengths. For all the shit he gets for his attitude, I actually find that he’s remarkably compliant in agreeing to play in a shitty position. Lol. Besides, Ki was the least of our issues.

    It really was the tactics that were horrible. There’s no way around it. SK is never gonna be like Greece during the Euro champ year, and Sweden is defense heavy. And yet… STY wants to eke out a defensive win against a team that has a better defense?? SK basically played right into Sweden’s strength. When Sweden is naturally deep, and SK’s strongest players like to push up, LET THEM PUSH THE FUCK UP! So what if you think you’re exposing the backs a bit. Sweden is not pushing much up anyway!

    And why try to run the offense through fullbacks so much when they are the worst passers on the team? And why bring your wings back so much that they are basically fullbacks?

    And this is why having Wookie makes absolute zero sense, even in theory. Because if you’re going to stay deep, you’re saying you want to counter. Wookie can’t counter. He’s useless. But ironically, SK was playing deep AND not really playing to counter (at least it didn’t look like that was their intent). They only countered when that happened to be the position they were in, rather than looking to do so. This is why STY’s tactics make NO sense. It is intuitively off and feels like it should fail, and yet he goes for it until it becomes off in reality. Smh.

    Again, I don’t care about the loss. I expected a loss. Rather, I expected (or more like wished) a team that would try to play to their strengths. But instead, we got a team that played to their weaknesses and only tried to cover their weaknesses, rather than pursuing and employing their strengths.

  5. Japan taking it to Colombia by simply playing the way we should have played. Not afraid of a better opponent (was Sweden even better than us?). This game is so much more entertaining as a result, as opposed to ours which may be the worst game of the tournament so far.
    Makes me sad that casual fans will be cheering for Japan for that simple reason. And I’m sure commentators all over the world are gonna praise them (deservedly). Congrats to them nonetheless because that’s how the game should be played.

    Way to go Shin! The tinkerer

  6. KNT definitely gave Sweden too much respect. Weren’t we supposed to go all in on Sweden? I don’t think it was a bad idea to play somewhat defensive, but they parked the bus(I hate this term, but there’s no better way to describe their tactics.) I think Korea should have played a slightly higher line and press starting from halfway line. It’s not like Sweden had pacy forwards that could get in behind Korea’s backline. Korea really shouldn’t have started KSW. Honestly, anything else would have been better. Maybe, Korea could have tried relying on over the top balls to Son/Hwang and hope they could get to them using their speed. Even Koo as false striker would have been better.

    • So, Mike I like this point but I want to emphasize something and go farther. I think Shin was scared of Sweden, not that he showed them too much respect. I think he was scared to attack.

      • Yeah I agree. People say players take on the personality of their manager. Korea looked scared to even make simple passes.

  7. It was really frustrating to see Korea lose against Sweden. This was an opponent that Shin supposedly studied the most. The positives for me in this game is that our third choice keeper came big. He had bigger male parts and courage than any of KOrea’s keepers in recent wc history since Lee Won Jae. I also liked CB pair for weathering the storm and made crucial blocks despite been outmatched vs. tall Swede forwards.

  8. Great discussion at the open bar and in the comments. Having watched Sweden look dangerous (but not clinical) against an agressive, pressing Peru, sitting back and being defensive was totally understandable but I was really disappointed and surprised at how poor the knt was at counters. Lee js, hhc, kjc the full backs all looked nrvous and slowed things down with poor first touches and glacial decision making. Just made it easy for Sweden to set up and defend against the inevitable crosses.
    Developing a counterattacking identity would have made sense . . . Next time I guess

  9. I didn’t see Belgium/Panama or Saudi Arabia/Russia, but I am going to vote the KMNT performance vs Sweden as the worst performance I saw by a team in MatchDay 1. Not a single shot on target, that’s just abysmal beyond belief. However I did expect them to be fairly bad.

    • Glen, you didn’t need to watch Panama or Saudi Arabia, we were by far the worst team on Matchday 1. There is no doubt about that. We gotta come back strong Matchday 2 or we’re going home.

  10. Saw an interview with Kim Minwoo. He was crying because he conceded the penalty.
    Man… it’s just a game.
    It got me thinking too much and I just gotta vent.
    I know I’m guilty of talking about how bad these guys are (I have been cruel to Kim Shinwook… sorry Wookie), and so do most of us.. But I don’t actually blame the players. I might blame the coach, but I know these guys work hard and they’re trying.
    They can’t take it so seriously. They’re not gonna win if they are so scared of making mistakes, they feel so sad if they make a mistake, and just don’t have any fun.
    I wanna see these guys have fun even if they don’t win. Because if they play without all that stress, they might actually win.

    I mean, they still have 2 games to play. You’re already crying because of conceding a penalty in the first game?! So many penalties have been called in this WC… it happens. You gotta move on.

    Man… I’m just emotional now. Feel bad for these guys.
    Fuck the KFA and Shin for that matter… they’re the cause actually, but the players are in the spotlight and will get the yeot.

    • I say Shin because I’m not feeling any sense that Shin Tae Yong has helped these guys feel better about the situation. That’s one of the main reasons I think we need a foreign coach… someone who can figure out a way to not let these guys get bogged down in the waves of criticism that will inevitably come.

      I know Stielike is unpopular at the Tavern, but I have to say before the Asian Cup he did great at asking the fans to support the guys and afterwards helping the fans be proud of the team and helping the players deal with a tough finals loss. I know his demeanor changed during qualification (btw in retrospect I feel every coach has to go through a rough patch, and qualification is stressful for 80% of the teams), but as far as I’m concerned at his one tournament he coached extremely well.

      • The pressure on these guys compared to many other teams (ofc everyone is under pressure) is unbearably difficult. KMW made a rash decision, but he knows that he’s going to be one of the most hated men in Korea. Not joking. Pride and image is everything. You made a god awful mistake, and the only person there to comfort you is KSY and the team…

        Look at Peru. Their player missed a penalty, the whole team comforted them, the crowd starting chanting again. That’s an example to emulate. I’m sure the mewsnapers didn’t blast him or the fans. He made a mistake.

        The team’s inability to generate chances ultimately meant there was no margin for error. And KMW, as a natural winger, obviously showed his lack of ability in FB…

      • Stielike’s tactics sucked balls and his lack of creativity was awful against AFC teams (he just didn’t know the region enough) and then some but you’re right re: AC and his comments. I understand his passive aggressiveness with many of he media now. Not because the media people themselves are rude but because he probably hears glimpses of the pressure.

        btw one thing that infuriates me is how STY didn’t take away their phones. WHY? they “read the news”. how is that anything but demotivation.

  11. Hmmm I can see the reason why Kim Min Woo would be crying. The korean fans are so brutal especially online. Last world cup they threw yeot at the team. This year they are not fairing any better and the comments online are just gettin worse. Kim Min Woo thinks he has let his team and the country down. And that he feels the team is getting so much stick because of his mistake. Jang Hyun Soo is apparently feeling super terrible too. Poor guys. Even though the NT and Shin performed poorly, I dont think they should be receiving so much hate. I’m sure they also wanted a good result like any other korean, and they did run their hearts out.

    As for Uli, no one in Korea likes him cuz all he cared abt was media and attention. He used to play random koreans from the K League in the hopes that they blew up and he received praise for finding gems in the K League. Lee Jeong Hyup, was sort of one of them and did sort of well and Uli loved the praise he got for this lad. He kept doing this but no other gems were found. And Uli no different from Shin is a stubborn manager. Having come from the qatar league? He definitely favored players playing in the Arab leagues such as Nam and Lee Myung Joo. They were of course good players but for some reason we were strugglin in our qualifiers so there needed to be some change.

    I saw a Shin interview where his goal during the qualifiers was to get the KNT into the World Cup by any means. He achieved that goal and still got a lot of stick from the fans. These fans honestly shouldn’t have been that hard on Shin. If they want korean football to do well, they should support korean football regularly starting from the K league.

    • I want to make few corrections –

      1. All managers (including players imo) are stubborn. This isn’t new.. nor do I believe all Uli cared about was media & attention. If anything.. Shin TY is worse in this aspect.

      2. Not sure Uli favored players from “Arab” leagues. He showed favoritism toward Nam TH but Lee MJ barely featured under Uli. Koh MJ was randomly called once or twice but that was about it (which is no different to Shin TY randomly calling up Rim CW or even Kim JY).

      You didn’t mention Chinese based players.. but.. the only difference between the time from Uli & Shin TY currently.. those players moved to J League (or K league) due to new rules in CSL that made it difficult for Korean players to get mins. More or less, Shin TY called up same players.

      3. Yes, Uli selected a random player in Lee JH from K League. At least it worked for him at the Asian Cup. Shin TY… to some degree, has done the same in calling up Moon SM & Yoon SY.

  12. The more I think about this match, the more frustrating I find it. Those opening minutes really showed promise. We had a corner, a free kick that Son took when he crossed it toward goal (and at KSW’s head), and possession in Sweden’s half. I was really feeling optimistic about our chances. At some point, though, it all switched. Somehow we just found ourselves pressed further and further back. We let Sweden into our half without any pressure. How did things sour so quickly? I know we’ve been attributing a lot of the blame on Shin. But to what extent are the players at fault here? Are they able to make adjustments mid game to course correct? Do you think they were explicitly instructed to hunker down that deep? I’m just confused because I’m trying to reconcile those opening minutes with what transpired later on.

    I’ve been scouring YouTube for some longer length highlight videos to recall what happened because I’ve blocked so much of the game out. It always seems like when your team loses like that in a close match, that the game ends so quickly. That you didn’t have the full 90 minutes to create offensively. The Korea-Sweden match ended in what feels like a blink of an eye. Yet when I was sporadically checking the action today, the games moved in what seemed like 5 minute increments. Funny how that phenomenon occurs. Watching these highlights again made me remember that Kim YG had that great sliding tackle challenge in the box AND also that shot blocking sliding tackle as well. Jo had that awesome Berg save, making himself look big, but ALSO another crucial quick reaction save off a free kick.

    Finally, this is a great format. Please continue it!

    Also, this is interesting: both Hwang HC and Lee SW made it. Yes, not all of Barnwell’s 2014 players panned out. But it’s at least an interesting methodology and way of thinking about this stuff:

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. 2018 World Cup Preview: South Korea vs Mexico | Tavern of the Taeguk Warriors

Join in the Tavern's conversations -Leave a comment...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.