POST MATCH REVIEW: Korea 2–0 Turkmenistan

Following an insipid friendly performance against Georgia in Istanbul, Korea kicked off its ’22 World Cup Qualification journey with an away win against Turkmenistan.

We ditched the three-at-the-back formation and started with a more familiar line-up:

A significant change in personnel to the line-up v Georgia; Kim Seung-gyu, now all but Korea’s starting goalkeeper, started over Gu Sung-yun between the sticks. Lee Yong came in for Park Ji-soo, completing what now seems to be our standard back four. Jung Woo-young, Hwang In-beom, Lee Jae-sung, Na Sang-ho, and Hwang Ui-jo took over for Paik Seung-ho, Kwon Chang-hoon, Lee Kang-in, Hwang Hee-chan, and Lee Jeong-hyeop — thank god for that.

Our familiarity with how we set-up was apparent as early as 7 minutes in.  Hwang Ui-jo starting the row of opportunities with an off-target header at the top of the 6-yard box from a delicious cross by Lee Yong.

Despite our compact shape, it was clear that we were a side that utilizes wing play. In the 9th minute, Na Sang-ho managed to nick possession down the right only to squeeze in a parried shot to the goakeeper’s near post. Then just a minute later, Lee Jae-sung found Hwang Ui-jo, clear of his last man, with a curled through ball. Ui-jo could just manage to send his first-time shot straight to the oncoming goalkeeper who did well to clear his lines. 

But Korea would finally capitalize on early momentum; in the 13th minute, Hwang In-beom carried the ball into the box, and after two quick passes, Lee Jae-sung set up the oncoming Lee Yong, whose first time cross found the legs of a defender and pinged out to Na Sang-ho.

Hit first time to find the bottom right corner of the net. Photo: Yonhap News

Despite the lead, Korea failed to raise the tempo, and despite sitting deep, Turkmenistan had a chance of its own; Orazsahedow, their number 9, found himself one-on-one with Kim Min-jae, who was uncharacteristically sluggish, and made enough space for himself before releasing one just inside the box. Kim Seung-gyu was up to the task.

Beyond that, we had the majority of possession, and our opportunities continued to develop from play on the wings. We nearly had two to show for it before the end of the first half — it was Lee Yong once again who put in another deep cross and found Kim Jin-su after the Turkmen goalkeeper failed to collect. From within the six yard box, Jin-su thumped it through three defenders. It would be ruled out for offsides.

The first half fizzed out to an ugly end after that early spurt. Unfortunately, there wouldn’t be much to build on as we languished in the following half.

If there ever were a game to show that Korea plays at its opponents level, it was this one. Turkmenistan came away with chances within the first fifteen minutes of the restart — Kim Min-jae the guilty party for exposing our side, either losing possession, his man, or his positioning. 

But the best chance came from the Turkmen’s left channel; a deft flick off a throw eliminated Kim Min-jae from play, and the lost man whipped in a low-cross, mercifully skied.

After that spell, we regained some semblance of control in the game. We were comfortable sitting in the middle of the pitch spraying possession around opposition looking to catch us off the break, but there was no penetration or change in tempo. Kwon Chang-hoon was introduced to the game in the 66′ for Na Sang-ho. It didn’t change anything.

Always a pleasure to see our Kwon Chang-hoon on the pitch.

Our attacking strategy didn’t change from the first half. In fact, it seemed to be worse. Lee Yong continued to operate as a crossing machine whenever he received the ball. Son Heung-min sat sat so deep, and our midfield was utterly bereft of creativity. Jung Woo-young seemed to be the most influential in midfield amongst personnel that includes Lee Jae-sung and Hwang In-beom. That’s not great.

But he gets a pass this time; In the 82′, Son was chopped down at the top of their box, and with a free-kick awarded, Jung Woo-young would thump in a bullet past the diving keeper that even Kim Seung-gyu couldn’t help but stride across the pitch to show some love.

Get in; Jung Woo-young’s scored 2 free kicks for Korea now.

Beyond two late subs with Kim Shin-wook in for Hwang Ui-jo, and Hong Chul for the booked Kim Jin-su, nothing happened. Play remained sluggish with low bursts of poor football. Son Heung-min sat deeper and deeper, more often found in the middle of the pitch regaining possession than near the opponent’s box making runs. Our midfield remained anonymous. The ball would find itself on either side of the pitch, and we’d end up just crossing it in.

We actually scored another goal too, but it was ruled out for a foul after Kim Shin-wook completely bodied the Turkmen goalkeeper. At least the referee is fair in not booking him considering how many challenges Turkmenistan had gotten away with.

In the end, job done. In World Cup Qualifying, every point is valuable, and a clean sheet is always something to appreciate. Our play was suspect, but hopefully the answer to that is time. Bento may have found an answer to how Korea plays against bunkering AFC sides by making us patient playing compact in their half, but there remains a lot to be said about unbalanced work from our fullbacks with our midfield providing no creativity to lighten their offensive responsibilities.

But — again — job done. The road to ’22 starts now. It begins with 3 points. 

Korea fighting. 

About kkim 13 Articles
When I grow up I want to be Jo Hyeon-woo.


  1. Thx for the recap, a win is still a win, just wish they’d be more authoritative. Its so frustrating to see Son forced to play makeshift midfield, I wanna see him unleashed already. I forget who (Mike, or Steve Han?), but someone said Son still doesn’t have a set position, he’s given free reign, which can effectively mean he has to do everything, so he can’t do what he really does best.

    A truly threatening striker I feel would free Son up for his patented cut & curls from the box edge, while MFs who control the center, who possess vision & accuracy, could spring Son for one of his blasting runs splitting defenders, to go 1 v 1 w/ the gk. What he does best, what he does at Tottenham.

    Son is ofc ever the focal pt of opposing defenses, but if some others could just step up it would force teams to divert attn away, freeing Son up just a little bit. It should be good for those teammates too, like when an all star is double-teamed that means one guy isn’t covered. But that open guy has to able to take advantage.

    On a positive note, Son seems to be growing into his captain role, and man overrunning that Turkmen guy to mug the ball back was something else 🙂

    • Yes Son needs players that are better at holding the ball up and playmaking around him to be at his best. He needs to be able to focus on moving around in the final third and not in the middle/own half of the field. Like others have mentioned, Son should be paired up with players like Kwon Changhoon, Lee Jae Sung, and possibly even Lee Kang In while Hwang Ui Jo should be dropped. I like Ui Jo, but he doesn’t fit Bento’s system or gets the best out of Son.

      • It’s such a dilemma with Hwang Uijo. How can you drop a guy who scores 2 goals and saves you against Georgia?

        But you’re still right though, both of you guys. At the current moment, what Bento is getting from Sonny is not what he is best at.

        My solution it a bit different to be honest. I don’t drop Hwang Uijo, I just play a different system and a different midfield entirely. In terms of Hwang Uijo, you get the best from him when his job is to make intelligent runs in towards goal, like he did against Georgia. So play him as a striker alone and have a 3 behind him, just like Harry Kane can do at Spurs with Sonny. So for my 4-2-3-1, I want an attacking trio of Sonny at LW, Kangin/Lee Jaesung at CAM (the Eriksen No. 10 type role), and then Kwon Changhoon/Hwang Heechan at RW. This will scare everyone in Asia. In the holding 2, I would do Inbeom and Jung Wooyoung (Paik needs a bit more experience at Darmstadt before he’s ready for the holding role, but he’ll get there). In terms of the back 4, we need better fullbacks. Because Sonny loves playing balls to overlapping FBs. To be honest, that is not the forte of either Lee Yong or Hong Chul, instead, they stay out wide in safer positions and put in crosses. However, Kim Jinya/Choi Jun/Kim Moonhwan will make the dangerous lung-busting overlap runs into the box. Overall, this team has the pieces in place to be good, but I hope that Bento finds the right tactics and players to get the best results.

        • I know he is at a new club but does Lee Seung Woo have a chance to make it back to the KNT or live up to expectations? .. I was anticipating one day of attacking trio of LSW / LKI / Heechan and Sonny at striker..

          • We discuss Lee Seungwoo on the most recent Tavern of the Taegeuk Warriors podcast here:

  2. Finally got around to watching the highlights: tough to watch despite the win. Korea can no longer waltz through qualifying. I’m glad to see other AFC countries becoming more competitive, so it is imperative that Korea really bring their A or at least B+ game each time. You could tell the team is just not clicking yet. Chalk it up to the team still getting used to Bento or whatnot, but they have to be more clinical. Hwang UJ missed some chances that he absolutely has to bury against other teams.

    I’m getting excited to see more Hwang HC with Son. His recent Champions League match with Salzburg was really impressive.

    Feel like Korea is lagging where the global game is headed with these fullbacks who charge up and down the field, providing crosses and width. Imagine if we had some players who could do that? Hopefully one of these young players is the answer.

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