Premature Ending to the U19 Championship

It still boggles my mind – how did this generation, with some of the most star-studded names on its roster, get eliminated from the U19 Championship? IN THE GROUP STAGES! To JAPAN OF ALL TEAMS? If there was one team I was confident about it was this one. Yet ironically it’s this generation that fails to qualify for the U20 World Cup for the first time in 14 years. In hindsight, too many things went wrong. And I really hope that we can learn a lot from our mistakes this time around

Pre-Vietnam: The general consensus on this team is pretty well outlined in my previous post: loads of attacking talent, a great midfield combo in Paik Seung Ho and Kim Hyung Wook, but a questionable defense. We also had a manager with a very questionable resume now that I think of it (relegating Gangwon with a less than 10% win rate that season, contributing to our shitty 2000 U19 WC with players like PJS LDG LCS and some other future NT stars) but I admittedly completely glossed over that due to his pre-tournament confidence and the sheer potential I saw in this age group. Think about it: this team has Hwang Hee Chan, Kim Gun Hee, Seo Myung Won, Kim Shin, Paik Seung Ho, and a lot of other K League starlets. I’ve never seen this much attacking talent in one team. Granted, it’s just the attack, and the defense was pretty shaky in the SBS cup (against Colombia and Japan (and a Japanese club team), but still. I expected a lot from this team and hoped we could go for the “outscore” tactic.

Post-China: Nothing really changed, though team chemistry was really starting to worry me since it wasn’t very good, but I also let this slide by since they hadn’t trained together for long and assumed it would improve over time. After China, I was really looking forward to that Japan game since Japan were struggling so much until the match against us (1-2 loss to China, a extra time 2 goal winning 3-1 win vs Vietnam). They also lost their best player in Okugawa. I fully expected an ez 2-3 GD win (two years ago this same age group beat Japan 3-1 in the U16 Championship).

As for our lineup, I was kinda puzzled that Kim Sang Ho had fielded almost the identical lineup minus 2 changes, provided how crazy the match schedule is. Obviously, with an insane only-one-day-of-rest schedule, you would think the coach would either go straight up B team vs China and go all out against Japan (or go all out against China and go B team vs Japan) but Kim Sang Ho did neither. I naturally assumed that Hwang Hee Chan, Paik Seung ho, and Shim Jae Hyeok were being saved for Japan.

I was also puzzled at 1). why a random 2nd division USA player managed to start over Paik Seung Ho / Seol Tae Su and 2). why Paik Seung Ho was never fielded despite Kim Sang Ho’s excessive praise for him. Again, I assumed he was saving up for Japan; no matter how bad they were we have to beat them after all right?

Remember how I said there were only two changes from Vietnam to China? Well there was only one change from China to Japan. When I first saw this (saw it before knowing the scoreline) I nearly broke something in rage. This was not good.

And the worst happened. We were straight up outran. Like… it was almost funny how the fullbacks were straight up pace-burned every time and how the CMs were constantly being overrun. Kim Sang Ho, this is what happens when you play these guys for 3 straight 90′ games with no rest. Kim Gun Hee pulled one back for us yet you can’t really do much when your CM is egregiously bad and your FB’s are having a shitty day. I think this game is where Paik Seung Ho really would’ve come in handy. Kim Sang Ho himself said that Paik Seung Ho’s ability to control the game is exceptional for such a young age. Isn’t this EXACTLY what was missing vs Japan? And still, he comes on and we revert to 뻥축구, pretty much negating PSH’s impact. Funny that I mention it, because we took out the tall target man as soon as 뻥축구 started, which honestly makes no sense at all.

Yet another idiotic decision on his part: we had an ADDITIONAL TRAINING SESSION AFTER THE CHINA GAME. Was this guy out of his mind? It’s the last thing we need, especially considering he made ONE CHANGE with one day of rest, against a relatively fresh Japan team.

And almost just as enraging as this guy’s idiotic decisions is the fact that he attributed some blame to Paik Seung Ho as well as overconfidence from the whole team – there’s really not much Paik could have done in that situation, and moreover isn’t it the coach’s job to calm the players down after a big 6-0 win? Smh Kim Sang Ho has literally no management skills.

I’ve been really mad about this for the last couple days but imagine how devastated the players are, having been sent home early in an ASIAN competition to JAPAN. It makes it worse since this team undoubtedly had the talent to go far, yet really bad management from a really dumb manager cost them a U20 WC. Remember that this age group (not necessarily the same players) failed to make it to the U17 World Cup back in 2012 despite 9 points in the group and defeating Japan 3-1, all because they couldn’t score more than 1 goal against Uzbekistan in the QF’s and lost on PKs (Japan, on the other hand, met Uzbekistan in the finals and lost, but they qualified). Now, with a massive upgrade in attack and even in the midfield, the manager manages to screw it up for them. What a tragedy.

I can go on a really long rant how AFC is stupid for making qualifying into a knockout stage format instead of a round-robin format like every other federation does, since knockout stages always leads to luck bias (we’ve been both lucky and unlucky in the past couple years) and is only really useful for determining the “best” team rather than the “four best teams,” but that’s a topic for another day.


Some Troubling Recent Trends:

This actually points to another concern in our youth coaching overall:

As Jae and others pointed out, for all our success in the youth divisions this year has been underwhelming. Let’s start with the U16 – the coach there honestly had no idea what he was doing, but Lee Seung Woo constantly pulled something out of his ass to make it look good. The “tactic” was to open up space for LSW and let him do his thing, which worked for a while. Until we got outplayed by North Korea that is, as the manager had no idea how to cope with them. This coach, Kim Sang Ho, had a terrible previous resume, and I hoped he could redeem himself through leading this generation to the U20 WC, but had no sense of rotation or tactics, didn’t quite play our best players, and made some really dumb decisions that cost us really bad. I swear his only instructions were “pass” and other than that, let the 11 18-19 year olds do whatever they wanted to on the pitch. After relegating Gangwon FC he adds yet another fck up to his resume.

And then there’s Lee Gwang Jong. He is very experienced and always brings about results. Actually, they’re pretty good, especially because you know that Lee Gwang Jong teams won’t concede easily. A trademark of pretty much all of his tournament squads has been a solid defense:

Lee Gwang Jong’s Accomplishments:


2008: AFC U-16 Runner up
2009: FIFA U-17 WC Quarterfinals
2010: AFC U-19 Semi-finals
2011: FIFA U-20 WC Round of 16, lost on penalties
2012: AFC U-19 Champions
2013: FIFA U-20 WC Quarterfinals, lost on penalties
2014: Asian Games Champions

But for all the results he can produce and for the defensive magic he somehow pulls out of the air, his offense is always much to be desired. And he often plays so frustratingly defensively it pretty much always leads to PK’s (case in point 2011, 2013, almost 2014). I used to be really mad about his tactics but I actually kinda want this guy to manage all our youth teams since the others haven’t really worked out aside from HMB at the U20/23 level.

An interesting idea I read on BSK was that the Rio 2016 age group, the one that contested the 2013 U20 WC, has amazing defenders but leaves a lot to be desired in the attack, as LGJ himself quoted. Considering the current U19 team is literally the opposite, could the very talented attackers here (KGH, HHC, KS, SMW) be called up for Rio? They may only be 20 at the time but you never know. I am desperately hoping that KGH, HHC, and SMW, in their K League Classic debuts next year, will live up to their potential. I will be closely following these guys in the K League for sure.

This also makes you wonder how good this team could’ve been had LGJ managed this team, but oh well.

It’s too bad none of our youth coaches have been particularly convincing this cycle, but oh well you can only hope they can learn from their mistakes… but knowing the KFA and Korean coaches I don’t know about that

About Jinseok 259 Articles
Diehard Korean football fan.


  1. It is discouraging the way it all went down, but as you say – elements of this group can be added to future tourneys (Rio 2016). A pattern you mention – youth coaches who seem to be lacking in not only getting results, but also seem to be short on their coaching qualities – that has to be something the KFA is aware of – hopefully there’s some meaningful pressure on them to take effective action on that. Of course that’s looking at the glass half full…

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