Jae’s article was a bit too neutral for me. I for one found a lot of cause for optimism. Yeah the final third attack was atrocious at times and the result was poor – especially considering we had nearly 20 shots, 61% possession, and kept their pass success rate to 30% at times- but had Yun Il Rok Lee Seung Ki and Kim Dong Sub decided not to play “hit the keeper” so often this would have been a perfectly executed game.
Before the game started I had high expectations. 한국형 축구 – Korean football of speed and counterattacking, not CKR’s tiki taka or CKH’s longball. The possession fight and high pressure we remembered from the Olympics. And from the first minute I was overjoyed because we were actually playing football. For the first time in ages I didn’t want to punch the screen every minute. You have to admit, everything about today was infinitely better than anything under CKH.
Then of course, comparing to Choi Kang Hee’s football means nothing, but still, I really enjoyed what I saw. We were countering, passing very efficiently even in tight spaces, and finding space to run into. I saw throughballs, something that hasn’t existed on the KNT for a long time. Our play FLOWED for once. It was fast paced and we constantly pressured the opposition and tried to steal the ball; I found myself constantly asking myself “how the hell did we keep possession there?” or “how the hell did we win that back so fast?” When possession was lost you could visibly see the players trying to win it back (Ki revealed in his Healing Camp interview HMB instructs his players to do this). Also, the defense was SOLID for the first time in AGES, with most of Australia’s long balls being headed clear. In fact, after the match HMB said he would be fine with giving the defense a 100% rating. See I told you reuniting HJH and KYK would do wonders. It was easy opposition and Japan and China should prove a more appropriate testing of our defense (ours was hardly troubled as we dominated the match so much) but I’m confident we’re up to the task.
Here’s a nice compilation of some of our plays:
But not everything was perfect, of course. Crossing was poor and in the beginning we crossed way too much, though that’s to be expected with fullbacks getting involved a lot. I can’t remember a single good cross put in by Ko Yo Han or Kim Chang Soo (thank goodness Lee Chung Yong and Kim Bo Kyung can cross very well). Kim Jin Su had some okay ones but they weren’t that good either. To me this is enough of an argument to play Lee Yong in the next game – his crossing is very good and I remember him getting a couple of assists by drilling in a cross to Kim Shin Wook. It’s also worrying that we had 15-20 corners to their 1 or 2 and never scored from a single one, but set pieces have generally been a weakness of ours with the 2010 WC being an odd exception.
That being said Kim Chang Soo and Kim Jin Su played well, crossing aside. Kim Jin Su, in particular, had a very good debut match that led to an interview on KFA’s website – “데뷔전임을 잊게 만드는 맹활약이었다. 김진수(21, 알비렉스 니가타)가 A매치 데뷔전에서 단연 돋보이는 활약을 펼치며 ‘깜짝 스타’로 발돋움 했다. ‘2013 EAFF 동아시안컵’ 호주전에 왼쪽 풀백으로 나선 김진수는 공격과 수비를 넘나들며 흠잡을 데 없는 플레이를 펼쳤다. 축구팬들에게 ‘김진수’라는 이름 석 자를 각인시키기 충분한 활약이었다.” He is also getting more media attention on an individual basis than anyone else.
(Interesting tidbit- I sure didn’t know Kim Jin Su had come up through the KFA’s youth national team squads since the age of 12. The “elite course”, they call it)
Now let’s talk about the offense. We created SO many chances. The shots on target count without a goal was way too high. Aside from Kim Young Kwon’s amazing freekick, Yun Il Rok’s shot from outside the box, and Yeom Ki Hun’s shot that hit the post, pretty much all our shots were straight at the keeper, Kim Dong Sub and Yun Il Rok particularly guilty of spurning easy chances. Lee Seung Ki also came close a number of shots; two good chances that went off target particularly come to mind.
This gives a lot of support to the argument that under Hong Myung Bo Son Heung Min should be our starting striker or at least on the pitch. Son is known for scoring on a very large percentage of the chances he’s given; give him space and you can be confident that he’ll score most of them. Throughout the match I was wondering. If THESE players can play like this – nearly perfect play until the part where you’re supposed to take a shot and score – what can our A team do? Enticing isn’t it? But with any team risk the chance of creating so many freaking chances and not scoring a single one like today or the Gabon match (seriously yesterday’s match was almost a carbon copy of Gabon’s – utter domination but not scoring). Hong Myung Bo’s lone forwards generally provide link up play and contribute a ton to the offense, but are not known to be high goalscorers- case in point Park Ju Young. What if Son Heung Min comes into play instead? He wouldn’t contribute to the attack as much as PJY with his back to goal, but 1). He’s faster 2). He’s a better finisher and 3). he dribbles better. It’s a difficult question as PJY is the overall better player and is an experienced trustworthy veteran, but a charateristic of HMB’s game is dominating the game very hard in the beginning at least. Against Brazil in the Olympics we tired fast, against Australia we didn’t tire much, but we will always take control of the game from the start. The important thing here, clearly, is to SCORE EARLY. With Park Ju Young that hasn’t always happened, so would a goal scorer like SHM be more effective as a starter when we’re in domination mode and controlling the game? I don’t know but I’d love to find out. I can’t wait for the full senior A match in August against Peru when we’ll finally see what HMB can do with our full NT lineup now with LEE CHUNG YONG (we missed him in Olympics), Son, Hong Jeong Ho, and Lee Myung Joo at his disposal.
Chaminator from Bigsoccer Korea sums it up pretty well:
“This lack of goal scoring will be the HMB squad’s biggest weakness going forward IMO, so we should probably brace ourselves for more games like this. It’s how his squads have always been… his forwards typically don’t score much and it’s usually upto the midfielders’ ability to score. It’s a tradeoff of his way of solidifying the midfield and defense.
What I do wish is that he also places more emphasis on his lone forward being more of a scorer than a link. Or at least have one natural scorer in the squad as an option when it is badly needed. It’ll really be interesting how Hong uses SHM… but my gut feeling is that he’ll use him as a winger rather than a lone forward because SHM’s likely not the type of CF that Hong has in mind for this squad.”
This aspect of HMB’s game shows in the compilation video above, as a lot of our shots were created by a player laying off the ball for another player, usually a midfielder, to take a good shot (fortunately, Kim Bo Kyung Koo Ja Cheol Ki Sung Yong are more than capable of scoring from powerful shots outside the box). You know I welcome that tradeoff. The defense and midfield were absolutely stellar against Australia and I’d much rather have that than anything we’ve seen from the KNT in recent years. Unless you have RvP to carry or you have an offense consisting of Ronaldinho – Ronaldo – Rivaldo – Roberto Carlos – Cafu (god that is scary) a solid defense is a must for all successful teams. We don’t have that kind of offensive talent anyway, so HMB perfecting his defensive and midfield game is very welcome on my part even if it means sacrificing some of the goalscoring ability. And considering we’ve seen porous defense ever since the HJM era I’m really looking forward to finally not getting heart attacks every time attackers come into our defensive third. (in regards to SHM, he can score even from the wings if you just give him some space to do his trademark cut in move. He’ll be playing a wide forward in Leverkusen’s 4-3-3 anyway).
As for individual players, they generally performed well. Kim Jin Su was surprisingly impressive and Kim Young Kwon handled the Aussies with ease (oh and that free kick was beautiful). Hong Jeong Ho wasn’t 100% back in form but at least he kept things tidy and did his job. Kim Chang soo made some good runs but his offensive game still needs work (his defense is fine) and his crossing sucks. Lee Myung Joo is a freaking engine and I expect him to be playing in Brazil 2014 (how to best utilize Ki Sung Yong Koo Ja Cheol Lee Myung Joo and Kim Bo Kyung is a dilemma of its own, an article I am working on atm). Ha Dae Sung, previously pretty poor on the NT was very impressive yesterday and won the ball back a surprising amount of times. Lee Seung Ki had a great day save for the bad finishing – he linked up well and many plays ran through him. I wasn’t so impressed with Ko Yo Han as he didn’t link up too well and was kind of invisible sometimes. Yun Il Rok was great at first – took chances which he failed to capitalize, one which was somehow saved by the keeper. Lively but faded. As for Kim Dong Sub I liked his energy and link up play but spurned chances and I expected more.
Notice things progressed from very positive to a little less positive as we went up the defense-forward ladder.
My conclusion for this match is that Korea is back. We’ve seen infinite improvement from the past three years and we can only go progress from here on instead of regressing rapidly since 2010. We may not have produced the result and the finishing and crossing was pretty bad, but on a good day we would have won that 2-0 or 3-0. The play was flowing and near flawless (remember though this was pretty easy opposition) and the defense was solid for a change. We’re starting to find an identity stylistically, something HMB will surely be working on. Man I’m excited to see what we can do against China’s A team and Japan’s J League XI.