What. A. Game.
Now, I wanted to claw my eyes out for half the time. I got mini heart attacks at least once every 5 minutes (Mexico had 20 shots on target so 90/20 … yeah sounds about right). My blood pressure probably shot up to really unhealthy levels watching Shim Sang Min constantly screw up, compounded by the fact that I was in a lab watching the game so I couldn’t make any vocalizations. Moreover, everyone seemed to have streaming issues, and when things were working, the stream was either laggy or very blurry. How could we have possibly enjoyed the experience of watching Korea get rekt by Mexico?
But wow, I actually had a great time. Football is a funny thing. The Fiji first half we had ridiculous possession but scored 1 and missed a penalty. The second half we somehow scored 3 goals in 2 minutes and ended up scoring 6 in one half. The Germany game we deserved to win in every sense, yet we dropped points. The Mexico game we were outclassed 100%, but we miraculously won. When our favorite baker’s boy scored that ridiculous solo goal I immediately fell out of my chair, started laughing like crazy, prompting everyone in the lab to stare at me like I was crazy. Yes, football makes us crazy (how much more productive would I be with my life without it…) but it’s really moments like this that makes us football fans.
Before reading this, however, check out Tim’s Recap of the Mexico game, especially if you missed it!
Before I go into the Mexico game and “what we learned from the group stages,” there is an interesting story I’d like to share. Apparently, all the teams were scheduled to fly out of the hotel at 7AM. But that requires waking up mad early. Due to fatigue concerns the teams asked to schedule a different flight only to get the request declined. The Korean team decided to buy their own tickets, and the team flew out closer to 11 AM. The Iraqi team, stationed in Brasilia where the Mexico and Korean teams were supposed to land, decided to leave their hotel later than they were supposed to, so the Mexican players couldn’t go straight to their rooms. Mexico is threatening to report this to the IOC (I don’t see what’s wrong with buying our own tickets tbh), but it’s very understandable how the fans and the FA could get really angry about something like this.
First I will echo Tim’s thoughts – the Mexico lineup was weird. No defensive steel in midfield, a probably tired Hwang Hee Chan… what was going on? As we quickly saw, STY dun goofed. Up till the goal, I’ve never seen such utter domination. We had moments like this:
This #KOR XI is flawed on so many levels and positions there need to be two HT subs, genuinely.
— SandalsForGoalposts (@Sandal4Goalpost) August 10, 2016
— Taeguk Warriors (@taeguk_warrior) August 10, 2016
It was really bad. I’m sure we all just had this horrible sinking feeling that Mexico was bound to score, thus eliminating us from any hope of getting a medal. We had 10 men behind the ball at times. SHM was defending more often that attacking. As Tim pointed out, the ball probably stayed in our half 80% of the time. And the stats are truly damning, with Mexico completely outclassing us in possession (66-33), pass completion (I believe we were hovering around 60%), shots, and basically every metric except for fouling (and at the end we got some truly dirty plays from the Mexican players). Shim Sang Min was undoubtedly the worst player on the pitch, but Lee Chang Min had no idea what he was doing either. Kwon Chang Hoon touched the ball maybe 2 times in the first half, Park Yong Woo and SHM were full-time defenders, and Lee Seul Chan did just enough to defend that right flank (actually it was pretty impressive).
Mexico deserved to win. But this is football, and sometimes luck plays a bigger factor than how well you actually play.
Let’s observe that solo goal just one more time, and reminisce on the raw emotion that came out when literally out of nowhere, Kwon Chang Hoon scores this beauty. Let us also appreciate Hwang Hee Chan who body-blocks #14 from challenging Kwon:
One more point of appreciation: Tomas is the new Pyostradamus (Tomastradamus?)
Podcast: "Kwon Changhoon will score, and it will be *screamer*. Because that's all he does."@TomDanicek ladies and gentlemen.
— Taeguk Warriors (@taeguk_warrior) August 10, 2016
What did we learn from the group stages regarding Shin Tae Yong?
He’s going to take away a lot from this tournament, hopefully, because anyone can see that he made a ton of mistakes. The media is praising STY and even making puns with his family name with headlines like “Park Yong Woo to CB was a Godly move” or something along those lines … but the Korean media will be the Korean media and forget about the fact that 1) we got whooped by Mexico and 2) STY has some starting XI selection policies to work out.
Despite his many flaws, I believe STY will really grow as a manager from this experience. Right now he’s sort of stuck with Shim Sang Min and a 18 man squad that is starting to seem really thin, but maybe next time he won’t have to resort to very out of form players who aren’t getting minutes for professional teams…
What did we learn from the group stages regarding individual players?
I think EVERY single Korean fan can agree that Shim Sang Min has to go. I really hate saying negative things about any player, and I often call out people for picking scapegoats, but I believe it’s objectively clear that for the past three games that LB position has just been garbage. Pass misses, weird clearances, Hollywood passes to the right flank despite two players being perfectly open on the right… I really don’t know what goes on in that guy’s head. Sort of reminds me of my own play at left back…
Lee Seul Chan has actually been somewhat admirable. Yes, he attacks more than he defends and yes, he has made some mistakes, but in many instances he did his job very well. He was good in attack, and his assist on the Germany goal especially comes to mind. Maybe the disappointment of LB is making me think more highly of the RB than I should be, but I wonder if LSC could be called up vs. China in September. I will still maintain that we should call up Ko Yo Han and Oh Jae Suk, but LSC might be worth a look if he starts getting minutes at Jeonnam.
THE CB’S ARE AMAZING.Other than that one instance where they completely got sliced open (thank you Gu Sung Yoon for the save), they were actually pretty damn good. Especially Jung Seung Hyun. JSH was the less error prone of the CKB-JSH duo, and today he was truly admirable. Him and Jang Hyun Soo really contained the Mexico onslaught fairly well, and honestly, I think a viable CB pairing against China would be Kwak Tae Hwi – Jung Seung Hyun. I think Jung SH was the MoTM, but if you beg to differ (or agree with me), make sure to vote on our Tavern poll: who was your MOTM?
— Taeguk Warriors (@taeguk_warrior) August 10, 2016
Kwon Chang Hoon’s got some real individual brilliance: He barely got to do anything against Fiji, Germany, and the vast majority of the Mexico game, but boy oh boy very few Korean players out there can just take matters into his own hands like that. As he is a guaranteed starter for Suwon, another season of consistent play should make him ready for a move to perhaps the Eredivise or the Bundesliga. Same goes for Lee Jae Sung.
The CM department has been okay, but as of now, no one here can make it onto the senior NT. Park Yong Woo for the most part has been okay. He was admirable vs. Germany, and although didn’t get involved much today, it’s arguable that it’s not entirely his fault. Would I pick him over LJS or KSY? No, but I am starting to think of him as a quality player. Lee Chan Dong has actually done a good job every time he was subbed on, but he still clearly has his limitations: he really does not know how to pass. He had a 59% pass completion rate after coming on, and also made some bad pass misses. That being said he’s an absolute physical tank, and in this regard he’s probably much more useful than Han Gook Young, who also just does not know how to pass. Lee Chang Min meanwhile, was once this age group’s best player, but those injuries seem to be taking their toll. Today, a Lee Jae Sung / Hwang In Beom esque player was really needed in the middle, because Mexico won that midfield battle 100%, for the full 90 minutes.
Hwang Hee Chan = the Lord. We have repeatedly talked about HHC’s limitations, namely, that his finishing is pretty bad. That being said, he’s an improvement over Hwang Eui Jo and maybe even Ji Dong Won (who will probably injure himself sooner or later anyway). No Korean player can dribble like this guy, but more admirable is his physicality – the guy’s an absolute tank, and never gets pushed away from a physical battle. If things go well, could you imagine how deadly this lineup could be?
Hwang Hee Chan – Lee Seung Woo, Lee Kang In, Son Heung Min.
Moon Chang Jin has yet to acheive his potential. From the undisputable leader of the team to a complete shell of his former self, MCJ is probably the biggest underperformer of Korea’s Rio campaign. I would be very surprised if he played at all vs. Honduras.
Other Teams Thoughts:
My condolences go out to Japan. First of all, for some really bad luck in scheduling. Nigeria were the team to steamroll this group so they fielded a B team in their last game, which happened to be against Colombia. Perhaps if Nigeria had defeated Colombia earlier and went easy against Japan, would Japan have qualified? Maybe, but just as Korea did against Germany, Japan also shot themselves in the foot with a horrendous defensive show against a Nigeria team that literally arrived at the stadium just hours before the match. Second, they brought some bad overage choices. Fujiharu had quite the nightmare of a tournament, in particular..
Iraq is looking real good, and honestly if we face them we have a good chance of losing.
But we probably won’t ever face Iraq because right now, Brazil is looking like they’re going to win group A (40′ in they are winning 2-0 against Denmark). Unless Iraq win by a large margin, our semi final opponent, given we beat Honduras, will be Brazil. To be honest, had we drawn Mexico, and Germany got first in the group, though we would face Portugal in the quarters, our semifinal opponent would have likely been Nigeria. And we are definitely more likely to beat Nigeria than Brazil.
But the more important thing is to win the quarterfinal. And for that reason, Honduras is the better matchup – or so I’d like to think. We’re traditionally better against UEFA teams than South American teams, and Honduras has some real strong players in their ranks. We played them before the Olympics and drew 2-2. Fortunately, Honduras can be defeated with good technique and passing play – but more about this in the upcoming Honduras preview!
Germany called us medal contenders, but our squad is thin, fatigue is really setting in, and Shim Sang Min is just a ticking time bomb… there’s a very very slim chance we will get to the finals, but I’m actually pretty optimistic about our medal chances.
This team was supposed to be a valley generation. This team clearly didn’t have half the experience that the 2012 team did, with a truly excellent core of Ki Sung Yong – Koo Ja Cheol – Park Chu Young on top of a watertight defense at the back. Yet we somehow managed to top the group for the very first time. Luck was involved at the end, but this team managed to score out of nowhere, just as Park Chu Young had vs Japan against the run of play.
I think this team has what it takes to medal. It has some ridiculous flaws, but the big flaw – pass misses – can be worked out. I would have thought mental concentration factors would have been worked out by now, but hey it’s never too late. Though Neymar will probably eat SSM alive, I honestly think that if we take a “let’s outscore the opponent” mentality, even against Brazil, it might work. I am not advocating going all out against Brazil because medaling is more important than getting to the final, but this team is certainly not one to get shut out.
Let’s hope that SHJ gets healthy enough to start the next game (give HHC a break!), and while STY analyzes the crap out of Honduras, let us just enjoy what has been quite a rollercoaster ride of a group stage.