Sigh . . . Lebanon 1 Korea 1

What to say, what to say. Last night Korea took on Lebanon in the first of the final three qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup. A win was vital. A draw was settled for. Ultimately it’s a result that is honestly acceptable (in that it doesn’t completely derail our chances of qualification), but it was another night of frustration and head-scratching moments.


I hadn’t paid much attention to the pre-match buildup the day of the match as I was busy with work, taking care of my baby, and resting (given the middle of the night start in Korea), so I was surprised when I booted up the computer and saw the starting XI. Consensus starting choice Lee Myeong-Jin was on the bench, as was Kim Chang-Soo and Park Joo-Ho. Also recent defensive staple Jung In-Hwan was benched in favor of Kim Ki-Hee. In hindsight Park Joo-Ho’s exclusion made sense as he arrived late after completing his club season just a few days ago. The more attacking option of Shin Kwang-Hoon was preferred to the more defensive Kim Chang-Soo, and for reasons I can only speculate, Han Kook-Young started ahead of Lee Myeong-Jin. My guess is that with two more attack-minded fullbacks, Choi Kang-Hee opted for more defensive cover in the midfield. In any event, the starting XI looked like this:

Lee Dong-Gook

Lee Keun-Ho / Kim Bo-Kyung / Lee Chung-Yong

Han Kook-Young / Kim Nam-Il

Kim Chi-Woo / Kim Ki-Hee / Kwak Tae-Hwi / Shin Kwang-Hoon

Jung Sung-Ryong

Honestly, I thought the formation and starting line up was okay. My only real concern was whether the attack and defensive would be able to link up effectively with neither Kim Nam-Il or Han Kook-Young really being great passers of the ball. Similarly, none of the attacking trio are really the type to drop deep to help prompt an attack like Koo Ja-Cheol or Ki Sung-Yueng could.

First Half Recap

The game started pretty open, with both teams showing attacking intent. Korea had the first chance when Lee Dong-Gook managed to wriggle free between two defenders to get to a long ball, but the keeper was quick off his line and managed to block the shot. Then Lebanon struck. A corner was cleared out for another corner, which Lebanon took quickly. The Korean defensive was in disarray as players tried to sort out who was covering who, a problem likely stemming from the wholesale changes of 5 of the 6 defensive players. A quick cross from inside the box was only partially cleared and Lebanon scored. Korea was slow to recover from the blow, and for awhile they seemed quite content with the scoreline. It wasn’t until late in the first half that they really started to take control of the game. Lee Chung-Yong hit the post, and Lee Dong-Gook wasted a great chance right at the end.

Second Half Recap

It was more of the same in the second half. Posts getting hit, near misses, and wasted chances. Choi Kang-Hee made a bizarre substitution early in the second half, with Kim Shin-Wook coming on for Han Kook-Young. It made sense in the fact that Korea was looking for a goal, but it forced an odd shift in personnel. With Kim Bo-Kyung dropping deep alongside Kim Nam-Il, and either Lee Dong-Gook or Kim Shin-Wook playing in the ’10’ spot. Son Heung-Min would come on with 20 minutes remaining (for Lee Keun-Ho) and finally Ji Dong-Won coming on for Kim Bo-Kyung. The equalizer finally came in stoppage time. Kim Chi-Woo’s free kick took a deflection off the wall, and went in. Lebanon will feel hard done by the referee as the foul that led to the free kick seemed a bit on the soft side. There would be one more chance for Korea to win it. A break with only seconds left on the clock, the Lebanon defender pulled back (I think) Lee Chung-Yong who had gone by him. The defender picked up his second yellow and was sent off, and Korea had a free kick just outside the box. Kim Chi-Woo though, couldn’t replicate his earlier effort as this one went straight against the wall.

Player Ratings

Jung Sung-Ryong 6.0 – Largely a spectator, but again his goal was breached. His defense should have done better, but it’s concerning how few clean sheets we can keep.

Shin Kwang-Hoon 5.5 – The more attacking option, was exposed defensively on several occasions in the first half. Most of Lebanon’s attacks came down his side, and he didn’t contribute much to the attack. Seemed a bit nervous and missed controlled a number of basic passes.

Kwak Tae-Hwi 5.5 – Looked strangely assured against the weaker opposition, but his inability to marshall the backline effectively was partially responsible for the Lebanon goal. Also joined in the “hit the crossbar” parade.

Kim Ki-Hee 5.5 – A surprise starter, but Kim Ki-Hee did his job fairly well. Looked more comfortable and calmer than Jung In-Hwan. Had one “uh oh” moment when he almost conceded a penalty.

Kim Chi-Woo 6.5 – Can one very important goal make up for 90 minutes of poor performance? In the big picture no, but in individual player ratings yes. Scored the only goal, but his performance was otherwise marred by poor set piece deliveries and shaky defending.

Han Kook-Young 5.5 – Not the greatest of debuts for Han Kook-Young, but he is still certainly one for the future. Would have done better I think if he had been paired with a passing midfielder or a box-to-box type rather than a defensive midfielder.

Kim Nam-Il 5.5 – Did well considering how long he’s been in the international wilderness, but lacked the incisiveness and passing ability needed for this game. His long passes were often short and easily cut out by the Lebanon defense.

Lee Keun-Ho 6.0 – Did well for the first 25-30 minutes or so, and then began to gradually fade from the game. Still has plenty of confidence, but one wonders if the effects of playing in the second division and serving in the army are starting to show.

Kim Bo-Kyung 6.0 – An interesting match for Kim Bo-Kyung who played in a variety of positions, in the hole, up top, and as a deep-lying midfielder. Actually seemed most effective up top when combining with the Lee’s. Wasn’t as effective in the hole with Lee Dong-Gook ahead of him, and was played out of position for most of the second half.

Lee Chung-Yong 6.0 – Was worried that there would be some rust from his month layoff, and at the beginning it seemed like there was. Not very active in the game, and had trouble asserting himself. Another of the ‘hit-the-post’ club.

Lee Dong-Gook 5.0 – In many ways this match was a typical Lee Dong-Gook game. Plenty of good chances, but not able to finish them.

Kim Shin-Wook 5.0 – Came on early as a second half sub, and did little to impact the game other than head a free header over the bar from about six yards out.

Son Heung-Min 5.0 – Given 20 minutes this time, and was almost able to repeat his heroics, but scooped a rebound shot wide. Later just missed getting a boot onto a cross for a tap-in.

Ji Dong-Won S.V. – Came on very late, and had no time really to affect the game.

Choi Kang-Hee 4.5 – His strategies continue to be a mish-mash of whatever. His fullback selection largely backfired (Kim Chi-Woo’s goal aside), his double defensive midfield choice also didn’t work out too well. The attacking quartet showed glimpses of what they can do, but also looked disjointed. The Kim Shin-Wook substitution was bizarre as it forced two players into awkward positions. Lee Dong-Gook into the ’10’ role and Kim Bo-Kyung into the deep lying role. Son Heung-Min’s intro instead would have made a lot more sense.

Final Analysis

I feel like I’m becoming a broken record after each game. But there just doesn’t seem to be any sort of cohesive plan or strategy when the NT steps onto the pitch. Each game feels like it’s some experiment for the next game, but there is never any end result. Korea is still in a good position to qualify, but I will admit that I’m getting nervous about it. While the last two matches are in Korea, the prior showing against Qatar certainly shows that being at home doesn’t guarantee a result. Uzbekistan and Iran are both certainly capable of coming here and earning a point or all three.

The next match is a dangerous one. Many may feel tempted to start from scratch again, but that’s been part of the problem. Every match feels like a start from scratch. A core of the team needs to be set, so that there is a base to work from. I feel that Lee Chung-Yong and (regrettably) Lee Dong-Gook are set. Kwak Tae-Hwi will stay. But the rest are subject to wholesale changes. I could easily see the other three defenders getting switched out. I could easily see one of Lee Keun-Ho or Kim Bo-Kyung getting switched out. Kim Nam-Il and Han Kook-Young could also get replaced. I hope that some changes are made, but that Choi Kang-Hee doesn’t go overboard with it.

The next qualifier is next Tuesday at 8PM Korean Standard Time at Seoul World Cup stadium.

About Jae Chee 339 Articles
A football fan who got bit by the writing bug.


  1. I watched most of the game and was quite disappointed with korea’s performance… I was raging after each post hit and frankly didn’t even expect a nil in the end. I am personally rooting for Korea but at this rate i don’t even know if we’ll be able to win the next two games. I really feel some drastic changes must be made for the sake of Korea’s NT.

    • Drastic changes? We’ve wanted this ever since Cho Kwang Rae, yet they don’t keep coming because the managers and the KFA are so damn incompetent

      • I mean drastic changes between matches. I could easily see CKH keeping 3-4 players and changing out the other 6-7-8 players. Thus there is no cohesion or chemistry built. Drastic changes can (and should) happen AFTER qualification is over.

  2. Utterly depressing. Clearly coach Choi is out of his depth, and his constant tinkering shows a worrisome lack of confidence, and as you say, prevents the team from jelling.

    But let’s not kid ourselves. We’ve got strong midfielders (Chung-yong, Ki Sung-yueng, Kim Bo-kyung, etc), but our defense is woeful. I close my eyes every time the other team attacks, especially in set pieces. And we seriously lack forwards. If Lee Dong-gook remains our starter… Well, I can’t see how that’s going to end well.

    A team that can’t score and can’t defend is a recipe for disaster. Even if we make it to the World Cup, I’m afraid we are going to be seriously exposed and utterly embarrassed by teams that will be certainly stronger than Lebanon or Qatar, the way Croatia did not too long ago. Remember WC 1998? The 5-0 loss against Holland? Sacking Cha smack in the middle of tournament? The way we are going, we may be reliving those moments.

    Making this worse is seeing how strong Japan is looking (they are going to surprise many at the Confederations Cup). They’re talented, and they are playing like a team just at the same time Korea is running out of ideas and running out of time.

    • We have the talent across the board. Son Heung Min proved his value as a 1-top in the Bundesliga and so did JDW in the Asian Cup. Neither are as good as Park Chu Young one-top, but all of them are exponentially better than Lee Dong Gook

      Our defense was rock solid in Olympic Qualifying and at the Olympics. Our U20 WC 2009 team had a great defense and our current 2013 U20 WC team also has a ROCK SOLID defense. What does this mean? CKH is fielding the wrong players and has no orgnaization whatsover.

      Japan and Korea both have about the same level of talent. The difference? Japan built on their 2010 WC, hired a coach with pedigree, and IMPROVED. We regressed dramatically thanks to two idiotic coaches.

    • We actually do have some good young defenders, Kim Young-Kwon, Jang Hyun-Soo, Hong Jeong-Ho, and Kim Ki-Hee, it’s just a matter of when is a coach going to give them a real chance to prove themselves at the senior level?

      • Hong JH has proved himself
        The rest? Proving yourself against Mexico, Great Britain and Switzerland is plenty proof against Asian minnows

        • Hong JH has done well enough to warrant competing for a starting spot once he’s completely recovered from his injury. Doing well against quality U23 teams is enough to say that they should get a chance, but not a guarantee that they’ll be successful at the senior level. When I say prove themselves I mean they have played and performed at the senior international level.

          • I disagree. Senior level, U23 level – it’s all the same football game. Kim Young Kwon and Yoon Suk Young, for example, shut down Aquino, Sturridge, Bellamy, Sinclair, Ramsey, and Gio Dos Santos pretty damn well. I’m positive they are certain to perform well against random Asian minnows
            With the right coach, organization, and tactics of course. The entire Bayern munich team could start under CKH and lose to easy teams.

  3. I feel like we should have stuck wih Cho Kwang-Rae, he was getting good results against some good teams, and the teamwork and passing was amazing. I felt like he was really getting into the teamwork side of football and the way we were playing was a lot more solidified and pretty. Right now, it seems like we are relying heavily on individual efforts and very common ‘1-2’s’ or passing triangles to get what we are trying to achieve.
    Although, we must remember what coach Choi did with Jeonbuk and it took more than one season, or about half a season to establish the goal attacking mentality that he induced into the team, one thing I found with his style was that he can create a very good attack minded team, but the defence almost always allowed goals through, with scorelines often being 5-3 or similar scores like that.

    In saying this, I don’t really think that qualifying will be an issue, I feel like we are too far into the whole World Cup scene to not qualify, and there is a mind set of ‘doing well’ in the World Cup rather than ‘lets qualify for it first’ mentality.

    What’s more sad is that just the removal of Park Ji-Sung can create so much catastrophe for out NT, he was our soul and our bones. Someone needs to really stand up and take his place 🙁

    PS: I am absolutely in love with this website, Korea+football is an absolute gold mine. Particularly because I’ve never lived in Korea and lived in Australia my whole life, so my Korean isnt so good, but my passion for the Taeguk Warriors is so strong, so once again,

    • Cho Kwang Rae is simply the lesser of two evils. He at least had a gameplan but he had an odd habit of playing players completely out of players.
      The most bizarre being the time he played a lineup of Lee Keun Ho as the lone striker, Koo Ja Cheol and Hong Jeong Ho as a DM, Lee Yong Rae as a left back and JDW as a winger in the same game. Not to mention other weird experimental positions.

      If Cho Kwang Rae had Lee Chung Yong (our undisputed best player on the National Team) at his disposal things could have gone differently.

      • NEevertheless, I guess our position now is that we have to have faith in our new coach! It is strangely a reminder to Huh Jung-Moo during the 2010 World Cup, he had so much talent at his disposal that it didn’t even matter that he wasn’t really a talented coach.

    • I’m with you, Korea+football = epic joy (except when it comes to CKH). English language articles/analysis of the Taeguk Warriors was something that needed additional coverage … thus the Tavern!

      PS. Post Park Ji-Sung era has been difficult for the KNT, but I believe there will be light at the end of the tunnel at some point in the future.

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