South Korea 2-2 Jordan 2023 Asian Cup

A draw that feels like a loss. One of our worst performances yet. “How does a team with Son Heung Min Kim Min Jae and Lee Kang In draw to JORDAN of all teams?” many will be asking. Let’s dissect what went wrong, what went right, and what we need to do going forward.

Klinsmann’s game plan

I know many people will be pointing fingers at the boss this game, but there was at least some semblance of logic in the way we set up, and it did work for the first 10 minutes. Because Jordan plays a back 5, Klinsmann wanted 5 up top such that we have even numbers fighting there. We achieved this by pushing Hwang In Beom VERY high up – as high up as Cho and Son even more advanced than LKI most of the time. And in the beginning it worked. Hwang made space for Cho, Cho made space for Son, and Son won a PK. It was insane how long the PK took to get called (that was an obvious PK if I’ve ever seen one) but hey it got called eventually.

But soon the weaknesses started to show.

Remember in my Jordan preview where I said that their lineup, as well as ours, is really thin in the middle? Well that was absolutely the case for us and it was exploited to good effet. Jordan’s back 5 occupied our 5 attackers while our fullbacks went wide – that essentially left Park Yong Woo alone in the midfield with only the 2 CBs behind him. And oh boy did he struggle today more so than ever. To be fair, he struggled due to the system that left him with the ENTIRE middle of the park to cover on his own, though his own shortcomings particularly in defending were on full display as well. Look at Jordan’s second goal – how did we unacceptably let #11 get a free shot on goal with NO ONE closing him down? It’s because 1) we were too focused on #10 but also 2) our midfield was EMPTY. It’s not good that we essentially only attack down the L or R.

Not only that but somehow we lost every single 50-50 duel ever whether it was on the ground or on the air. By the end of the match we recorded 17 turnovers – and I’m pretty sure most came from the first half. We momentarily thought we were Japan, getting bodied by every defender and losing the ball. I thought Koreans were stronger than this. But we weren’t. Did they play dirty? Yes, but we were outright terrible and can’t even bring that up as a reason why we struggled. Park Yong Woo, Lee Jae sung, even Lee Kang In and Cho Gue Sung (who seems to have forgotten that he’s a CF) kept getting dispossessed and outmuscled. Only Kim Min Jae really played his part – and he is the single reason why we did not lose this game. There were some truly outstanding moments of defending from him. Whether it was closing down attackers without fouling them in the box, clutch tackles, or intercepting balls into a totally vacant midfield (srsly KMJ acted more like our DM than PYW today), my god we are lucky to have the best CB in the world.

About the forwards: Cho and Oh Hyeon Gyu struggled. Cho especially. Really need to shed some rust against Malaysia. Though admittedly, we also don’t seem to be utilizing any of our forwards very well. Cho is not very fast, yet we kept sending him to chase through passes or long balls. Why can’t we have him get on the end of headers or have him play like the Wookie and either 1) play with his back to goal to link up with Son/Hwang In Beom/LKI or 2) just drop aerial balls down for our other attackers? It was the same with Oh Hyeon Gyu. How to best utilize our forwards is something we need to figure out, because right now, the way we’re choosing to play, they’re deadweights.

So all in all, the way Klinsmann set up was just not working. He got the tactics very wrong today (I thought, in Klinsmann’s words, we did our homework and scouted all the opponents?) and in the Jordan preview, I stated:

I think there are two trains of thought when it comes to playing “weaker” teams – either you say “we’re better than them, we will win no matter what” and stick to what you’re used to, or go full Pep Guardiola or Shin Tae Yong mode and switch things up based on your opponent. Klinsmann seems to be more of the former.

I knew he wouldn’t change much but I didn’t think that our team, with truly world class members, would actually get so thoroughly outplayed. Perhaps we should’ve done what I suggested in that post – to play a three-man midfield. To his credit he did make changes for the better at half time. So kudos to him for that. He instructed Hwang In Beom to be a CM not a RW, Son moved out left, LJS went centrally, and he brought on HHS and KTH taking out PYW and LKJ. Now we were more secure in the middle, and by letting LKI cut in more we were essentially 3-2-4-1 in offense, with almost a three back of SYW KMJ JSH, midfield center of HHS and HIB, SHM LJS LKI KTH ahead, and CGS up top. And we finally started to play more like ourselves.

As we committed more and more players in search of a goal though, Jordan were more than happy to sit back and counter through Al Tamari as expected. Fortunately, Kim Min Jae was there to negate his presence – seriously if we had anyone else there, even someone as capable as Kim Young Kwon, we would have conceded more for sure. The issue is that having Kim Min Jae be a CB, a FB, and a DM all at once isn’t sustainable (if we could clone Kim Min Jae 4 times to create an entire KMJ back line + DM, I would do it in a heartbeat) and we need to make tweaks to how we play to not be so reliant on the brilliance of one man – as we so often are.

For an excellent video on the things that went wrong I recommend this video:

Regarding the knockout stage:

The Korean media is slightly obsessed with our knockout stage path, even though Kim Min Jae recently hit back on this, asking why they keep looking so far into the future.

Something that came up in the comments on the Jordan preview post: It is absolutely preposterous to suggest that we are playing worse intentionally to avoid Japan. We aren’t afraid of them. And we need to beat everyone to win. Our team members would be insulted to even hear murmurings like this. There’s this narrative going on in foreign media that we’re playing poorly to avoid Japan. Wtf? Stop.

What’s being discussed a lot right now is this: Is it better to play Japan RO16, Iran RO8, and Qatar/Uzbek RO4? Or is it better ot just get second place and face Iraq, Australia, and Saudi Arabia? The latter seems like an easier path to the finals (I know I said the opposite in my Korea v Japan post, but Australia and Saudi Arabia have been really unconvincing so far), but we do need to beat everybody this tournament. I would personally advocate for the former. I wanna see us smash Japan and take advantage of their injuries. But if we play the way we did in the first half against Japan, we will absolutely lose. 4-0 maybe. Against Japan we need to be physically aggressive and make sure we have enough to defend and keep the midfield stocked. We will really need an in form Cho Gue Sung, which is not looking likely the way things are going.

Anyway, my point is, both options have their pros and cons. One can knock out Japan while they’re still in injury crisis mode, the other is an easier path to the finals.

Going forward, I think it’s clear that we need to play a back line of SYW – KMJ – JSH – KTH. I think it’s also clear we need to do a better job in MF. Knowing Klinsmann he won’t take out even a struggling CGS – most likely we would see a AM trio of SHM – LJS – LKI. The question is what happens when Hwang Hee Chan comes back? And what do we do about DM? Play Hong Hyeon Seok + Hwang In Beom? Seems defensively thin. Play Park Jin Seop? Play Kim Young Gwon even? There are so many variables here that I honestly don’t know what to think. It makes my head hurt just thinking about the possibilities of just our lineup as well as the added variable of playing a SEA opponent, a near peer, or a Middle Eastern team, which just makes my head hurt even more. If I were Jurgen Klinsmann though I would strongly consider resting some key players against Malaysia, most notably Lee Kang In who seems to be harboring a bit of a knock. Maybe also Hwang In Beom, who was clutching his knee after the goal (though I’m not reading a reason why).

If Malaysia was a must win game where we wanted to go out I think the correct move is a 4-3-3 of HHC SHM LKI – LJS HHS HIB – SYW KMJ JSH KTH. You don’t really need a defensive mid. But then the question is what do you do against a team like Japan where having a physically gifted aerially gifted striker (in theory Cho Gue Sung) would be theoretically useful? What about bunkering Middle Eastern teams where again Cho Gue Sung would be useful? Could HHC be a one top instead? Where also a defensive mid might be useful too? Should it be a 4-2-3-1 of CGS – SHM LKI HHC – HIB [DM vs HHS] – same backline so that Lee Kang In could play a proper #10? But Klinsmann seems really set on having SHM play a free role in the middle as a #10/8, but I guess the SHM LKI HHC line could all freely interchange and do whatever they want. Then again, we don’t need to go all out against Malaysia. Again I really don’t know what’s best for us here.

But more important than getting first or second place in the group or the exact 11-man personnel we field is how Klinsmann will play the next game. SURELY by now he realizes that the system he has worked on all of 2023 has flaws. We have no midfield, our DM gets isolated alone way too often, our FWs are invisible, CHW missed a few passes creating dangerous moments for us, etc. And hopefully our players and the coaching staff will adapt accordingly. And please for the love of god no more injuries.

About Jinseok 260 Articles
Diehard Korean football fan.


  1. I have to admit, the way the bracket is laid out, it would be much easier for us to get second place and face a weaker side of the bracket. Potentially face Japan, Iran, then Qatar BEFORE the finals? Yeah, that sounds like a nightmare compared to the other side.

    But if you really think about it, we really have no reason not to win this group. Bahrain has everything to play for against Jordan. Malaysia are already eliminated and got nothing to play for against us. No way we don’t make up the goal difference. And if we don’t win the group, I’ll either seriously question how good we are or start to believe that we’re cowards trying not to win. So yeah, I’d much rather go balls in and say give us the harder path.

  2. LKJ and PJY should never leave the bench from here on out. The good thing is that it is obvious even to Klinsmann now.

    The whole team wasn’t passing, receiving, or dribbling well, even Lee Kang In.

    I love the guy but you have to sit Cho Gue Sung. Was that really an offside when he airmailed that tap in? I wasn’t so sure.

    No one talks about it enough but we are missing Hwang Hee Chan a lot. He has the physicality to excel against these teams.

    Totally agree that Kim Min Jae is MOM.

    Still early, better to work things out now and peak in elimination later

      • Are there any other changes you would make? What did you think of Seol Young Woo?

        I do think we’ll need Cho Gue Sung at some point. His lack of aggressiveness is disappointing because he has been scoring well against the Vikings in Denmark. It’s good that he’s been humbled a bit.

        Hopefully we can put away Malaysia early and rest our main guys in 2nd half. I’m not gonna get caught up round of 16. You have to play who is in front of you.

        • Seol Young Woo is a solid FB for our standards, best we have in the NT pool right now. He has links to Scotland and he should do well there. Changes… I just wanna see us use something that isnt’ this stupid 4-4-2. It worked well in the previous friendlies but now that opponents are actually trying and scouting us out beforehand and changing their gameplan accordingly, it’s not working. I’m perturbed by the fact that Klinsmann said something along the lines of there’s nothing wrong with Plan A when clearly there is something very wrong (and each group stage game we’ve gotten better when we switched to plan B).
          If I was suddenly the manager I’d ofc do whatever the players want but from the comfort of my own home and bed, I would play the following against Malaysia for the first half:
          In the second half I’d sit back and practice the art of long balls to Cho Gue Sung. I wanna see him winning all the aerials and outmuscling any defender in his path. 4 second half subs (subbing off LKI, SHM, HIB, KMJ):
          Take off HHC after maybe 60 minutes or so – but to get him back to speed we should include him in the starting XI and keep him on for a good while. I’d also like to rest LJS though… so maybe I’d rest someone else, but LKI really needs to rest and SHM HIB and KMJ are on yellows, and the loss of them in the RO16 would be devastating. If we wanted to be bold we could consider the above “second half” lineup from the start and rotate even more.
          Then again there is absolutely no way Klinsmann will rest CGS. In all honesty we’re probably going to see
          CGS SHM – HHC PYW (hopefully PJS or HHS) HIB LKI – LKJ KMJ JSH KTH
          I REALLY hope though that Klinsmann figures out that what we did against Jordan WILL cost us the tournament against any team in the knockout stages…

  3. Yeah we have to hope either he sees the obvious or his assistant coaches can through to him.

    I’m not too well versed into tactical formations so I appreciate your breakdown.

    I do know that in other sports like American football and basketball some players don’t react well to getting aggressively pressed which is what I saw in the match. But it’s also a great opportunity to make a defense pay for doing that; you just need the right players, spacing, and a plan of attack.

    I’m glad you don’t want to bury Cho on the bench too, we’ll need him. In his Home Alone appearance, where they showed a match in Denmark, he was so aggressive and didn’t take crap from much bigger players in the derby. We need the guy who pushed Ronaldo off the field for taking too long to leave it. His swag isn’t there for some reason. He needs to be coached up and given some tough love.

    Are you hearing that HHC will be ready to go against Malaysia?

    • I think that our players aren’t too good at getting pressed really hard. It’s something that worries me going forward. Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Japan especially are capable of pressing well. Even though you would think that the super technical guys like SHM HHC LKI KMJ etc. should be able to brush anything off… for some reason the team never responds too well. Was on full display vs Jordan.
      And yeah.. what is going on with Cho right now? It’s strange. Him, HHC, and KMJ should be the most physically gifted guys on our team yet something’s really not working. I think we’re using him as if he’s a Kylian Mbappe or SHM or Gabriel Jesus type of CF… someone who runs into space and is fast, not a guy like Cho who’s tall and physically gifted.
      There are murmurings that HHC should at the very least be a sub against Malaysia if not fit enough to fully starting. He’s close.

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