The U17 Suwon Cup concluded yesterday with a 2-0 loss to Brazil. It was actually kind of embarrassing how badly we played. Though this Brazil loss was the low point of the three matches the content of the other three matches were not satisfactory either. Lee Seung Woo showed his ability, and so did Jang Gyeol Hee – both of them had some impressive dribbles – but neither of them were able to get as involved as they should have, especially in the Brazil match. Some serious red flags came up for Choi Jin Chul and he’s going to have to a lot of work before the U17 World Cup in October comes around.
Before the tournament the U17 side played a friendly in Paju vs. Yeonsei University and lost 3-2, LSW only being able to score a PK goal. It was slightly worrying that we conceded three goals to a team of mostly 19 year olds, but they were sunbaes so I think most fans were letting to let that one go.
The Nigeria Match:
This one actually started pretty brightly. The lineup was, starting with the FW and moving down, Lee Seung Woo ; Jang Gyeol Hee … Kim Jung Min … Lee Sang Heon … Kim Jin Ya ; Jang Jae Won ; Park Myung Soo … Lee Sang Min … Kim Seung Woo … Park Dae Won ; Moon Jung In.
Within 10 minutes we were ahead, thanks to a magnificent freekick from left back Park Myung Soo which hit the post, which Lee Sang Hoon then scored on the rebound. Yet the game wasn’t a feel good kind of game. We saw some serious defensive shakiness (I swear it’s in our blood) – which would foreshadow the tone for the next two matches. The scoreline will only tell you that Nigeria scored once, and a highlight reel will tell you that their goal should’ve been disallowed due to handball. But as anyone who watched the match would agree, the defense was horrendous, and Nigeria’s KNT-esque finishing saved us from a heavier defeat. Another thing I didn’t like – we’re playing the wings way too much, with very little midfield presence. Again, is it in the blood?
The offense didn’t really click too well either. Now, Lee and Jang had their moments of brilliance, of course. In fact, I thought Jang was equally as impressive, if not more so. But the rust was there. I had the impression that LSW showed more rust. Often times he’d lose the ball in a dribble – his decision making has obviously gone quite rusty – and iirc he only registered 1 or 2 shots. One aspect LSW did improve on, though, is physicality – he didn’t fall to the ground as easily as he did and he showed admirable ball keeping / hold up play.
The Croatia Match:
There was quite a bit of rotation for this one, with the lineup being: Lee Seung Woo ; Park Sang Hyeok … Yoo Ju An … Jang Gyeol Hee ;; Jang Jae Won … Cha Oh Yeon ;; Park Myung Soo … Lee Sang Min … Choi Jae Young … Hwang Tae Yeon ;; Ahn Jun Soo.
I think the tone of the Croatia match was a LITTLE better than the Nigeria one, but we still played pretty bad. The defensive instability was present again and we saw some horrific turnovers but somehow we had the better of the chances – hitting the post more than once and a clearance off the line for example. And somehow, we found the first two goals, both from Lee Seung Woo:
But as usual the really really inept defending caught up to us again, and we conceded two very poor goals. And let me make a point here: they resulted from horrific defending:
Fortunately, a couple of players showed their potential, including Kim Jung Min, Park Sang Hyeok, and Yoo Ju An. Park Sang Hyeok didn’t play vs Nigeria but was one of the few bright sides on the attack. LSW and JGH, as usual, showed flashes of brilliant dribbling here and there:
The Brazil Match:
We saw some positivity in the Croatia match but the Brazil match didn’t get much better. Goalkeeper Ahn Jun Soo, after a decent game vs. Croatia, made a horrific mistake that led to a 1-0 Brazil lead fairly early in the game. I felt that offensively we were worse vs. Brazil, despite occasional good work from Lee Seung Woo and Yoo Ju An, especially because the midfield presence got even worse. Midfield control is supposed to be one of our talents yet we got completely wrecked
The lineup was, by the way: Lee Seung Woo ;; Park Sang Hyeok … Yoo Ju An … Kim Jin Ya ;; Jang Jae Won … Kim Jung Min ;; Park Myung Soo … Choi Jae Young … Lee Sang Min … Park Dae Won ;; Ahn Jun Soo. Well, I thought if you took out Kim Jin Ya and stuck in Jang (why he was benched idk) we would have our strongest XI but clearly that was not the case. As much as Kim Jung Min and Jang Jae Won were standouts in the U16 AFC Championship they were virtually anonymous vs. Brazil.
Now the funny thing was, Choi Jin Chul subbed out the goalkeeper Ahn at halftime. Guess mental toughness isn’t a thing for 17 year olds. And tbh he really did look like he was about to break into tears after conceding. And late into the 2nd half we conceded again, but this really was a game where a 5-0 Brazil score would’ve been more appropriate.
The U18 Suwon Tournament was somewhat promising. But this U17 one was a disaster. I could not believe all the errant passes and how often we lost the ball. Our pressure wasn’t effective either, since we gave WAY too much space to opposition. The midfield and defense was absolutely horrendous, though I guess the offense was ok at times.
As for Lee Seung Woo, I felt that he did show his ability from time to time but more often than not I was questioning LSW. Why does he keep going and keep losing the ball when there are passing options ahead of him? It seemed like he had a SHM esque syndrome where he feels that he has to make something happen a little too much. Instead of looking like the LSW we fell in love with when he was playing for Barcelona, he legit looked like a traditional CF with back to goal and holding up the ball. LSW also was told to bulk up, and his physicality improved for sure but despite all that this kid still falls down and whines at the ref. Someone seriously needs to tell him to stop doing that, but he DOES attend the Barcelona School of Diving so there’s nothing we can do on that end. Remember, though, that this kid played 270 minutes – 3 full 90′ games – in 6 days, and that he hasn’t played a competitive game since forever – let’s just be glad he actually got some playing time. Even pro senior players have difficulty with that many minutes in such a short period of time. Which makes you wonder why Choi Jin Chul didn’t give LSW any rest at all.
As for Jang Gyeol Hee, I liked him a lot. He had decent dribbles a la LSW but there was a key difference – LSW makes vertical dribbles, while JGH largely made horizontal runs. Still, I think JGH, as he usually does, quietly went about making his mark on the pitch. Unlike LSW he didn’t lose the ball as much, and I think passed to a teammate at about the right time instead of being selfish like LSW. One thing that stuck out to me was 1) how deep he was at times and 2) how centrally he floated, because in the past for Barcelona he was the complete opposite – he was essentially a wingforward who was somehow able to consistently burn fullbacks with speed. But I guess since we’re not playing the Barca 4-3-3, opting for the 4-1-4-1 instead, he’s confined to more of the back of the pitch.
We played very poorly but don’t expect miraculous improvement during the WC, because this is more or less the same group of players who will play in Chile. And at this rate there’s no way we can beat the likes of England. Maybe we’ll even draw Guinea. It’s kind of disappointing that we can’t maximize the full potential of our attack force due to a poor defense, but to be honest at this point I just want experience for our youngsters and playing time for Lee and Jang. Temper your expectations guys ; unless Choi Jin Chul turns out to be God we’re not gonna go to far in the tournament.
Any antidotes you’d prescribe for what went wrong in the tournament? Was it coaching? The player pool surrounding LSW and JGH were lacking in confidence or skill set? Were there key players out due to injury who could’ve made impact for this tournament?
Trying to stay optimistic, younger players could have a faster learning curve – any possibility of this if say there could be implemented tweaks to the structure of youth development & training in Korea?
No one really knows the answer – first of all Choi Jin Cheol has shown not to be THAT good of a coach. His teams don’t have the best organization and his strategy for pretty much the entire AFC tournament was to give the ball to LSW.
The players I thought were fine during the AFC U16 all crumbled during the Suwon cup. It made no sense! I know they have the ability. Could it be confidence? I don’t know.. there were no major injuries either