U20 World Cup: Redemption in Bialsko-Biala

Photo Credit: @TheKFA Instagram. The unsung heroes.

There is something special happening in Poland right now. Our young Taegeuk Warriors are going to the semifinals of the FIFA U20 World Cup for the first time since 1983. After an insane and controversial match that ended 3-3 after extra time, the Taegeuk Warriors vanquished Senegal 3-2 in a penalty shootout to advance to face Ecuador Tuesday in Lublin.

This match, frankly, was the craziest match of football I have ever witnessed. I will be honest, I went out for a round of golf this morning, life got in the way, and I missed the first 60 minutes of the match. But what do you know, I still was treated to the craziest 60+ minutes of football ever. Before I get there, let’s go back to the very beginning and look at the lineup.

Different lineup for sure

I asked for Chung Jungyong to stick with the lineup that works and he went instead with a bit of a change. Out went Kim Jungmin and Cho Youngwook, in came Park Taejun and Jeon Sejin. I won’t comment on how they played because I saw very little of them.

I’ll just skip to what I watched, and boy was it crazy. I get home from golf and turn on the match and the first thing I see is a VAR check for a foul on Jeong Hojin in the box as a Senegalese defender charges out to block a shot. This was a really interesting penalty to give. Hojin really just stopped dead in the box (clever), and waited for the Senegal defender to barge him over. You have to hand it to Jeong, that is some clever play in the box. He sees the defender coming and lets himself get fouled to earn a penalty. It is harsh on the Senegalese but my immediate reaction was this: “That defender is dumb. Why would you so obviously push a player like that in the box?” In the end, he got what he deserved and Lee Kangin calmly dispatched the penalty to tie it at 1-1.

Then it got crazier. A few minutes later, Cho Youngwook was pushed over in the box and another VAR check resulted in a non-call. Then a few minutes after that, in the 72nd minute, Senegal were awarded a penalty after a handball in the box. This was the correct call but it’s also hard. As a defender if you are charging in to make a block, it is highly likely that the ball could hit your arm. When it hits your chest and then arm, should that be a penalty? It’s just hard. His arm was not at his side and he clearly impedes the ball with his arm, but man, handball is a tough rule to apply.

It got crazier. Lee Gwangyeon saved the resulting penalty but the referee checked VAR to confirm that Gwangyeon had cheated off his line. The resulting penalty was put away and Senegal retook the lead. It stayed 2-1 until the very end (Senegal even had a 3rd goal chalked off by VAR for offsides), when Lee Kangin put in a beautiful corner that Lee Jisol headed into the net in the 98th minute. 2-2 and we were off to extra time.

Extra time was no less eventful. In the 6th minute of extra time, Oh Sehun made a interception off a careless back pass and passed to Lee Kangin. In a flash, he spotted the run of Cho Youngwook and threaded an inch perfect through ball to set up a one time finish. Watch it, it’s a thing of beauty. 3-2.


But even then it wasn’t over. Tired legs in the Korean defense led Danfa to find space in the box for a cutback to Amadou Ciss. It was the 121st minute of the match! Absolute madness.

And then there was the penalty shootout. Somehow there were missed penalties, shots skied over, a huge save by Lee Gwangyeon, a save taken away from Senegal, and then finally we had won. 3-2 on penalties. I have never seen something so crazy. Somehow, this Korean team continues to the semifinals. We will check our hearts after all the excitement. The boys will rest and recover and we’ll go again in Lublin. See you there.

Match Info

Korea Republic vs. Ecuador

Lublin Stadium, Lublin

June 11, 2:30 PM EST, 3:30 AM KST (June 12)

Broadcast Info: FS2/FSGo (US), all major Korean networks

Prediction: I shouldn’t even try. Nobody knows how, but this team will find a way to win.

See you soon!

About Michael Welch 89 Articles
That Halfie Korean-American who loves football (I mean, soccer).


  1. Heh heh heh. Oh wow, haha. Yeah, so um… boy they’re gonna be tired. And LKI subbed off, any injury updates? That would suck.

    But yeah… wow xD

    P.S. I do feel for those Senegal kids, game like this you wish there were no losers, how heartbreaking must it be

  2. Well, have you seen such a game? How could the game could get mprovised? I assume that the soccer game put the level of Soccer itself another upper level. Norhing can be replaced except amazing. It’s the best of the best!!!

  3. By chance, I’ll be visiting in Seoul for the semi-final match. Is it a big enough deal where crowds of people will be gathering to watch in a big public area? Anybody have any Seoul viewing tips?

    • I can not confirm that Eugene. However, the people to connect with in order to find public viewing ideas would be our friends on Twitter. I recommend maybe reaching out to @kleague_kilt or @tpbarnes86 for info on where they might be watching the match. @kleagueno1 also might have some info for you. These are Twitter handles that you can follow or send off a quick DM to.

  4. If this match had been officiated correctly, it should have been a Senegal win in regulation time. Korea did nothing in the 1st half until Senegal scored. They had some good spurts and especially played well right after conceding and the first bit of the 2nd half. I was impressed at times the pace of the Korean team on the break, but Senegal was good in this regard too. I agree it was really dumb to push the Korean defender in the box for the PK, but he was clearly impeding the Senegal player to the ball handler, and that was also a foul. The ref probably should have just waived that and let it go. As for the Senegal PK in the 2nd half, the Korean player’s arm moved forward and hit the ball. To me it did seem blatant, but in context, the Senegal player’s foot seemed high so maybe they could have just let that go too? I guess not with the clear forward motion of the Korean player. I thought the yellow card on the Korean GK seemed excessive & absurd. His 1 foot was barely off the line…how often do we see that called??

    Clearly the officiating and the stoppages took a toll on the momentum of the game. We could have seen an absolute gangbusters, end to end 2nd half by both teams. The disallowed goals on Senegal were correct and the last gasp header by the Korean CB was amazing (what a header off the bar). The Lee Kang In “xavi like” thread pass to #18 was sublime and elite. The tying goal for Senegal was good too, Korea was defending the box fairly well in ET but seemed like the speed of the left sided Senegal player drew defenders too deep and not prepare for the trailer’s shot. It still had to be a good shot, and it was.

    The PK’s are a crap shoot, once again I didn’t really agree with the ref handing out the yellow to the Sengal GKer, but unintentionally it did sort of make up for the really bad one earlier.

    Once again, another win and result not being the best team, facing some horrendous officiating & trailing twice in the match. I thought the Japan R16 win was a big gut check, this was 5 times that. I do believe Senegal were better, but often that doesn’t translate to results in football. This was a tremendous, surreal gutsy win & the U20 KMNT were incredibly opportunistic & gutted it out. Really positive to see this type of character exhibited by a Korean team in International competition. We’ll be remembering this for a long time, I think? I know I will.

    That pass by Lee Kang In in ET though…damn!

    • Hi Glen, lemme give my thoughts on all this VAR controversy since this is such a good talking point that I didn’t want to get into in the actual recap.

      The first penalty for Korea was quite weird. I agree that Jeong Hojin knew exactly what he was doing and impeded the Senegal player charging for a block. However, in that case I think the impetus remains on the Senegalese player to recognize this fact. If he feels that Jeong is in his way and fouling him, fall down and ask for a foul. Don’t push Jeong so incredibly blatantly. I think it was a stupid play and the ref made a strict call, but the right one. In the end, the Senegalese player fouled Jeong by pushing him over. No call on that would make sense if both players went down from colliding in the box. But the replay showed the Senegalese player clearly pushing Jeong over.

      On the push on Cho Youngwook in the box, I was surprised that VAR let that one go. That was also a clear penalty to me. Cho was running full speed, had beaten his defender and was in the box and got pushed. It was a soft push and that led to the no call. However, I watched with my uncle and he made a good point. He said, “it’s a soft push, but at full speed you don’t need much contact to be knocked off balance. If you get pushed over in the box and you had the ball, you should get a penalty.” That would have made the score 2-1 Korea.

      The handball was the right call. 2-2.

      The last gasp goal would be 3-2 Korea in regulation.

      However, I really think this after watching that crazy match. Penalty kicks was really the only way to decide this match. With VAR and the ref intervening so often to change the game, the only way to fairly decide the game was penalties. If this had ended with one winner in regulation or extra time, the losing team would legitimately have an argument that the ref made them lose. This was not the case with penalties. Even though the Senegalese GK had a save chalked off, this was a consistent ref making a call he had made before and enforcing the rules of the game. You are not allowed to leave your line before the kicker takes the shot. VAR helped the ref confirm that GKs were cheating. The penalty by Senegal to lose the match was absolutely poor. So in the end I think Korea deserved to win and Senegal can blame no one but themselves for losing that PK shootout.

    • I think we can all agree that VAR and the officiating around it caught everyone off guard and would have been difficult for either team to plan for. This considerably impacted both teams, positively and negatively, and kudos for the referee for applying the rules consistently.

      I agree with Glen that the Senegalese players showed great quality in areas that Korea was definitely weaker in. The way that they were able to move the ball, e.g., the accurate passes across the pitch from right back to left winger, or drive the ball straight into the opposing 18 yard box was incredibly impressive. Korea in contrast had trouble stringing two passes together and allowed the Senegal press to bully them around. I expect more of the Senegal u20 players to have a bright future in Europe than Korea’s u20.

      That said, the Korean team shone in some areas that Senegal did not. The never-say-die attitude and grit shown when pushed back to a corner was immense and made me proud to root for them even I thought we were 3-1 down. While the quality compared to Senegal might not have been there on an individual basis, Korea had the better overall collective spirit. Senegal had many chances to end the game (but didn’t) when they were up by a goal. Senegal’s quality shone through with the last grasp equalizer that sent the game to penalties but let a 2-0 lead in the shootout slip away which is truly (truly!) a damning assessment on the team’s nerves. (Imagine what the English media would have said had England let that happen…)

      I’m proud that Korea is winning in this fashion. We are still a middle-power in the world of football and what distinguishes “Korean” football is mental fortitude, strong willpower, and the never-stop-running game. “Better” teams/nations should always hate playing Korea because they can expect that we will be always be fighting until the very last whistle.

  5. This was a classic match that these kids (and us fans!) will remember forever and lessons they will carry with them. Let’s hope in the short term, they will remember to be more careful with their arms and overall play in the box and also to mark an opposing player so he doesn’t find himself wide open for a shot.

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