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.
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.
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!