If you missed this match I feel sorry for you because this match might be my pick for the best KNT match played in 2015. Despite some very gloomy forecasts for the U17 WC due an abysmal Suwon Cup in August where we lost 2-0 to this same Brazil side with almost the same starting XI, we outplayed the Brazil in pretty much all areas except possession. Choi Jin Cheol really DID get his s*** together before Chile, something I honestly didn’t see coming. Players who performed horribly at the Suwon Cup (all the defenders, Kim Jung Min, Jang Jae Won… yeah more or less the whole starting XI) looked like completely different players today – we were not Team Lee Seung Woo, but a genuine TEAM Korea. Truly, this was a feel-good win and a deserved one too.
As said before, Choi JC’s conservative tactics and static offensive movement was a frustration to us KNT fans. We saw this at the Suwon Cup where LSW was isolated all by himself up top with nobody to support him or for him to pass to. We seemed reliant on Lee Seung Woo for the longest time, and even CJC admitted that his plan at the AFC U16 was get LSW in space to run at players. And it didn’t work during the Suwon Cup. But with the same core players, we were a different team. Here was the starting XI (I’m sorry but no graphic was available from the KFA Twitter/FB account this time):
Lee Seung Woo
Park Sang Hyuk Yoo Ju An Kim Jin Ya
Kim Jung Min Jang Jae Won
Park Myung Soo Choi Jae Young Lee Sang Min (c) Yoon Jong Gyu
Ahn Jun Soo
More or less the same starting lineup from the AFC U16 Championship and the August Suwon Cup. So you can understand why I was so pessimistic going into this game – I even told all my friends I’m expecting 2-0 or 3-0. And remember that we’ve never beaten Brazil at the youth level before in our entire history. On Bigsoccer Korea people started calling it the “Brazil Hump” (whoever coined that phrase, I think it’s going to stick), so despite the mantra “predict the unpredictable” (or expect the unexpected or however that goes) I don’t think anyone was predicting us winning.
But boy the game started brightly. Good passing, good pressing, and if it wasn’t a rookie mistake from LSW (I’m fairly certain most senior NT members would’ve buried that) we would’ve been 1-0 up. Although Brazil had most of the possession, as they would for the entire game, we defended unbelievably well and by the end kept them at 1 shot attempt, to a point where I was wondering if our defenders were really Korean. I think we have to give a LOT of credit to our fullbacks, because they did an INCREDIBLY good job against the speedy Brazilian wingers/fullbacks. I saw a good amount of “kimchi-taka” (whoever coined that phrase on BSK, that’s going to stick too) that even Shin Tae Yong and Stielike would’ve been proud of – LSW’s backheel flick on the counter was a standout example for me at least. If there was anything wrong with our performance it was the final pass – getting the ball to our most advanced player. LSW once or twice was guilty of selfishness, and multiple players kept the ball a little too long, but overall I couldn’t have been more happy with the result. For the first time a Choi JC team was organized rock solid.
Individual players wise. LSW had a couple good dribbles and contributed to the attack but didn’t have the same presence he used to – shedding rust takes time, of course. A lot of websites and BSK posters, though, think he’s improved his game significantly already by becoming a team player and more tactically disciplined, which I agree on more in retrospect. Perhaps I expect a little too much from our man, and reminiscing about the match and rewatching the ball touch highlights (later in the post), I can definitely see what they were talking about. Yoo Ju An, like LSW, quitely contributed to the attack and pressed a ton, just like LSW did. He was the man scoring most of our goals before the WC started (vs. Paraguay and the two USA friendlies), so I was a little surprised to see Jang JW of all players score today.
The two wingers were fantastic, Kim Jin Ya especially, though Park Sang Hyuk deserves credit too since him and Park Myung Soo really exploited that space Cleber (Brazil RB) left behind all game. And the substitute Lee SangHeon also made his mark, registering an assist as well as a near goal where he dribbled past two defenders to shoot… straight at the keeper for a corner kick.
About our CM’s – Kim Jung Min and Jang Jae Won. Holy *** they were GOOD. The difference between them at the Suwon Cup and today was unbelievable. Jang Jae Won was rock solid as DM and Kim Jung Min … oh my God he really showed why he is touted as the next KSY. Before (in August) he was AWFUL. Today he was a monster. That pass to (Kim Jin Ya?) who mistakenly got called for offsides was pure KSY-esque, and it’s crazy to think how solid that guy is for his age – he’s 15 and 11/12 YEARS OLD!! Given that he’s learning under KSY’s father at the Gwangju Geumho HS, we may very well have a long term KSY successor (though BSH could take up that role too).
The defenders – oh man the fullbacks were incredible in running and catching up to the Brazilian throughballs. They body-blocked the wingers for a goal-kick so many times I was like “are these guys even Korean?” Same with the CBs who were especially good in the air against the fairly tall and physical Brazil FW’s.
There was a bit of ref controversy as with any other Brazil game (like the 2012 Olympic semifinal…) , but I somehow inexplicably missed BOTH of them as I occasionally took my eyes off the screen to study for my two midterms on Monday. We also had a questionable offside call, making fans assert that we really should’ve won 2 or 3-0, but oh well, 3 points against Brazil is a huge plus. And it wasn’t a fluke – an even bigger plus right there.
Now let’s talk about the goal, because that was SICK. Kim Jin Ya picked up the ball on the right side, nutmegged their left winger, then dribbled past their left back, and passed the ball to Lee Sangheon, who found Jang in the penalty box – Jang took a touch and slammed it into the right corner. It truly was a team goal but majority of the credit should go to Kim Jin Ya, my unexpected MotM of the night. And after the goal the frustrations just poured out:
I know extended highlights will come soon, but here are the official FIFA highlights that shows LSW’s miss and the goal. What a beautiful team goal:
If you’re interested there’s also a LSW ball touch vid, but I wasn’t TOO impressed with him – the rust is real.
And during the game FIFA had the guts to directly tweet @ Seungwoolee – how shameless of them to tweet to the guy whose career they derailed…
And on Instagram, LSW posted a photo of him with a class LSW caption: No matter the opponent, we win it all! – man I love this guy’s attitude (though his Japan comments in 2014 were a little too much, even though it made me like the guy that much more)
So. Given that Guinea and England drew today we’re actually in a very good position to progress out of the group, and I’m not gonna lie if we see more of what we saw today we might just be able to top this group. But here’s a very interesting perspective taht I wasn’t even aware of. Chaminator @ BSK… I think I’ve quoted you for the third time right here:
Funny enough, looking at how the tournament is set up, it may actually benefit us to finish runner up in this group, because that would set us up to face the runner up of Group F in the round of 16 which might be the weakest group in the tournament. Provided that France do their job there the second place will be either New Zealand (only qualified because they play in OFC with no competition), Paraguay (who we beat in the friendly earlier) and Syria (who we destroyed 8-0 at the AFC U-16 semis), none of which scare me at all. Finishing first in our group sets us up to face the best 3rd place team from Groups A/C/D, which are all pretty tough groups.
Now there’s no way we’re going to TRY to get 2nd since that’s obviously very dangerous, so if it ends up that way, great, but we should be thinking more about our results in the group stage over who we’re going to face in the RO16. Also I really want to beat England – before this tourney I told all my friends I don’t care if we lose to Guinea and Brazil if beat England at the bare minimum. Given how well our men played today, getting 9 points out of a FIFA tourney – something I don’t think we’ve ever done before – is looking more likely than ever. I have two midterms on Monday I’m not ready for yet but I don’t care – Thank you Choi Jin Cheol and the entire Korea U17 selection for such a great game, and proving that we really ARE progressing to the point where we can finally start getting convincing results against the typical U17 heavyweights.