Why I Hope Korea Fails to Qualify for Russia 2018

Following last night’s 0-1 loss to China, I tweeted out that part of me hoped that Korea would fail to qualify for Russia 2018 in the hope that such a damaging blow to the KNT would force the KFA, K League, football fans in Korea, and possibly the general public to truly and honestly take a look at the state of the game here. I got a few responses to the tweet, couple disagreed (which is fine of course) and one agreed, but despite the changes to Twitter’s format (which allows for longer posts) it remains difficult to set out a decent argument there. So, I shall try to lay out my thinking here.

Change is needed

We have harped in posts, podcasts, tweets, Google Hangouts, and virtually every possible manner on the need for change in Korean football. From the transition from youth players to pro players, the wage structure, the ownership, stadiums, style of play, and on and on. I don’t think there is any one that would disagree that there are many fundamental, structural issues that need work. The question is, “What will be the catalyst that forces those changes?”

From the top?

Could we expect change to come from the top? From the KFA and K League? History would suggest that answer is a firm “no”. The KFA is willing to make small, largely superficial changes in the face of poor displays (like after Brazil), but we’re talking about massive changes. Changes that cost a lot of money, require an admission of failure on the part of the current leadership, and upsets the current powers that be (possibly). As such, I don’t think we should expect the higher ups to change things anytime soon.

From the bottom?

That leaves change to come from the bottom – the fans. Unfortunately, the number of fans that are willing to really go out and protest and force change are small in number. Most people that attend matches are simply looking for 2 hours of fun to pass the time on their weekend. So, how can we get more people to bring more pressure on the higher ups?

The World Cup

That brings us to the crux of this post. Why not qualifying for Russia 2018 is a good thing. The general public in Korea does care about the national team. But, they often only care about the national team when the World Cup comes around. We have already seen that the general public does not care enough about a bad performance at the World Cup. That means the next step is to see how much they care about not making it to the World Cup. Korea (and Koreans) pride themselves on the streak of World Cup qualifications and the ability to say that Korea remains one of the best teams in Asia. Failure to qualify certainly ends the ability to say the former and puts serious doubts on the latter.

I believe that as long as Korea continues to qualify, and with the planned expansion of the World Cup in the future, Korea should continue to qualify from Asia (even if we do continue to suck at our current level), the KFA will feel very little motivation to really enact change.

Would failure to qualify be enough to exact serious change and reform from the KFA and league? Maybe, maybe not, and I will fully admit that this is a dangerous gamble (of sorts) and could easily turn disastrous. But, I am tired of waiting for the KFA to change through attrition. My hope is that what the Choi Soon-shil scandal appears to be for Korean politics, failure to qualify for the World Cup can be for Korean football. The results would not be immediate, time will be needed to make the changes and to see those changes grow and develop. But, hopefully we would see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Random Other Talking Points

  • Watching people single out Lee Jeong-hyeop is reminiscent of the treatment Park Chu-young received when he was called up by Hong Myung-bo. Lee was bad, yes, but so were a lot of the players yesterday. Kim Shin-wook was exactly outstanding in the second half either, and Hwang Hee-chan did little in his 25+ minutes on the pitch (other than earn himself a lot of hate from Chinese netizens).
  • Ki Sung-yueng remains one of our best (when he wants to be). It was the proverbial game of two halves for Ki. Virtually anonymous in the first, forceful in the second. I’m not sure what goes on in Ki’s head, but someone needs to get him to be his second-half self more consistently.
  • Without Sonny, the team looks lost. Without the attacker on the left flank, Korea really didn’t seem to know who was going to be their primary outlet of attack. That falls on Stielike in my opinion as the team seemed poorly prepared tactically.
  • Speaking of our German boss, he was massively outdone by his Italian counterpart on the opposing bench. Granted Lippi had a lot more time to work with this boys, but China had a clear plan and executed it well. Many post-match were calling for blood, but that would be a poor choice. There is a lack of candidates that could do the job now that Shin Tae-yong has taken the U20 job. Unless the KFA tries to pluck a K League boss, but that didn’t go great the last time they did that….
About Jae Chee 339 Articles
A football fan who got bit by the writing bug.


  1. interesting points there Jae but personally I wish we’d still qualify. it’s a huge gamble if we don’t qualify like you said and I’d rather not like to see the KNT headed down that path. who knows the KFA may never recover from a hit like that after qualifying consistently since 1986 to 2014.

    at the same time not qualifying could help with the cockiness of the team and Korea taking other teams for granted. But maybe this loss to China could help the team out with that. It’s only hope of course and we’ll have to see how Korea handles Syria, Uzbekistan, Iran and Qatar. My guess is that Korea will still qualify somehow.

    Three wins at home that were close results (3-2, 3-2, 2-1) and one draw and two losses away (0-0, 0-1, 0-1) with Korea not scoring away yet. not being able to qualify is still in the picture here

    so i think all we can do is just wait and see. Korea’s next test is Syria at home. Since we’ve always scored at home I’m going to hope Korea will beat Syria and recover from the China match.

    • I suspect we’ll qualify this year, but I also think it will be a bit like last time when we kind of stumbled ass backwards into it rather than playing our way in (if you get my meaning). It would be a big “risk” to not qualify and hope the powers that be have the guts and ability to actually right the ship, but I still think that without a big kick up the butt the KFA has little reason to rectify the problems with the current youth progression system, K League, and so on.

      • yeah i see what you mean. we barely qualified for 2014
        I’m still hoping we qualify though. and if we don’t then I hope what you’re saying about that big kick up the butt stuff works out for the KFA and a lot of good change happens.

        • by the way are the forums here gonna be gone forever now? and it’s always fun hearing you guys talking to each other about Korean football. appreciate you guys taking the time to do that.

          • There were problems with the forum and WordPress (I think), so for forseeable future they will be gone. Maybe they’ll return one day? Tim or Roy would probably know better since they actually do the maintenance and stuff on the site to keep it running smoothly.

  2. Nice post Jae! I’m curious what KNT has to adjust to make it past group stage/Round of 16 at the WC. It seems like just about every WC -regardless the Manager or tactics- we qualify to WC simply because Asia is a relatively weak continent, but then we don’t have the quality up top to score against elite defenses. Elite sides have an easy time picking through our defense because of a Suarez or a Di Maria. Is the lack of world-class attackers the main issue? Do we need to expand the number of young talents sent to develop in European youth academies like Paik Seung-Ho and Son Heung-Min? Is Park Ji-Sung type leadership missing? It seems like good defensive players can be developed in Korea through training and physical fitness conditioning but skill players need European development… Lee Young-Pyo said in an interview that he learned a breathing technique for dribbling faster that his teammates used in EreDivisie and Premier League, and was surprised to see young Lee Seung-Woo knew this technique during a KNT U20 Match. Stuff like that?

  3. Great points. I admit I was one to throw LJH under the proverbial bus in my ‘recap’ but I don’t want to singularly blame him for the loss -rather I tried to focus on Uli’s culpability. And yes the team as a whole lost the game. where we might agree is that Uli didn’t do the young man any favors throwing him out there or selecting him to begin with. My thoughts, HHC would have been a better option to start as a left mid/forward. Agree that he wasn’t terribly effective when he subbed in but I think it was more a problem of tactics – they were a mess as a team, and while they did get some chances on goal, by and large kept up the flawed super direct strategy to get the ball to the Wookie.

    But I’m beginning to think that a shock to the system in not qualifying can allow for proper introspection nationally so fundamental structural changes can finally occur. Risky yes but might be worth it in the long run. I’m looking at the future, I see a long plateau and then inevitable decline without a drastic course correction. It’s this muddling forward with no real strategy in place to making football a sustainable career in Korea that’s doing lasting generational damage to the national program. If people aren’t going to games and aren’t watching on tv, the revenue from tix sales all the way to broadcasting rights dries up. That has a real depressing effect on wages. What young man in Korea who never witnessed WC 2002 wants to take that risk in being a footballer? They’d rather play fucking baseball at the moment, ‘merica’s pasttime sport

    That’s not a hypothetical, it’s happening and the pathetic situation with shockingly low $ broadcasting rights negotiated for KLeague games is even more shocking when one contrasts that to how much CSL and JLeague broadcasting rights charge networks.

    The hemorrhaging must stop. I’m with Jae on this one. Besides, Russia World Cup is an ethical hot mess…another topic for another time

    • I actually think football is more popular (to play) among Koreans than baseball by quite a ways. You pretty regularly see young kids, teens, adults having a kick around on school fields and parks. Baseball much less so. The issue is that as a spectator sport football falls way behind baseball in terms of entertainment value.

  4. quick counter argument –

    1. Under the current climate, can Korean football withstand from missing out on WC revenue/interest? Can the lower lvls survive without it? Missing out on WC isn’t going to attract more youth to football either imo.
    2. Korea isn’t football mad nation nor is football part of the culture. Those who restarted were already well equipped in infrastructure & etc to restart from scratch or whatnot (ex – Germany). If the top of the food chain in KFA won’t change, not sure how a non football nation will force a change. Who will finance the change is another huge issue.
    3. K league had multiple “shock” to their system for many years. All it did was turn football fans away…
    4. Attention span of the general public, especially in Korea is quick & short imo. Also, they focus on “success” but ignore (often mock) failures.

    briefly on the game –

    I thought 1st half was better structurally. 2nd half was whole lot of mess, granted.. it was a bit more entertaining as Ki SY decided to show up. Koh MJ in the starting XI didn’t make any sense to me. He was completely anonymous….

    But in general, the whole team was poor… from the manager to players.

  5. I’d be worried that failure to qualify will have the opposite effect. The public mainly cared about soccer during the World Cup – and failure to qualify, rather than galvanize the public, might just cause the public to stop caring. Which could just leave the KFA to continue as is with even less pressure – or lead to the downfall of both the KFA and Korean soccer in general.

    What would really be needed to take down the KFA, in my opinion, would be massive public scandal. If the KFA leadership was exposed for huge corruption, that would create the public momentum for change. And let’s be frank – this isn’t so much a matter of “if there’s corruption in the KFA” as “how corrupt is it and can we prove it”.

    Maybe we’ll discover they’re close friends with Choi Soon-shil – and her personal advice was why Stielike was hired. Now THAT would really get the public mad.

  6. I don’t want Korea to fail even though a failure to reach the world cup might be what it takes inspire a change. As a hardcore soccer fan, I always look forward to and enjoy the world cup, but it’s not the same without Korea. Even if Korea is expecting to lose all their games, I look forward to them. Hopefully, Korea can make a change in some other way.

    • Admittedly I have split feelings. The WC wouldn’t be the ‘same’ without Korea, but I suppose I’m taking the slightly parental POV: sometimes your kids have to fail in order to learn what it takes to succeed.

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