The proverbially tale of two halves? To use the cliche, sure. Algeria was rampant in the first half, going in at the break up 3-0 with Korea failing to even take a shot. The second half was more even, with Korea even being the better side. But ultimately it ended 4-2 in a historic result for the north African side.
Where to start? I guess as always we should start with the formations used and general tactics.
Korea went with their normal 4-2-3-1/4-4-2, and Hong Myeong-Bo made no changes to the side.
Algeria made five changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Belgium in the opening match.
Algeria 1 Korea 0 – Islam Slimani 26′
A fairly simple goal really. It started with Algeria winning a long ball after a restart for an Algeria offside call. The goal is really quite straightforward, so just take a look at the images below, and then we’ll go over some of the ‘what-ifs’ on the way.
Jung Sung-Ryong’s long kick is aimed at Park Chu-Young, who has drifted wide. There are several players around him as they want to win the second ball. Unfortunately, Algeria wins the second ball, seen above.
There is plenty of space for Algeria to launch their counterattack. Korea is trying to get back into shape, like they did against Russia, but Algeria attacks with more pace and directness. You could nitpick about Son’s positioning here, but ultimately it didn’t matter.
A simple long ball over the top is the undoing. Although it must be said that it’s perfectly weighted and that Slimani timed his run perfectly as well. The centerbacks seem well positioned to snuff out any danger from this angle.
These two photos reveal a small wrinkle. When Slimani begins his run (while the ball is in the air), he is closer to Kim Young-Gwon, and quite far away from Hong Jeong-Ho. By the time the ball arrives, Slimani has moved away from Kim and is next to Hong. The reason I bring this up is that many people (myself included) criticized the pair for not being more cynical and just hauling Slimani down. But seeing the spacing between the defender(s) and Slimani makes that criticism slightly weaker. The only time to really haul him down is right at the beginning, when he begins his run and is next to Kim Young-Gwon. At that point Hong Jeong-Ho is deeper than the other two, so the foul would result in a booking, but technically it wouldn’t get a red card as it’s not a last-man foul. By the end, when Slimani is near Hong, he’s past the two (just) and any deliberate foul would likely get red-carded. That early in the match and with the strongest opponent to come on matchday 3, it would be a huge gamble to take that risk.
Finally, the shot comes and Slimani does very well to keep it down and beat Jung. Both defenders are ‘there’ and Hong does get a toe on the ball just before Slimani shoots.
Whose fault is this goal? The centerbacks for playing too high? The midfield for not getting more pressure on the ball? The goalkeeper for not saving it? My initial reaction was to blame the centerbacks, for playing high and for not just bringing him down. We’ve already talked about the latter issue, but let’s talk about the former. Were they ‘too high’? On second glance I would say no. When Slimani starts his run they’re just inside the center-circle. That’s a good 10 yards or so into Korea’s half, hardly suicidal.
So, who is to blame. He’s an easy target, but I’d put a big chunk of the blame of Jung Sung-Ryong for his positioning and passive response to the ball. The rest does fall to the centerbacks, but for less obvious (because they’re more theoretical) reasons. Consider these final two images.
The centerbacks probably could have been a little tighter together. There are no wide threats at the moment (right midfielder has dropped deep, left midfielder is covered by Lee Yong), so they don’t need to be particularly worried about that. The other possible issue is lack of communication, something that both players and Hong said was a problem post-match. Slimani is making a blindside run on Kim Young-Gwon. As the blue arrow shows, Kim is clearly looking at the ball. Hong has a clear view of what Slimani’s doing. Does he give a shout to his CB partner about the danger? Not sure, but it doesn’t seem like it.
But here’s the bigger issue. What Jung Sung-Ryong does. The dotted red line (in both images) shows where Jung was positioned as the pass happened. As you can see in the second image, he’s moved backwards. At no point during the move does he attempt to come out. If you watch it, as the pass is played, Jung immediately starts moving backwards. Not a huge amount, but noticeably.
Here we run into a problem with systems. If Korea wants to play a high line they can. Hong and Kim aren’t blazingly fast, but they’re not slow, and they can play a highish line with little problem. The problem with Korea’s system is at the back end, the goalkeeper. Think of the club teams that do play the high line regularly: Spurs (under AVB), Barca, Bayern are the first that come to mind for me, and all three have excellent “sweeper-keepers” in Hugo Lloris, Victor Valdes, and Manuel Neur. Because attackers will more often than not beat defenders in a foot race, keepers operating in a high line must be actively aware of the danger when the line is broken and be quick out to snuff any danger.
Now, could Jung Sung-Ryong have gotten there in time to make a difference? Maybe, maybe not. The pass was almost perfect and it would have taken a perfect tackle by Jung to dispossess Slimani. But, by going out he could have at least disrupted him more and possibly forced a wide shot or slowed him down enough for one of the defenders to get a toe on the ball.
Algeria 2 Korea 0 – Rafik Halliche 28′
Another simple concession, this time from a set piece.
There are five key players in this goal. Kim Young-Gwon, Yoon Suk-Young, Rafik Halliche (the goal scorer), one other Algerian player (sorry couldn’t make out who it was), and Jung Sung-Ryong. As you can see, Korea is man-marking for the most part, with two ‘zonal’ defenders in Ki Sung-Yueng and Koo Ja-Cheol. In the first part of the move, Halliche makes a forward run towards the goal, Kim Young-Gwon follows as part of his man-marking duties.
Here’s the key part of the move. Halliche suddenly changes directions and runs towards the ball (left side of the image). Yoon Suk-Young has not kept close to his man (as shown by the grey line). As Kim Young-Gwon moves to stay with Halliche there is a split second where he must go around Yoon. That second allows Halliche to get in between Kim and the ball.
You can see in image three that Halliche has gotten ball-side of Kim Young-Gwon, and is beginning to make his forward run to head the ball. Jung Sung-Ryong is beginning to come out.
Halliche heads into an empty net, beating Jung to the ball with ease. Kim Young-Gwon is not in a position to challenge him. The only player who possibly could was the zonal marking Koo Ja-Cheol who did not make any challenge.
So, who’s fault was this goal? Again there is a number of guilty parties. Again the biggest must go to Jung Sung-Ryong. He does the right thing by being aggressive, but he fails to win anything. He’s beaten far too easily, and with the ball arriving in the six-yard box, Jung has to know that he has every advantage when it comes to physical contact. Throwing a rather lame one-handed punch at the ball is pretty weak. It does also appear that Jung calls the others off to claim the ball, which is most likely why Koo Ja-Cheol doesn’t make any attempt to clear the ball. If he’s calling others off, again, he must be more aggressive with his challenge (both hands, clear everything out).
Some blame must also fall on the shoulders of Yoon Suk-Young. Had he done a better job man-marking his opposition, perhaps Kim Young-Gwon is in a better position to challenge for the ball. I’ve criticized this team for being ‘too nice’ before, and this seems to be another example. Shirt pulling is technically against the rules, and you do run the risk of a penalty, but given the obvious physical advantage Algeria has, something more must be done.
Kim Young-Gwon must take some blame as well. Yes, Yoon Suk-Young blocked his run a bit, but Kim must take a better route. He goes around Yoon to the left (away from goal). He must realize that going around to the right is the better option as it’s a more difficult header if the ball arrives further away from the goal and with the player moving away as well. It’s a split-second, instinctive decision, but still.
Algeria 3 Korea 0 – Abdelmoumene Djabou 38′
In essence, this goal is sort of a reverse of goal number 1. Again a long ball over the top does Korea in, but the way it was “defended” (and I’ll use that word loosely) was a flip in how Korea approached the first goal. On Slimani’s goal the two centerbacks were in a zonal marking system. Hong Jeong-Ho “passed” Slimani to Kim Young-Gwon, who in turn passed him back to Hong. At least in theory. In reality, Slimani just split between the two and neither knew exactly who was picking him up. Here the system appears to have gotten confused or mixed up. Kim Young-Gwon is man-marking the run of Djabou, while Hong Jeong-Ho defends the space.
The top image shows the player and ball movement at the time. The bottom image gives a better idea of how close the players were during the moment. Hong Jeong-Ho intercepts the ball and heads it out, but only as far as Slimani. Djabou drifts away from the defenders. Kim Young-Gwon fails to track him back, and Hong steps forward a bit to challenge Slimani. The player in the yellow circle is Yoon Suk-Young.
In some ways this goal was similar to the opening goal that Korea scored (thru Park Chu-Young) against Greece in the friendly last March. A defensive mix-up, in terms of assignments, has left an attacking player with a free shot on goal.
The bulk of the blame for this one falls on Kim Young-Gwon’s head simply because he fails to continue to mark Djabou after Hong Jeong-Ho won the header. His blame increases if Korea was still using a more zonal marking system as in that case he should have let Djabou run into Hong’s zone where he would have picked him up (as he did).
There were some suggestions that Yoon Suk-Young should have rotated in and covered the back side, and I suppose he should have come in more than he did. But, there is a player out wide, and Son Heung-Min doesn’t look like he’ll be tracking back anytime soon, so . . .
Algeria 3 Korea 1 – Son Heung-Min 50′
Korea’s first goal was simple and carried a stroke of luck. Like Algeria’s first and third goals, a simple long ball over the top did the defense in.
There is no brilliant or clever play here. So, no explanation is really required. Korea got lucky Algeria misread the pass, and Son did well to finish.
Algeria 4 Korea 1 – Yacine Brahimi 62′
Any hopes Korea had of a comeback were quickly dashed (although after Korea managed to create a couple decent half-chances) as Algeria scored a fourth through a series of beautiful passing moves.
Here’s the key moment. Han Kook-Young has stopped tracking Feghouli and is watching the ball (with Brahimi). Ki Sung-Yueng is the first line of defense against Brahimi, Hong Jeong-Ho behind him is the second. Brahimi passes to Feghouli who has found that always valuable “space between the lines” and runs into the box.
Feghouli takes a touch which is enough to draw the attention of Hong Jeong-Ho. Ki Sung-Yueng does not follow Brahimi who runs into the space between Hong and Lee Yong. Hong is caught in two minds whether to step up and challenge Feghouli or stay back.
Goal number four is really the fault of the two deeper midfielders. Han Kook-Young and Ki Sung-Yueng both give up on their defensive responsibilities right when they shouldn’t have. Ki didn’t follow Brahimi, and Han didn’t follow Feghouli. The defenders got a bit of stick on this one, but their midfielders really let them down here.
Algeria 4 Korea 2 – Koo Ja-Cheol 72′
Korea got one last consolation goal from captain Koo Ja-Cheol.
Kim Shin-Wook wins the aerial battle, something he did regularly in his relatively short appearance (10 aerial battles won in all). Kim heads the ball across goal where it finds the run of Son Heung-Min.
Ultimately, this goal summed up Korea’s second half strategy. Launch the ball towards Kim Shin-Wook and, more often than not, he’ll get his head to it.
First Half vs Second Half
So, what changed between the halves? Korea started to play better and Algeria took their foot off the gas a bit. By going more direct, Korea solved the one area that Algeria was really dominating, the midfield. Ki Sung-Yueng was horribly isolated in the first half as the rest of the midfield just could not cope with Algeria’s pressing. While “long ball” football is often derided as a simplistic and unimaginative tactic, it has it’s place in the game, and Korea’s use of it in the second half was a good choice.
Defensively, Korea just wasn’t prepared to deal with the pace, directness, and aggressiveness of Algeria’s attack. Algeria was there for a fight, Korea was not, and it showed. It’s a sporting cliche, but quite simply Algeria “wanted it more”. They fought and battled for everything and weren’t afraid to get stuck in. Korea was expecting someone who would sit back and let them pass it around, and when they didn’t get it they didn’t know what to do.
Jung Sung-Ryong 4.0 – After a solid outing against Russia, Jung put in a fairly terrible shift against Algeria. Far too passive on Algeria’s early chances.
Lee Yong 4.0 – Can’t remember him doing anything other than get skinned multiple times down the right side.
Hong Jeong-Ho 5.0 – The best of a bad defensive line. Was sold short on a couple occasions by his teammates.
Kim Young-Gwon 4.0 – The worst game I’ve seen from Kim in a Korea shirt. Individual errors once again bit Korea in the ass, and Kim was often the culprit.
Yoon Suk-Young 5.0 – Wasn’t targeted as much with Feghouli drifting centrally, but he didn’t help that much defensively or offensively.
Han Kook-Young 4.5 – Against a stronger, more physical Algeria side, Han wasn’t as effective as he’s been in recent games. He won just one tackle, and his lack of passing/technical ability was harshly exposed by Algeria’s press.
Ki Sung-Yueng 6.5 – Far from a good game by Ki, but compared to his teammates he was solid. Algeria’s press isolated him and didn’t give him any time on the ball.
Lee Chung-Yong 5.5 – A poor day at the office for the vice-captain. Couldn’t get anything going offensively, but battled hard on the defensive side of things.
Koo Ja-Cheol 6.0 – Got his first World Cup goal, but struggled again to really make an impact offensively. He ran his socks off, but still struggles to fit into this team.
Son Heung-Min 8.0 – The only player that really played the full 90 minutes. Son’s determination and passion was pleasing to see, but at the same time it was a little sad that the youngest player on the team was showing the most.
Park Chu-Young 5.0 – Another fairly anonymous showing from the man Hong put so much faith in.
Lee Keun-Ho 6.0 – Reprised his energetic, off-the-bench role, and contributed with the assist for the second goal.
Kim Shin-Wook 6.5 – Won more aerial duals in his second half appearance than any other player thus far at the World Cup. But his limits remain, unable to get involved in any other way other than knocking down long passes.
Ji Dong-Won 6.0 – Energetic and lively, but didn’t contribute much overall.
Hong Myeong-Bo 4.5 – His initial plan got trashed after just a few minutes, and Korea never recovered. Got things going better in the second half, but by then it was far too late.
Thoughts and Conclusions
A shocking game for virtually all. Not only for the ease with which Algeria sliced through the Korean team, but also that they came out fighting. Algeria has long been touted as an organized defensive side with some good counterattacking talent, but no one saw them as an aggressive, high pressing, attacking force. So, kudos to Algeria for playing a brilliant game. Well done.
This game reminded me of some comedy shows or cartoons where there are two boxers in a ring. One is trying to be all fancy, dancing around, showing off their footwork, and throwing the light shadow punches. The other just stands there watching, and then suddenly pops the other in the face. Then while the dazed fighter is standing there wondering what the hell just happened, the other boxer smacks him a few more times.
Korea would of course be the fancy looking boxer. Trying to keep possession with their little short passes, and poke and probe looking for an opening. Algeria, the other boxer, who decides to skip the fancy stuff and just hit the guy.
The bulk of the blame must fall on Hong Myeong-Bo. The team was utterly unprepared for what Algeria put on display. I realize that few, if any, foresaw what Algeria would do, but at this level that’s not really an excuse. Managers must prepare for a variety of situations and scenarios, and even if they don’t have one prepared for what they see, they must adapt quickly. That Korea didn’t get their act together until the second half is far, far too late.
As far as players are concerned, I don’t think we really should be surprised by what we saw. We all knew that Jung Sung-Ryong is a shaky keeper at times, that the two centerbacks are capable of switching off/making individual errors. That Han Kook-Young is a liability in terms of passing and possession, that Park Chu-Young is out of form, and that the team is not mentally strong.
Do changes need to be made? Against Belgium I’m honestly not sure what you can change other than the forward and maybe the goalkeeper. Kwak Tae-Hwi and Hwang Seok-Ho are not upgrades on Hong Jeong-Ho and Kim Young-Gwon. Kim Chang-Soo is not an upgrade on Lee Yong. Kim Bo-Kyung is woefully out of form, and Lee Keun-Ho nor Ji Dong-Won is a 10. Ha Dae-Sung is coming off an injury, and Park Jong-Woo is also a technically limited player.
We can complain until we’re blue in the face about this player or that player that was not called up, but for now we must accept that these 23 players are the ones to choose from for the next match. After that a much longer discussion will need to be held about the future of the national team.