Tag Archives: World Cup

0000

After Calling Japan “Easy,” Korean Soccer’s Whiz Kid Keeps His Word

by STEVE HAN

Days before the quarterfinal game against Japan, South Korean soccer’s 16-year-old prodigy Lee Seung-woo said that the rival team is “easily beatable” because he said he felt that “a team at the level of Japan” couldn’t be all that difficult to topple.

In the pivotal game in which a berth in next year’s FIFA Under-17 World Cup was at stake, Lee kept his word by lifting Korea’s under-16 national team past Japan with a 2-0 win. The stylish teenager, who scored both goals for Korea, demolished Japan’s defense with his individual skills and no shortage of swagger. After the game, even Lee’s opponents admitted that he was simply unplayable.

“It felt like we were outnumbered [when Lee had the ball],” said Tomiyasu Takehiro, Japan’s defender who was tasked with marking Lee during the game. “The only way to stop him was to commit the worst fouls possible. Our defense just couldn’t react.”

Japan began the game by playing its traditional short passing, possession soccer which kept Lee quietly isolated for much of the first half. But in the 42nd minute, Lee played a cheeky give-and-go pass with Kim Jung-min before scoring easily to give Korea the lead.

But it was Lee’s second goal of the game that showed just why he is touted by fans and media alike as Korea’s brightest ever prospect and perhaps also why the Spanish giants FC Barcelona signed the youngster three years ago when he was just 13 years old.

Lee collected the ball deep in South Korea’s defensive half, but in a matter of seconds, he left five Japanese defenders in dust and even dribbled past the goalkeeper to score on an open net at the other end of the field.

“Our tactic was to defend and then attack because we have a genius player in Lee Seung-woo,” Korean head coach Choi Jin-cheul said, according to Asian Football Confederation’s official website. “When he plays and trains all the other players look at him and follow him so he enhances our playing style as he is good for the other players.”

Since 2011, Lee has been dazzling in the youth ranks of Barcelona, Spain’s iconic professional soccer team. Over the years, Barcelona has produced some of the world’s best players, including Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, through its renowned youth academy, famously named La Masia, which literally translates to “farmhouse” in Spanish. Barcelona signed Lee after spotting him in an international youth tournament in South Africa in 2010.

In Europe, it is the professional sports teams that progressively develop young athletes by operating youth teams for different age groups, unlike in the U.S., where student-athletes represent their respective academic institutions until they’re old and talented enough to play professionally. Although the European system is comparable to Major League Baseball’s farm system in the U.S., the age group for youth soccer teams in Europe start from children as young as 4 or 5 years old.

At Barcelona’s youth academy at which Lee is considered as one of the best up-and-coming talents, only a few players who graduate the development program eventually make its senior team. But although some graduates may not make the cut at the senior level for Barcelona, many who show enough talent to graduate its academy have gone on to other top teams in Europe to establish respectable careers. Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta couldn’t find a place in Barcelona’s senior team after graduating from La Masia in 2001, but he now plays for Arsenal, one of the best teams in Europe and England.

Photo courtesy of Asian Football Confederation

FBL-KOR-URU

3 Things We Learned From Korea’s 1-0 Loss To Uruguay

South Korean national soccer team played a pair of games this past week, its first games since crashing out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil in June without a win.

Playing against Venezuela and Uruguay, Korea split the two-game series with a convincing 3-1 win against Venezuela before suffering a 1-0 loss to the Uruguayans. Mixed results aside, Korea’s performances were much improved from its abysmal effort at the World Cup earlier in the summer, despite playing both games without a head coach, the recently appointed Uli Stielike. Shin Tae-yong, the soon-to-be assistant coach for Stielike, led the team.

Here are three things we learned from the new-look Korean national team.

Son Heung-min and Ki Sung-yueng, the only two players who impressed at the World Cup for Korea, are still the heart and soul of the team. The importance of these two was best exemplified in the 68th minute against Uruguay when Ki hit a marvelous 50-yard pass from deep in Korea’s half to find Son, who beat the opposing defense’s offside trap to break free for a clear chance on goal. Son’s shot was saved by the Uruguayan goalkeeper, but the play showed exactly why the two players are the backbone of their team. Ki’s ability to spray passes from deep, combined with Son’s speed to get to the end of those balls could serve as Korea’s No. 1 weapon as it aims to win the Asian Cup in January for the first time in 55 years.

Post by 아이러브사커.

Korea is more tactically flexible than many thought. One of the things that stood out at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil this summer was that there was not a true tactical trend unlike the previous World Cups. Each of the successful team played to its own strength and found success. For example, although the 4-2-3-1 formation has been the norm in modern soccer over the last decade, Holland made it to the semifinals by playing its exhilarating counterattacking soccer with a 3-4-3, while Costa Rica’s defensive solidity with a 5-3-2 made it the surprise team of the tournament. Meanwhile, Chile was one of the most entertaining teams to watch with its attack-minded 3-5-2 formation. A large part of Korea’s failure could be attributed to it being hellbent on the traditional 4-2-3-1, but against Uruguay, the team played variations of 3-4-3 and 3-6-1 and held its own versus the world’s sixth best team, according to FIFA.

Lee Dong-gook, the 36-year-old veteran forward who missed out on the opportunity to play at the World Cup in Brazil, could still be serviceable for Korea, but not as a permanent starter. There’s no question that Lee is a prolific scorer. He has scored over 160 goals in the domestic K-League and over 30 goals for the national team. His physical presence and lethal shooting ability in and around the opponent’s penalty box make him one of Korea’s greatest goalscorers of all-time. But it’s his lack of lateral speed and off-the-ball movement that have failed him against top opponents with elite defenses, which explains why he had a quite game against Uruguay’s stingy defense after scoring two goals against the Venezuelan team that’s more vulnerable defensively. Lee is a perfect fit for Korea when its gameplan is to proactively attack opponents, but he still seems out of place and isolated up front during games in which Korea’s main focus is to defend first and attack second.

Uli-Stielike

5 Things You Should Know About Uli Stielike, SKorea’s New Soccer Coach

by STEVE HAN

When the Korea Football Association (KFA) unveiled Uli Stielike from Germany as head coach of South Korea’s national team for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the fans and media alike began asking the same question: “Who?!”

Here are five things you should know about the 59-year-old man who will lead South Korean soccer’s quest for the World Cup in 2018 after its massive failure in Brazil this past summer.

Stielike was easily one of the world’s best players in his generation.

A playmaking central defender, Stielike played for Borussia Monchengladbach–a German powerhouse in the 70s–from 1972 to 1977, winning three German league titles. He then moved to Europe’s winningest club of all-time, Real Madrid of Spain, where he won three Spanish league titles. The deep-lying playmaker, known for his high “soccer IQ,” was also the centerpiece of the German national team that won the 1980 European Championship. To this day, Stielike remains as one of very few players who’ve played in the finals of the World Cup, European Championship and European Cup (now known as the Champions League).

Unfortunately, Stielike has little to no competitive coaching experience.

He started his coaching career in 1989 as the head coach of the Swiss national team, but left two years later with no notable accomplishments. He then bounced around the second divisions of German and Spanish leagues before becoming an assistant coach for the German national team from 1998 to 2000, a period known as the “dark age” for German soccer. Between 2001 to 2006, he coached Germany’s youth national teams of various age groups. Since then, he coached briefly in Switzerland before working with two different professional teams in Qatar over three years. He has been out of coaching since 2012. Stielike doesn’t possess any notable winning pedigree as a coach and has no experience in coaching a team in a competitive environment, such as the World Cup. That’s a concern for Korea, as its ultimate goal is to redeem itself four years later from this past summer’s disastrous World Cup campaign.

“Stielike’s only coaching experience was in Qatar over the last six years,” said Hyunmin Kim, Goal.com Korea‘s German soccer columnist. “He has been away from European soccer for a long time, so it’s hard to determine how well he has kept up with the rapid pace of modern soccer’s development in recent years.”

5514Uli Stielike playing for Germany

But Stielike has firsthand experience in revamping and developing Germany’s modern national team program, which today is considered as the best in the world.

German soccer’s rise over the last decade began when the German Football Association (DFB) decided to plow through its youth development model for all ages to re-brand German soccer’s image. Until then, the Germans were notorious for their rigid, physical style of play, which evidently hit a dead end when the national team crashed out of the first round at the 2000 European Championships. Stielike was hired to oversee youngsters who could potentially represent Germany in the future. His job over the next six years entailed coaching Germany’s under-19, under-20 and under-21 national teams. Some players who played under Stielike’s guidance during his six year stint include Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski, all of whom were part of Germany’s World Cup winning side in Brazil this year.

“Stielike took over Germany’s youth teams while the national team was struggling,” said Goal.com’s Kim, who lived in Germany during the early and mid-2000s and followed Stielike’s teams. “He served as the coach who bridged the gap between a struggling team and talented young players, like Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Mertesacker and Podolski. Those are the players that opened the floodgate and started Germany’s golden generation.”

Stielike had his chance to coach at the World Cup in 2010, but his dreams were shattered when his son abruptly died two years before the tournament.

The closest Stielike came to coaching a national team at the World Cup came in 2006 when he became the head coach of Ivory Coast, a juggernaut of a team from Africa led by Didier Drogba, who was one of the best forwards in the world at the time. Stielike may have dreamed of leading the team of talented young players to the 2010 World Cup, but sadly, he left the team in January 2008 when his son, Michael, became ill with a respiratory disease and died a month later. Stielike returned to Ivory Coast in March, but he soon left the team after his contract wasn’t renewed.

It was Stielike’s willingness to commit to the growth of South Korean soccer at all levels that convinced the KFA to hire him.

Many qualified coaches around the league expressed their interest in coaching the Korean national team, but the challenge for the KFA was to find a coach who’s committed to helping Korean soccer grow at all levels, not exclusive to producing results at the World Cup four years later. Bert van Marwijk, a renowned Dutch coach, was in pole position to land the job last month, but the deal fell through when he demanded a two-year contract instead of four and that he maintains his residence in Holland throughout the term. On the other hand, Stielike promised to re-locate to Korea with his wife. He also agreed to expand his role beyond coaching the national team and lead seminars for coaches around the country and hold clinics for young soccer players over the next four years.

article_img

NKorea In World Cup Final, Says Fake News Clip That Further Distorts Public View Of Country

by TONY KIM

On Saturday, YouTube channel Korea News Backup posted what appeared to be a North Korean news clip of its national team advancing to the World Cup finals to face Portugal. Several news sites even initially reported that the video is an official North Korean state broadcast. The absurdity of the content (um, North Korea didn’t qualify for this year’s tournament), coupled with the public’s oh-those-crazy-North-Koreans view, was enough to make the video go viral. So far, it’s generated more than 5 million views.

In the clip, a female anchor takes viewers through North Korea’s historic run in the tournament. Apparently, the national team first advanced out of the group stage as the number one seed after beating China 2:0. Conveniently, North Korea then goes on to blow out the U.S. and Japan to finally face Portugal. Edited footage of Brazilian fans cheering for North Korea’s victory and its supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, was also shown.

Though we can’t confirm 100-percent, it’s very, very likely that the segment is fake.

Yahoo Sports points out that the anchor’s dialect is wrong and her voice is not in synch with her lips. More convincingly, The Telegraph reported around a month ago that North Korean citizens are actually able to watch the World Cup games, even though some games may be shown after a 24-hour delay. In its report, one North Korean viewer comments that although North Korea did not qualify, he was curious to see other national teams play.

Of course, such details don’t quite fit the simplistic narrative of North Korea as a “hermit kingdom.” With such a lack of information coming out of the closed society, even the most bizarre stories are often reported at face value.

 

soccer-team-yeot

Haters Back Home Throw Yeot Candy at Korean World Cup Team, A Gesture That Means ‘Eat Sh-t’

by STEVE HAN

For some people, blasting a group of young men on blogs, Twitter and among friends isn’t enough.

When the South Korean national soccer team traveled home from Brazil, where they were eliminated in the first round of the World Cup without a single win for the first time in 16 years, players were greeted by two men holding up a sign that read, “Korean soccer is dead!!” at the Incheon Airport.

They were there to represent the online community group “We Lost Because of You,” recently formed to promote hatred towards the team. The group now has more than 4,000 members.

As the players walked through the airport gate, the two men threw yeot candy at them. In Korea, throwing the country’s traditional pine-nut candy at someone is a vulgar gesture that equates to the saying “eat sh-t.”

“They made the Korean people eat yeot with their performance at the World Cup,” said one of the men, a 41-year-old only identified by his last name Cho. “So we’re here to return their yeot.”

Since getting eliminated last Thursday with a loss to Belgium, the Korean players have been under heavy public scrutiny.

The animosity reached its peak when Korean goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong tweeted a picture of himself just before the team departed Brazil with a brief message to thank those who supported the team. The message was removed after many people hurled jabs at Jung, saying he should have a time for “self-reflection” instead for bringing “shame” to the country.

Son Heung-min, Korea’s star forward, told reporters: “Should I eat these? I’m really sad. I feel a responsibility for not succeeding at the World Cup as a player who represents Korea. We all feel that way.”

Photo via Yonhap

1403820941513_1_071805_99_20140627072105

World Cup: Three Thoughts On Korea’s Early Exit

by STEVE HAN

You can’t say it wasn’t expected. Korea will head home after just three games at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, after it lost 1-0 to Belgium on Thursday. Finishing last in Group H, Korea exits the tournament with one draw and two losses.

Korea needed to beat Belgium by at least two goals to have a shot at advancing to the next round, but its chances came to a screeching halt when Jan Vertonghen put Belgium ahead with the winning goal with just 12 minutes remaining. While there is no shame in losing to Belgium, one of the world’s best up-and-coming teams, Korean fans and media alike will not be too forgiving about losing to a team that rested most of its regular starters. Belgium was also down a man for more than half the game after Steven Defour was shown a red card for stomping on Kim Shin-wook’s leg in the first half.

Three post-game thoughts on Korea’s early exit from the tournament:

We may have seen the last of head coach Hong Myung-bo, South Korea’s living legend. Hong is the closest thing Korea has to Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer and Holland’s Johan Cruyff, in that he defined an era for his country both as a player and coach. The now 45-year-old not only earned the nickname “Eternal Captain” by leading the magical Taegeuk Warriors’ team that advanced to the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup as a player, he also guided Korea to its first ever medal (bronze) at the Olympic Games in 2012 as its head coach. His undisputed legacy is in danger of being tarnished for good after Korea’s disappointing showing in Brazil this summer, especially after he was accused of favoritism in his player selections. His currently contract with Korea runs through next year, but the public scrutiny may end his tenure early.

In the end, Korea just wasn’t ready to compete at this level. We can debate all day about tactics, players and whether Hong should be replaced, but the problem at this year’s tournament was that Korea just wasn’t good enough. The team consisted of bright young talents, most of whom played integral roles in Korea’s bronze medal win at the Olympics (each team at the Olympics can only have three players older than 23) two years ago, but the World Cup is a different ballgame. Unlike the Olympics where young players compete with each other, the World Cup is where the world’s best of the best go head to head. The key players from the team in London in 2012–Park Chu-young, Ki Sung-yueng and Koo Ja-cheol–were not the same players this time around for various reasons, including injuries and lack of playing time at their respective clubs.

For Team Korea to be competitive every four years at the World Cup, major changes must occur within the nation itself. For Korea to truly become a quality team consistently against the world’s best, substantial changes are needed in how the Koreans as a whole consume the sport of soccer. While it’s no secret that the World Cup fever on the streets of Seoul is rampant, soccer itself has never been a marketable game in Korea. A sad reflection of that is the fact that the average attendance of the K-League, South Korea’s professional soccer league, is only at 7,900 per game this year, while hardly any of those games are televised. Many of Korea’s current national team players grew up chasing after the ball on a dirt field. While the World Cup has turned into something of a “show business,” investment of attention and money at the grassroots level for the sport of soccer is still lacking. Unless this culture changes, Korea will continue to post mediocre performances at the World Cup.

Image via Joy News.

non-korean-1

Photos Of Non-Koreans Rooting For Team Korea In The World Cup

by MICHELLE WOO

They know wassup.

At the World Cup in Brazil, the Wall Street Journal’s Korea Real Time interviewed non-Koreans who were rooting for Korea, asking them why they chose the Taeguk Warriors as their team.

A few of their responses:

Top photo:
“We have close friends who are Korean-Americans. They are here for the game and we are here to support them.” —Carol Cintra, 36, from Porto Alegre

non-korean-2
“I have been supporting Korea since the 2002 World Cup when Brazil became the champion and Korea made it to the semi-finals. I found Korean football to be very good. My Korea jersey is a gift from my friend working at SK Construction.” —Renato Rocha, 38, from Porto Alegre, Brazil

non-korean-3
“I like the Korean people and Korean culture. Koreans are very nice and not too serious. They are also very cute and beautiful. And Korean music is funny.” —Maria Moure de Bainos, 19, from Porto Alegre

See more at Korea Real Time 

dominos-korea

Pic of the Day: Domino’s Korea Has An Insane World Cup-Themed Pizza

by TONY KIM

Koreans are probably in need of some comfort food, especially after the devastating loss to Algeria in the World Cup. The most heartbroken of fans might even turn to Domino’s new Churrasco Cheese Roll Pizza, an ambitious and ostentatious monster of a pie.

The thing is basically Brazil’s traditional Churrasco grilled skewer gone wild. Sprinkles of cheddar, mozzarella and gouda cheese cover the haphazardly-placed chimichurri steak, which is accompanied by an excessive amount of sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, green peppers and corn. Under this madness lies a deeply layered mango habanero sauce. Surrounding this party are 16 sizable cheese rolls topped by bacon bits and queso cheese sauce.

Check out the commercial.

Photo via ZenKimchi