The trophy is nice, but S. Korean football still lacks scorers

August 11, 2015



By John Duerden

The trophy is nice to win, but not that important in the grand scheme of things. What matters more is how the week in the Middle Kingdom helped the team progress and improve for the future tests ahead.

The three games ended with one win and two draws. It ended with one very good performance, one reasonable performance and one a little below par. For an experimental team without European stars and preparing for 2018 World Cup qualifiers in September, it was adequate.

The first game was the best: a 2-0 win over the Chinese hosts that came thanks to a fluid and controlled display. The 1-1 tie with Japan three days later was neither, as Korea lapsed into using the long-ball with predictable attacking. The competition ended with a 0-0 match with North Korea on Sunday.

There’s not much you can say about that game. South Korea dominated almost completely, having almost 30 shots on goal, compared to just two from North Korea. Some of the misses were unbelievable and some of the goalkeeping from Ri Myong-guk impressive. It was one of those nights, frustrating for fans but lots of fun for neutral observers.

South Korea coach Uli Stielike wasn’t having fun. The more frustrated the German becomes, the more animated he gets and the more he complains to the referee. All in all though, it has been a decent week for the Taegeuk Warriors. A number of K-League players, especially Lee Jae-sung, Lee Jong-ho and Kim Seung-dae, did enough to earn a call-up even when all of Korea’s big-name stars are available. All had their moments while Lee Jae-sung, intelligent and incisive in midfield, was one of the standouts of the tournament.

When Stielike picks the roster for the Sept. 3 qualifier against Laos, he will have plenty to think about and that was the object of the whole exercise.

There are a few worries, but this is nothing new. The country has long lacked a goal scorer and the past week didn’t turn anything up in that regard. Lee Joeng-hyeop, Stielike’s favored main man who had a decent Asian Cup in January, showed once again his lack of killer instinct in front of goal and while he undoubtedly works hard, the Sangju Sangmu striker is unlikely to do something special to score a goal from nothing. In the last minutes against North Korea, he had two fabulous chances to score and neither was taken.

Kim Shin-wook the main man before injury in September started the second game against Japan but was ineffective, mostly because his almost two-meter height almost automatically causes his teammates to launch high balls in his direction.

If Korea could find a real number nine then the team really would be a force to be reckoned with. Against North Korea, the misses were annoying for fans, but at least chances were being created. That has not always been the case against the defense-minded North Korea.

It was a useful few days and while it should not have told Stielike too much that he did not know already, there are a few new faces who have reminded him that they deserve a closer and longer look.