Korea impress against Mexico

Korea impress against Mexico

By Victor Yun

Game one of group play has just concluded on a wet pitch at St. James’ Park, and we learned a lot of things about both Korea and Mexico. Thankfully, for both teams, there’s two other matches to correct and improve upon before the elimination stage.

Korea held Mexico to a 0-0 draw in Newcastle

D-FENCE!: Well, what do ya know, Korea managed a scoreless draw against the highest powered offense in the group. Granted, Giovani Dos Santos sat on the bench the entire first half, but outside a few (very) close calls at the end of both halves, Korea managed to play a very tight game defensively throughout.

Korea did an excellent job of pressing up high and forcing Mexico to abandon their possession style offense, leaving El Tri with only intermittent counter attacks. That Mexico’s first shot on goal came in the 42nd minute was evidence of Korea tightening up and owning the midfield for large portions of the game, despite the time of possession statistic. Great tactical move by Hong Myung-Bo, completely taking it to Mexican coach Luis Tena this game.

Where’s The Offense?: Korea’s superior midfield play was able to afford them many scoring chances, only to squander every one of them when they got near the penalty box. Nerves might have played its part, as a lot of early possessions were wasted by long balls that led to Park Chu-Young and Nam Tae-Hee futilely trying to chase them down. The passes and touches were a little heavier than normal. Patience, boys.

Koo Ja-Cheol had two scoring opportunities, one in the 59th minute when he sent a volley off the crossbar on a difficult angle, and wasted the best chance for Korea in the 80th minute when he was unmarked in the box but headed the ball wide off the far post.

Do Your Homework: And Mexico did exactly that. There were reports prior to the game from Mexican coach Luis Tena that Mexico would mark Park Chu-Young very carefully, which seemed a little odd at the time since Korea has a bevy of midfielders who can also score. Turns out Tena might know a thing or two about football.

With Mexico marking two, sometimes three, men on Park, Korea wasn’t able to mount any real danger in the final third for virtually the entire match. They also seemed to know the scouting report on Kim Bo-Kyung, and allowed him to run on the wing but swamped him as soon as he started to drift inside, as he often likes to do when playing inverted. Give credit to Mexico’s defense, they played extremely well on the back end and snuffed virtually every threat Korea attempted.

Put Me In, Coach: It was a little curious to see Hong wait until the 76th minute to use his first sub, replacing a clearly tired Park Chu-Young for Baek Sung-Dong, and inserting Ji Dong-Won in the 87th minute for Nam Tae-Hee.

Korea seemed to fade in energy late in the second half, which isn’t a surprise since they were pressing non-stop defensively all game. Dos Santos was able to create chances, but fresher legs might have been able to do a slight better job at marking him.

Notes: Park Jong-Woo seemed to be grabbing his back in the second half after he fired a shot, and is now a question mark for the next match vs Switzerland with a abdominal/back injury.

Switzerland and Gabon drew to a 1-1 tie in the other group match, which is about as good a result as you can hope for Korea. Korea should be disappointed they didn’t walk away with three points, but they still remain in control of their own destiny. There’s no moral victories in soccer, but all in all, it’s not a bad spot to be in. Just win, baby.

The boys get two and a half days to rest, and play again on Sunday 7/29 vs Switzerland and we will have a full report from that game as soon as the game ends.

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