Iran too strong for Korea

Iran too strong for Korea

By Victor Yun

Some days you win, some days you lose. Korea trudged through one of their sloppier performances in recent memory and flung Group A wide open for the taking in the 2014 World Cup qualifications. Let’s dive in:

Iranian fans celebrate their 1-0 win over Korea

Tactics: With several new additions and the return of Lee Chung-Yong, manager Choi Kang-Hee had a plethora of lineup and tactical options for this match.

Choi opted to go with a standard 4-4-2, with Kim Shin-Wook in a support position behind Park Chu-Young, and inverting Kim Bo-Kyung with Lee Keun-Ho on the wings, while leaving Lee Chung-Yong on the bench. While you can lament on Choi’s player usage, this match wasn’t lost on which players were necessarily on the pitch.

Chicks Dig The Long Ball: Unless, of course, it’s in soccer. Given the weight and implications of this match, the sloppy start and conservative movements shouldn’t be so surprising.

However, Korea seemed satisfied resorting to free kicks, long balls, and corners for goal attempts. For a side that considers themselves more talented, this was a rather curious strategy. Never mind that this match was played in a tough environment on the road and Iran always seems to give Korea fits, Choi seemed willing to be playing for a draw, and when you don’t play to win, it becomes easy to lose.

Missed Opportunities: After squandering two great opportunities in the first half, in which Korea twice hit the goal post, Iranian defender Masoud Shojaei made a foolish slide tackle in the 55th minute, to earn himself a second yellow, and sent himself off the match, leaving Iran down to 10 men.

If you’re thinking Korea, with the man advantage, would turn up the pressure and press forward and wide to stretch the Iranian defense, you’d be..incorrect. Korea did nothing to press Iran, and found themselves down a goal after failing to properly mark Iranian captain Jevad Nekonam off a free kick in the 76th minute.

What Happens Now? The future of Choi Kang-Hee as Korea’s manager has been heavily criticised and scrutinised since his hiring, and this loss will do nothing to soften the critics. The lack of creativity and intensity in Korea’s recent matches doesn’t bode well for Choi’s future, and it’d surprising if Choi is still at the helm of the team when the World Cup qualifications resume in 2013.

Extras: Even with this loss, Korea remains atop Group A on goal differential, although its grip on first place is much shakier now. Korea plays three of the remaining four matches at home for the second half of qualifications, and hopefully they’ll have some friendlies scheduled prior to the final leg.

Yoon Suk-Young and Park Jung-Woo both made their senior team debuts today, so the youth movement from the Olympic squad is slowly infiltrating onto the senior team. All is not lost.

Learn more about Korean football at Victor’s fantastic website - South Korean Soccer.

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