Korean Football Blog

한국 축구 블로그

Archive for the ‘Star Performance’ Category

South Korea – Ecuador: Star Performance – Ki Sung-yeung

Posted by Seamus Walsh on May 23, 2010

I know I’m a bit late, but I’ve been busy this whole week. Anyways, last Sunday – 16 May – I was in Seoul to watch South Korea beat Ecuador 2-0. It was a very satisfying match, and the result even more so. Although Ecuador only fielded their domestic players – understandable considering they failed to qualify for the World Cup and so now need to find ways of improving for the next qualifying campaign – they were a tough side, with plenty of pace and power. South Korea played well and created plenty of chances.

Match highlights:

Although none of the European based players played the entire match, their contribution was particularly impressive.

The starting lineup for the match was:

Jung Sung-ryong

Oh Beom-seok          Cho Yong-hyung          Kwak Tae-hwi          Kim Dong-jin

Kim Jae-sung          Ki Sung-yueng          Shin Hyung-min          Park Ji-sung

Lee Dong-gook          Yeom Ki-Hun

Substitutions made:

Lee Chung-yong for Cho Yong-hyung (46)

Cha Du-ri for Park Ji-sung (46)

Hwang Jae-won for Oh Beom-seok (46)

Lee Seung-yeoul for Lee Dong-gook (66)

Koo Ja-cheol for Ki Sung-yeung (73)

Kim Bo-kyung for Yeom Ki-hun (81)

Just to clear it up a bit then, this was the lineup at the start of the second half:

Jung Sung-ryong

Cha Du-ri          Hwang-Jae-won          Kwak Tae-hwi          Kim Dong-jin

Kim Jae-sung          Ki Sung-yueng          Shin Hyung-min          Lee Chung-yong

Lee Dong-gook          Yeom Ki-Hun

The other substitutions were all straight swaps.

As the title of the post shows, Ki Sung-yueng in the centre of the midfield was absolutely dominant, but before I get on to his performance, let me run through a few of the other noticeable contributions.

The outstanding South Korean fans

Jung Sung-ryong in goal was excellent, I don’t think he made a mistake all game. For a goalkeeper he’s still young at 25, and I don’t expect him to start in the World Cup. However, it is very reassuring for coach Huh Jung-moo to have an understudy to Lee Woon-jae that he can trust and he knows is capable of top performances.

Kim Dong-jin played the whole game instead of Lee Young-pyo. As I’ve said before, I expect them both to play parts in the World Cup campaign, but I take this as an indicator that Kim is now the more likely to start. Following the friendly against the Ivory Coast I commented that I would have liked to have seen Kim in action as Lee played the whole of that match. Well, now that i’ve had my wish answered, I can safely say that Kim was one of the best players on the pitch. He rarely gave the ball away and provided good support to Park Ji-sung and then Lee Chung-yong, allowing them to go forward and create chances in attack. furthermore, once park went off at the start of the second half, Kim was handed the captain’s armband. A steady performance, and one I think that puts him into pole position for the starting place at left back for the world Cup.

I could say almost exactly the same about Oh Beom-seok at right back. With the inexperienced Kim Jae-sung ahead of him, he used his experience to control the right hand side of the pitch. He was always available when Kim Jae-sung got into trouble, and he provided a number of good crosses. A safe pair of hands, and I think this makes him likely to play a large part in the World Cup. I think he will almost certainly start the game against Greece, and probably will against Nigeria. Against Argentina, however, the pace of Angel Di Maria on the left might lead Huh to opt for Cha Du-ri instead.

Cha came on at the start of the second half and did what he does best – getting forward at pace and worrying the defence. He didn’t control the wide channel like Oh did, but a couple of good important tackles in defence and numerous surging runs forward showed why he is still in contention for a starting place. Technically I don’t think he’s quite as good as Oh, but he’s farm more dynamic, and offers more of a threat in attack. We shall have to wait and see how Huh uses these two when the World Cup finally begins, but one other thing to take into consideration is that Lee Chung-yong will be starting on the right, and he’s a potent attacking force on his own. Because of this Huh might go for the safe option of Oh rather than Cha, saving the latter for later on in matches when the opposition defence is getting tired.

Speaking of Lee Chung-yong he pushed Ki Sung-yeung very close indeed for the Star Performance tag. The only thing going against him was that he only played half the match, although this is because he’s played a long hard season with Bolton, whereas Ki hasn’t been playing much lately. Lee is going to be absolutely crucial for Korea in this World Cup. His pace, trickery and all-round attacking threat were all on display in this match, and the Ecuadorians were visibly frightened of him when he got the ball, eventually resorting to trying to bring him down by any means. He scored late on in the match, picking the ball up wide on the right, dribbling inside, exchanging passes and eventually finished well. This summed up his match.

Lee Chung-yong

Lastly, Lee Dong-gook had an excellent game up front, I would have expected him to partner Park Chu-young in the World Cup, although Park missed this game due to injury. It doesn’t seem to be too serious however, as I watched him warming up with the other players before kick off, and his movement seemed to be fine. Lee, on the other hand, was injured during the match, and it looks like he may miss some or all of the World Cup now. If he does, it will be a major blow to the squad, although Lee Keun-ho has impressed me over the last year or so. The three centre backs who played all had very good games on the whole. None of them are certainties to start the World Cup, but this isn’t a criticism necessarily, more a comment that finally the central defenders seem to be raising their performance levels. There’s a lot of competition for those two spots in the starting lineup now, which is a good thing. In central midfield also, Shin Hyung-min, a youngster at only 23, was outstanding in the holding role. He formed an outstanding partnership with Ki Sung-yeung, playing in front of the defence, breaking up Ecuador’s attacks and playing accurate, simple passes. He has now possibly put himself in contention for the starting places in the World Cup. If I were Huh Jung-moo, I’d use him in the final two friendlies before South Africa to test whether this was a one-off performance or whether he looks like he can maintain this level. If he can, the success and balance of his partnership with Ki should mean he starts in south Africa.

Lee Dong-gook: Rejuvenated

Now, as for Ki himself, I was very curious to see how he performed after he seems to have been overlooked somewhat at Celtic since Neil Lennon was named as manager. Well, if anything it seems to have helped him. He looked fresh and determined to show what he can do. I watched closely every time he got the ball and made a mental not of every time he made a mistake. The result: Once. For the whole match, he only made one mistake – a slightly overhit pass to Lee Chung-yong which went out for a throw. Apart from that he won every tackle, every header, and didn’t give the ball away a single time. He showed a superb range of passing, coming deep to play simple passes to keep the game flowing, playing long balls forwards for the pacy front four to run on to, and through balls that cut through the Ecuador defence.

His positioning was faultless – always in the right place at the right time in defence, and when South Korea had the ball Ki was always in a position to receive a pass. When he did, he showed good control, going on a few excellent runs – he was never tackled, and he was also the creative force driving the Koreans on.

Tactically speaking, the front four – the two wingers and two strikers – showed why Korea must not be written off in the World Cup. They moved with pace, made great runs to avoid their markers, and switched positions constantly, making it even more difficult for the Ecuador defence. With four players ahead of him doing this, Ki had no shortage of passing options, and his accuracy and vision meant that the chances to score kept on coming for South Korea. There is no doubt in my mind that he is the most important player for this side in the World Cup. He may not be making the headlines or scoring the most goals, but his overall contribution to the team goes beyond what any other player offers. Not to mention the fact that the attackers would not be as effective without him either.

South Korean celebrations

A good performance, and it looks like lots of players are coming good at the right time. The K-League has a much shorter season than most leagues in Europe or South America, and so it could definitely be in Korea’s favour that some of their players based in Korea are playing so well. the fitness and freshness of players could be one of the key factors in this World Cup, with a number of teams having key players who have played maybe fifty games this season already. Huh now needs to find the right balance in his final squad and team selections.

Posted in Highlights, Ki Sung-yeung, Lee Chung-yong, Match Review, Star Performance, World Cup | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Star Performance – Park Ji-sung

Posted by Seamus Walsh on March 12, 2010

Well, what can I say about Park Ji-sung’s performance on Wednesday night for Manchester United against AC Milan in the Champions League? For that matter, what more can be said about United that they haven’t already said with their performance? Park was one of the best, most influential players on the pitch, perhaps even the best. Rooney will undoubtedly steal the headlines with his superb two goals, taking his tally up to thirty for this season. Beckham may grab a few with his long anticipated return to Old Trafford. But this was an inspiring team performance by united.

Rooney scores his 30th of the season

At the back, Ferdinand and Vidic were immense and impassable, and they showed why United miss them so much when one or both is out injured. For United’s sake, they need them both now to stay fit for the rest of the season. In midfield, Fletcher was brilliant, and seemed to make no mistakes whatsoever. Scholes was his usual industrious self. Valencia showed once again why he was the perfect player to bring in once Ronaldo was sold to Real Madrid – another astute signing by Ferguson. Nani had a sloppy first half, but absolutely terrorised Milan in the second half with his pace and skill.

But for me it was the tactical decision by Ferguson to play Park centrally just behind and supporting Rooney that allowed United to play such a fantastic game, with flowing attacking football and an airtight defence.

The Manchester United lineup for the match was:

Van Der Sar

Neville          Ferdinand          Vidic          Evra

Scholes          Fletcher

Valencia                    Park                            Nani

Rooney

This isn’t the first time Ferguson’s used Park in the centre this season, but it is the first time he’s done so and also played both Nani and Valencia on the wings at the same time. I think we can be expecting this lineup a bit more often in future. Having Park in a central position allowed Fletcher and Scholes to play slightly deeper, to pick up any attacking runs from the Milan midfield, and most importantly, it gave them time and space to play accurate, creative passes from deep to the more attacking players.

Park’s performance was key for United against Milan

Park is probably not quite as quick as Nani and Valencia, and less likely to dribble round the opposition full backs, so this formation also gave United added width in attack, and more pace than Milan could handle. Park’s energy levels meant that the Milan defense just couldn’t track his runs, which were clever, and either meant he received the ball in a good attacking position or created space for Rooney to.

When United didn’t have the ball, Park was man marking Andrea Pirlo, the player who pulls all the strings for Milan in midfield from a deep-lying position. With Park never more than a metre away from him when Milan had the ball, Pirlo was essentially useless, unable to find the time or space to direct Milan’s attacking play, making the job much easier for United’s defense. Also, with the creative playmaker so tightly watched, Nani and Valencia don’t have to overcommit themselves in defense, meaning they can break quicker when United break.

Now, I couldn’t analyse Park’s performance in this match without discussing his excellent goal. After Rooney had scored two already, essentially killing off any Italian hopes of a comeback, Park produced a slick finish for United’s third.

As this clip shows, United started the move with Park in a defensive position, which allowed Nani to react to quicker to go on the break. Then, with Park playing in the middle of Nani and Valencia, he was able to receive the ball from Nani on one wing and spread it to Valencia on the other, before receiving it once again from Scholes in the area. His first touch was perfect, and it allowed him to beat the defender and head for goal. He stumbled, but recovered well to pull off a fine finish low to the keeper’s right. A well taken goal, and very well deserved.

Here we see Park’s direct contribution to United’s fourth of the match, scored by Darren Fletcher, as he wins the ball back with a clever turn with United in an attacking position. Young Rafael provided the deep cross, and Fletcher was making the run to the back post to head in. It’s important to bear in mind that this was after United were 3-0 up, and they were still looking to attack, with running across to recover the lost ball. There’s really no need for him to do so in that position, there’s no real threat for Milan in a position like that, but I think it shows how he’s willing to go above and beyond what is simply necessary for the good of the team.

Park slots his finish past the goalkeeper

Park celebrates his goal

An excellent performance by Manchester United, who go on to the next round, and a wonderful performance by Park Ji-sung, crowned with a goal in the champions League. I’ll finish with the words of one Manchester United fan regarding Park: “He made the two victories possible really, he’s a great player to have form a tactical point of view,” and those of manager Sir Alex Ferguson: “Ji-Sung Park, in particular, showed sacrifice, intelligence and discipline and we needed that against Andrea Pirlo.”

Posted in European football, Highlights, Manchester United, Match Review, Park Ji-sung, Star Performance | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Star Performance – Lee Chung-yong

Posted by Seamus Walsh on March 8, 2010

This is the first in a series of posts which will review the outstanding performance of one Korean player for their club. This week it’s Lee Chung-yong for his performance for Bolton Wanderers against West Ham on Saturday (March 6). Match highlights:

Bolton won 2-1, with Lee setting up the first goal with a superb pinpoint cross for Kevin Davies to head in. It seems that Lee has really added another dimension to Bolton’s play since he joined in August. When Gary Megson first signed Lee (Megson has since been replaced by Owen Coyle), he stated “It is going to be a big challenge for him because he is coming to a new country and a new culture… It will take time for him to settle but we will be making sure that he is fully supported as he makes that transition.” Well, the Premier is certainly a challenge, as anyone will admit, but Lee seems to coping fantastically well. I have to say, I’m quite surprised at how well he’s done. Contrary to Megson’s belief, it doesn’t seem to have taken him long at all to settle in a footballing sense, as he’s already scored five goals and is playing as well as anyone in the Bolton team.

Lee Chung-yong signing for Bolton

My view is that if this is how he starts, he can surely only get better. In fact, one Bolton fan on this BBC comment board remarked that he believed Lee “will go to a big club unfortunatly but I want players like him to do well, watch out for him in the World Cup.” I think it might be slightly premature to say he’ll be off to a bigger club, because there’s still the chance that homesickness, culture shock and so on will hit him later on, and he may have a bit of a dip in form which can be tough on any young player. But one thing’s for sure, his performances so far this season have absolutely proved that he has the talent and the potential to go very far.

In terms of what he brings to Bolton, they’ve lacked pace and width in attack this season, playing generally quite unattractive and ‘boring’ football. With Lee and new loan signing Jack Wilshire playing on the wings, Bolton now have an alternative plan of attack, which is much better suited to the swift passing game Coyle likes to use. As another fan commented here, “Lee and Wilshere are pure class, they just make things happen for us.” No longer do Bolton rely on hitting the ball up to Davies as early as possible, they now try and pass it through the midfield, where the tireless running of Muamba and Davies create space out wide for Lee especially to provide forward momentum.

Lee Chung-yong celebrates Kevin Davies' goal against West Ham which he set up

Lee celebrating Davies' goal which he set up

On Saturday this was particularly evident, with Lee providing the cross for the first goal and Wilshire scoring the second. Lee found himself in space out wide on the right plenty of times. His dribbling was excellent, attacking the West Ham defense at pace and forcing them to turn around. In doing so, he also drew a number of fouls, winning free kicks for his team in good positions. He also delivered a number of good crosses, and in reality Bolton probably should have scored a couple more. Lee himself had a good shot that just went wide of the post.

I hope Bolton continue this style of play, it seems to suit them well, and Lee especially. If he continues to play like this he should get a few more goals and assists this season. Most important of all, it bodes well for South Korea’s World Cup ambitions. All of the teams in their group have shown in recent months that they can be vulnerable against teams who pass well and attack with pace down the wings, looking to get behind the defense. Both Park Ji-sung and Lee are great at this style of wing play, and Ki Sung-yeung in the centre will provide plenty of great passes for them to run onto and attack with. Things are looking up for Lee Chung-yong and for South Korean football!

Posted in Highlights, Lee Chung-yong, Star Performance | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »