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“Let’s first go over Defense”

Posted August. 01, 2004 22:30,   


The Korean national soccer team, led by Johannes Bonfrere, failed to win the title of the 2004 Asian Cup (13th Asian Soccer Tournament) it last won 43 years ago, losing 3-4 to Iran in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

Nevertheless, Bonfrere has been credited with having understood the problems plaguing Korean soccer and preparing a remedy.

Let’s review the results attained and tasks remaining one month after Bonfrere’s taking control.


Bonfrere concluded that the problem with Korean soccer, which continued to decline after making it to the semifinals in the 2002 World Cup, was “lack of discipline due to overconfidence.” Accordingly, he pressed players hard from the first day of training camp. His greatest achievement is that he returned Lee Dong-gook (Kwangju), whom Guus Hiddink and Humberto Coelho had renounced, to the position of best attacker in Korea.

He trained Lee and created a triangular offense with Seol Ki-hyun (Anderlecht) and Cha Doo-ri (Frankfurt), which increased goal production. Although Korea did not score against Jordan, it started to score, by scoring two goals against United Arab Emirates, and wiped out its goal drought with a total of nine goals--four by Lee, two by Ahn Jeung-hwan, and one by Seol, Chan and Kim Nam-il.

Problems to Solve—

The four goals allowed during the match against Iran were all the results of nonsensical defensive errors. Even considering the fact that Yoo Sang-chul (Yokohama F Marinos) was loaned as a wildcard to the Olympic team, and the core of the defense Kim Tae-young (Chunnam) is injured, the team lacked a systematic play between the midfielders and line of defense.

Bonfrere said, “That is because Lee Young-pyo (PSV Eindhoven) went too far up the field to join the offense, and neglected defense.” However, central midfielder Kim Nam-il or Park Ji-sung (PSV Eindhoven) should have filled that vacuum. The midfielders were also slow in converting to defense when they lost control of the ball. Hence, speedy and skillful Iranian players such as Medhi Madhavikia, Hosein Kabi, and Ali Karimi penetrated deeply in both sides of the field.

Some also point out the need to improve tactical completion. During one month, Bonfrere experimented with 4-4-2, 3-5-2, and 3-4-3 formations. However, the task of finding the formation that best suits Korea still lies ahead.

In addition, it is time to focus on generational change. Kim Tae-young, 34, and Choi Jin-chul (Junbuk), 33, are veteran players both over 30, but the core of defense. Yoo, 33, who is now playing for the Olympic team, is also over 30. The need for young players to play in the 2006 World Cup in Germany is urgent.

Jong-Koo Yang yjongk@donga.com