The combination play between Son Heung-min and Lee Kang-in, which soccer fans had been anticipated, was finally revealed with much room to improve.
The South Korean national soccer team, led by head coach Paulo Bento, played to a 2:2 draw against Georgia in a friendly match held in Istanbul, Turkey on Thursday (local time). South Korea allowed an opening goal in the 40th minute but Hwang Ui-jo put his team ahead by scoring two goals in a row in the 47th and 85th minute. But South Korea allowed another goal in the 89th minute.
Coach Bento adopted a 3-5-2 formation this time instead of his usual 4-4-2. Kim Jin-su and Hwang Hee-chan played as wing backs and Kwong Chang-hoon and Lee Kang-in played as middle fielders. Son Heung-min and Lee Jeong-hyeop were the team’s two attackers.
What Bento tried to experiment seemed clear. He aimed to distract Georgia’s center-backs with Kim Jin-su and Hwang Hee-chan, who are both terrific wide players, and have Kwon Chang-hoon and Lee Kang-in provide “killer” passes to Son Heung-min or score goals themselves.
But the plan did not work out well in the actual match. There were no accurate passes to be seen and Son had to drop all the way down to the midfield to carry the ball. There was a wide gap between midfielders and defenders as attacking midfielders focused so much on attacks that they failed to fulfill their defensive responsibilities. It has been pointed out that midfielders need to convert to defense faster.
“It is embarrassing that the players didn’t do their best,” said Captain Son. “If we play like this, we wouldn’t be able to play at the World Cup.” Coach Bento said after the match that the team’s first half was the worst the team has played so far.
Lee Kang-in made his national team debut at the age of 18 years and 198 days (7th youngest in history). He showed his growth potential through his “killer” passes in the first half and the accurate left-foot free-kick that hit the post in the 51st minute. But after falling on the ground a few times in tough tussles for the ball, his performance deteriorated.
Lee could not play as a right midfielder, his favorite position, or free role like he did in the U-20 national football team. As a result, he could not display his strengthsㅡattacks using his left foot and creative play in the front. Bento said it is hard to evaluate Lee’s performance Thursday since the overall performance of the players was not good and a center midfielder is not Lee’s usual position. But it is necessary for Lee to be able to take different positions and convert to defense faster as modern football requires multi-players.
Bento experimented with formation by replacing six players that day. Lee Dong-kyung, who also made his national team debut, displayed his potential once again, showing his ball control and crossing abilities.
South Korea will play against Turkmenistan on next Tuesday to start the second round of Asian qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Won-Hong Lee firstname.lastname@example.org