Go to contents

(Asian Cup) A strategyless approach leading to collapse

Posted February. 08, 2024 07:36,   

Updated February. 08, 2024 07:36


Korean soccer's aspiration to win the Asian Cup was thwarted as it experienced a 'shock' defeat against Jordan. Son Heung-min, Lee Kang-in, Hwang Hee-chan, and Kim Min-jae, collectively known as the 'Fantastic Four,' were hailed as the strongest forces ever and sought to lead the team to the top for the first time in 64 years, but their efforts fell short.

On Tuesday, Korea suffered a 0-2 loss in the Asian Cup semifinals against Jordan in Al Rayyan, Qatar. Despite dominating possession (69.6% to 30.4%), Korea managed only eight shots, less than half of Jordan's 17 attempts. None of Korea's shots proved effective, while Jordan scored two goals from their seven shots on target.

International media also characterizes Korea's defeat to Jordan as a 'shock loss' with no goals scored. Although the two teams drew 2-2 in the group stage, most soccer statistics outlets and betting sites expected Korea to emerge victorious. With a FIFA ranking of 23rd, Korea outranks Jordan by 64 places (87th). Jordan's previous best performance in the Asian Cup was reaching the quarterfinals.

Throughout the tournament, Korean soccer's defense crumbled like a sandcastle. Jordan's coach Hussein Amutha expressed confidence before the semifinals, saying, "Korea conceded eight goals in five games until the quarterfinals, and there is a good chance of winning." Korea failed to keep a clean sheet in the six games leading to the semifinals, conceding a total of 10 goals—more than double the four goals allowed in 2015 and 2019 combined.

Despite having a 'world-class' center back Kim Min-jae, Korea's defensive line resembled a sandcastle in this tournament. While Kim's individual defense was outstanding, collaborative defense, including cover play and line control, was lacking. The Korean defense was in disarray, particularly in the semifinals, where Kim couldn't play due to accumulated warnings. The score difference could have been more significant if not for goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo's crucial saves.

Even the attacking front in Korea seemed blunt. In six games of the tournament, 11 goals were scored, but only five were field goals. Three goals came from penalty kicks, one from a free kick, and the remaining one was an own goal. Not a single goal seemed to stem from Coach Jürgen Klinsmann's envisioned strategy. Criticized for playing 'Do me soccer' before the Asian Cup, it wasn't clear what kind of soccer he intended to employ, relying on the players' individual skills without any specific tactics. This approach persisted even after entering the Asian Cup.

Bae-Jung Kim wanted@donga.com