Lack of talent shows on scoreboardForget the sports writers. Forget FIFA rankings. Forget last year’s World Cup. Forget about all of the great things that were said about the national soccer team.
Sometimes, listening to the average Joe in the crowd is enough to understand the problems of the Korean soccer team, which lost to the Bulgarians, 1-0, in a friendly on Tuesday. The Koreans lost even though the Bulgarians plugged half of their lineup with second-stringers.
One of the things about watching a soccer match from the press box is you get a professional’s view of the action and the teams. You do not have to smell what the guy sitting next to you had for lunch when he screams his lungs off.
Despite the odors, I prefer the stands because you can blend in with the regular crowd and hear what soccer nuts are thinking.
Here are some bits of wisdom that I picked up from some fans on Tuesday:
As the national team trots out onto the field in a 3-4-1-2 formation at the beginning of the game:
An ajumma chewing dried squid: “Our strikers are not that good...”
This formation was widely used in the late ’90s by Italian pro teams that possessed far greater talent up front.
The substitution of Choi Yong-su for Kim Do-hun:
An ajeossi drinking beer: “Don’t ever pass him the ball.”
When half the stadium laughs in agony as Choi Yong-su’s name is announced, maybe it’s time somebody tells coach Coelho why. Sure, Choi can score; only not in an international match. He’s the kind of player who thrives in the domestic league and Japan, but he’s a choker during international matches.
Imagine a snail crossing the road. Think about the Statue of Liberty. Now comes Choi. Slow movement is defined in exactly that order.
A bunch of ajeossi smoking: “It’s like the old days. They keep lobbing the ball into the air and close their eyes hoping for a miracle.”
“Yeah. But at least in the old days they ran harder.”
Maybe I’m wrong, but as Koreans have begun playing for European clubs is it possible their allegiance has shifted? Some of the players really didn’t seem to move all that fast.
In a postgame interview, the striker Ahn Jung-hwan told reporters that Park Ji-sung missing two clear shots on goal in the first half of the game made it harder in the second.
That one sentence sums up the game. After drawing first blood in the first half, the Bulgarians drew back to their side of the half line and closed the distance between midfielders and defenders to outnumber any Korean attacker. The Koreans tried in vain to penetrate but the Bulgarians kept them hopping with through passes into open space that sparked quick counterattacks.
In the talent department, Korean players today have better individual skills such as ball-trapping and passing. That’s especially true for players who are abroad. But the search for a genuine striker marches on. When you have 16 shots on an opponent’s goal and fail to get one in, you have a huge problem. Bulgaria had just one clear chance and they made good on it. Quite economical.
There’s still time before 2006 but it seems that the talent pool keeps shrinking and shrinking. That might be our biggest problem.
by Brian Lee