Korean soccer should stop looking back at past glory

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Korean soccer should stop looking back at past glory

Alas, we have watched how the Korean juggernaut failed to crush the inferior Lebanese as it tied with them 1-1 in a World Cup qualifying match.
An over-the-hill Mike Tyson fighting some upshot in a street fight would not have looked much different. There were flashes of brilliance, but the Korean side failed to deliver the knockout punch despite numerous chances.
Meanwhile, Lebanon capitalized as it positioned its strikers deep in the Korean territory. A bungled pass by Yoo Sang-cheol to goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae was enough to give Lebanon the equalizer.
Are we still resting on the laurels of the 2002 World Cup? You bet. Whether they are watching the game or playing it, Koreans are still hypnotized by the past achievement.
If we don’t change our thinking, it’s very likely that we are going to grumble over our past glory like die-hard communists who gather at the Red Square on weekends, waving the red flag with the hammer and sickle.
Before the 2002 World Cup, it was unthinkable that a Korean player could get by a defender with his individual skills. Now, that has changed. Thanks to overseas experience, many players such as Lee Cheon-soo, Ahn Jung-hwan or Lee Young-pyo have acquired those necessary skills to get by a defender.
It was no different yesterday. The problem was that often on the last pass to the final striker, teamwork was lacking. Even when the last line of defense had been overcome, there was often no one near the ball to take advantage. Good opportunities were wasted.
While I don’t see any immediate need to change any of the forwards, a long time ago I said replacements need to be found for the aging defense. Choi Jin-cheul was the one who scored Korea’s only goal, but it was his back pass to Yoo Sang-cheol that was eventually intercepted and gave the Lebanese a goal.
It’s true that both players provide experience to the defense, but they are 33, and this is the right time for a much-needed change.
“A generation change is needed but the problem is (Jo) Bonfrere can’t afford to lose. Once he has qualified for the World Cup, he’ll have some time to tinker with the roster but not before that,” said Kim Ho, former coach of the Samsung Blue Wings.
The coach also blamed the national team’s lack of practice time together for the current woes. “In case of Europe and Japan, the training schedule for the national team is based on a whole year. Players know exactly when there is a practice and those playing abroad can coordinate with their clubs accordingly,” he said.
For the Korean national team, Bonfrere always has to negotiate before the games to get the players that he wants on his squad, sometimes with success, sometimes without. What we all need to realize is that Guus Hiddink had 1.5 years to do whatever he wanted. Players were summoned at his will. Totally ignoring their star player status, he let everyone know that skills and not popularity would determine the roster.
We need to be patient with Bonfrere and give him the time he needs to rebuild the national team. Losses will occur, but if we want a long-term solution, that needs to be accepted.


by Brian Lee
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