Taegeuk Warriors stumble to a win

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Taegeuk Warriors stumble to a win

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Korean national team players celebrate after a 2-1 win against Ghana on Tuesday at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, North Jeolla. [YONHAP]


The Korean men’s football team won both of their two recent friendly matches but for head coach Cho Kwang-rae, building a strong defensive line is still a task he needs to work on before the 2014 World Cup Asia Qualifiers start in September.

Cho said the national team’s defense against Ghana on Tuesday was not solid, like it was against Serbia last Friday. Korea beat Ghana 2-1 in Jeonju, North Jeolla, but the defenders had a hard time marking Ghana’s fast attackers.

“We need to organize a strong defense as a team,” Cho said at the post-match press conference. “I think the game was a good experience for the defenders.”

Before the two friendlies, Cho’s first priority on defense was finding the right candidate to fill the void left by veteran fullback Lee Young-pyo, who retired after the Asian Cup in January. But it turned out that it wasn’t as huge a problem as Cho expected. Kim Young-kwon, 21, was superb against Serbia by scoring a goal and providing an assist.

He was also decent against 15th-ranked Ghana. The fullback who plays for Japan’s Omiya Ardija didn’t shine much in attack but this time he was trying to contain Ghana’s Kwado Asamoah with his speed. He was substituted in the 89th minute for Park Won-jae of Jeonbuk Motors FC. Throughout the two international matches football pundits and fans were excited to see that a successor to Lee Young-pyo has finally been found.

But what gave Cho a headache against Ghana was the center-back pairing of Lee Jung-soo and Hong Jeong-ho. The two players defended well against the tall and powerful Serbian players but when they faced the speed of Ghana, both struggled to keep up.

In Tuesday’s game, Lee and Hong had particular trouble defending against Ghanaian striker Asamoah Gyan, who plays for English club Sunderland AFC. Hong gave away a penalty in the 13th minute after a clumsy challenge on Gyan after he had beaten the offside trap. Even though goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong made a fairly routine save after a poor penalty from Gyan, it was a warning to Korea’s defense about Ghana’s speed. A warning that was not heeded.

In the 62nd minute, Hong and Lee were again beaten by a combination of Gyan’s speed and slack marking, allowing him in to slot home to cancel out Ji Dong-won’s 10th minute opener. A pass from Sulley Muntari found Gyan in space between the center backs and the 26-year-old easily beat Jung with his left foot, making the score 1-1.

“We had no problem defending against Serbia but Ghana had players with quick feet and great physiques,” Lee Jung-soo said after the match. “We really need to practice hard before the World Cup qualifiers.”

Cho also agrees that the performance of his defenders wasn’t perfect. The 57-year-old said that even though Ghana is renowned for its fast attacking, the defenders should have done better.

“After we went a goal up, our defenders were not doing their job well against the long ball directed to their attackers,” Cho said. “Our players did slightly better in the second half, but we didn’t handle it great.”

Meanwhile, Cho said that aside from problems on defense, the team learned valuable lessons from the two friendly matches.

“The best thing is that the players have gained confidence,” Cho said. “They are adjusting well to a ‘transformed’ Korean football.”

In the game against Ghana, Cho tested Chunnam Dragons striker Ji Dong-won as a left midfielder, a decision that turned out to be success.

The 20-year-old scored the opening goal with a header in the 10th minute and it was his saved header that led to Koo Ja-cheol’s goal in the 89th minute.

Cho said Ji and Koo played well and are expected to be key players in the future.

“Ji is a diverse player who we can use in different positions,” Cho said. “Koo wasn’t in the best condition but he did well.”

The team has one more friendly, a trip to Japan on Aug. 10, before the World Cup Qualifiers. Since Cho took over the team last July, they have recorded nine wins, four draws and only one loss.


By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [일간스포츠]
조광래호 수비라인…측면은 ‘합격’ 중앙은 ‘불안’

세르비아·가나와의 평가전을 2연승으로 기분 좋게 마친 국가대표팀은 공격에서는 흡족했으나 수비에서는 숙제를 남겼다. 포백 수비라인에서도 좌우 측면은 안정감이 있었으나 중앙 수비수들의 불안이 노출됐다.

▶풀백은 OK

조광래 대표팀 감독은 지난 아시안컵을 끝으로 은퇴한 왼쪽 풀백 이영표의 대체자를 찾는데 고심했다. 그 빈자리는 김영권(21·오미야 아르디자)이라는 대체 카드를 찾았다. A매치 경험이 3경기에 불과했던 김영권은 세르비아·가나와의 두 경기에 모두 왼쪽 풀백으로 선발 출장했다. 가나전 후반 44분 박원재와 교체된 그는 사실상 2경기를 풀타임 뛰었다. 세르비아전에서 1골 1도움으로 확실한 눈도장을 받았다. 김영권은 왼발을 잘 쓰는 이점을 지닌데다 스피드도 빨라 조광래 감독이 원하는 왼쪽 풀백으로 적합하다.

오른쪽 사이드에는 차두리(31·셀틱)가 든든하게 지키고 있다. 에너자이저인 차두리는 박지성·이영표이 빠진 대표팀에서 최고참이 됐다. A매치 경험도 김정우(63경기)에 이어 60회로 두 번째로 많다. 스트라이커 출신으로 공격력을 갖춘 차두리는 적극적인 오버래핑이 장점이다. 가나전 도중 공격 가담에 나선 차두리는 코너플랙 근처에서 상대 수비수 다리 사이로 공을 빼 크로스를 올리는 기민한 플레이도 보여주기도 했다.

▶아쉬운 중앙 수비

이정수(31·알 사드)-홍정호(22·제주)가 맡은 중앙 수비는 아쉬움이 남았다. 가나전에서 빠르고 개인기가 뛰어난 공격수를 막는데 어려움을 겪었다. 공중볼 경합에서는 괜찮았지만 뒷 공간으로 파고드는 상대 공격수의 움직임을 자주 놓쳤다.

가나전에서 전반 페널티킥을 허용한 장면이나 후반 동점골을 내준 상황이 스피드가 빠른 아사모아 기안을 놓치고 상대 침투패스 한 방에 무너졌다. 홍정호는 골기퍼의 골킥 때 재빨리 뒤로 돌아나간 기안을 놓쳐 페널티박스 안에서 반칙을 저질렀다. 동점골 장면을 보면 기안은 이정수-홍정호 앞쪽에 있다가 설리 문타리의 패스타이밍에 뛰쳐나가 골기퍼와 일대일 상황을 만들었다.

조광래 감독은 "가나의 공격력이 워낙 좋았다. 개인의 능력보다는 팀의 조직력으로 수비를 강화해야 한다"며 "1-0으로 이기고 있을 때, 수비수들이 단번에 최전방 공격수로 이어지는 롱볼에 대처를 잘 못했다"라고 구체적으로 지적했다.

이제 A매치 9경기를 치른 홍정호와 이정수 사이의 호흡은 경험이 쌓일수록 나아질 수 있다. 홍정호의 자리에는 잔부상으로 제 컨디션이 아닌 황재원(30·수원)이 경쟁 상대다.

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