Korea gets little out of U.S. trip

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Korea gets little out of U.S. trip


Coach Hong Myung-bo reacts after the Taegeuk Warriors allowed the first goal of the match in the first half against the United States on Saturday in California. [NEWSIS]

The Korean national football team wrapped up its three-week training in Los Angeles, but it looks like it will return to Korea today empty-handed.

The Taegeuk Warriors, consisting of Korean league players led by Coach Hong Myung-bo, lost a friendly match to the United States, 2-0, in California on Saturday local time, wrapping up their trip with a win (1-0 against Costa Rica) and two losses (4-0 against Mexico).

The terrible performance calls into question the whole purpose of training without players in the European leagues. The team scored only one goal while giving up six in the three matches.

“I ask people not to blame the players because they did everything they were capable of,” Hong said. “I think I’m the one who is accountable for every poor performance that the players showed on the field.”

On Saturday, Hong again started the match with his favorite 4-2-3-1 formation, putting striker Kim Shin-wook on the top of the offensive line with attacking midfielders Kim Min-woo on the left wing, Lee Keun-ho at center and Ko Yo-han on the right. Veteran Lee Ho and Park Jong-woo were defensive midfielders.

It looked like Hong tried to show that he was testing his style - improving in ball possessions by dominating the midfield areas with aggressive pressure against opponents, but the attackers and defenders gave up space to their opponents.

The Americans easily made passes and crosses in Korea’s wide-open defense area. The United States took a 1-0 lead with a header by San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski only three minutes after the match began. Wondolowski scored his second goal in the 60th minute. The Taegeuk Warriors, who had trouble making passes against their opponent’s strong pressure in the midfield area, relied too much on so-called long-ball football - making long crosses to a tall striker - and often were flustered when their opponents made a cross from outside the penalty box.

Before the team went to Los Angeles, Hong said that he was willing to find a partner for midfielder Ki Sung-yueng of Sunderland, who is one of Hong’s two central defensive midfielders, but it looks as though he hasn’t completed that mission.

Park Jong-woo of the Busan I-Park started all three friendly matches, pairing up with Lee Myung-joo of the Pohang Steelers against Costa Rica and Mexico, then with Lee Ho against the United States, but he had difficulty overcoming pressure from opponents and delivering passes to attackers.

Lee Ho, who was a member of the 2006 Germany World Cup team, looked like he was no longer an A-match player and Lee Myung-joo had the same problems as Park.

Analysts predicted that the competition to become Ki’s partner will continue until Hong announces his final roster.

Five players, including the three plus Ha Dae-sung and Han Kuk-young, are competing for the position. Ha didn’t join the team because of an injury, and Han wasn’t called up by Hong this time.

“Without Ki, the team didn’t have a player who could distribute passes to attackers and to adjust the tempo of the game,” said analyst Kim Ho, a former national team coach. “Hong’s team consisted of only K-League players this time, so he can find some new faces for the World Cup roster, but I don’t see any impressive players.”

Kim said the Korea Football Association must reconsider having this meaningless three-week overseas training between January and February because players in the European leagues can’t join the team since it is during their regular season.

Also, the K-League players are not physically in shape because the league’s season ended in December and the new season hasn’t started yet.

Hong said he wants to find new faces among K-League players, but such poor performances might make fans distrust them.

“In the past, not so many players who participated in the January training were included in the final World Cup roster,” Kim said. “Before the training, Hong said his lineup was 80 percent complete. It means that only three to four players among the players in the Los Angeles training have a chance to play in Brazil. That won’t encourage the players.”

BY kwon sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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