South Korea was unable to find a miracle and lost to a 10-man Belgium side 1-0 as they crashed out of the World Cup.
South Korea made two changes from their original starting 11, opting to go with Kim Shin-Wook and Kim Seung-Gyu for Park Chu-Young and Jung Song-Ryong respectively.
Belgium, on the other hand, made seven changes in preparation for their round of sixteen game.
South Korean manager, Hong Myung-bo, wanted to change the dynamic of his team, going with a more direct style to utilize Kim’s aerial threat.
Both teams looked to get it going early, but it was Belgium who had the best chance in the game.
Dries Mertens had a glorious chance inside the box when the loose ball fell nicely to his feet in the 24th minute. Wide open and only the keeper to beat, Mertens had all the time and space in the world to give Belgium the early lead. But unfortunately, his composure lets him down and shoots it way over the bar, not even testing the keeper, Kim.
The Koreans tried to answer back with a chance of their own when midfielder, Ki Sung-Yong found space just outside the box and rifled one toward goal. Belgium goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, was able to get a hand on it to deny Ki in the 30th minute.
Then in the 44th minute, Steven Defour made a reckless late challenge with his studs up on the striker Kim, resulting in a red card.
With the Koreans in need of at least two goals to try and advance through the round of 16, Hong made a quick substitution in the start of the second half to try and exploit the 10-men Belgium team. By inserting Lee Keun-Ho for Han Kook-Young, the Koreans were going all out for the win.
But, they were badly exposed in the back as the more experienced Belgium team pressured the lesser experienced Korean team. Belgium created couple of chances, but Korea was able to hold their ground until Lee turned the ball over right in front of the box. Divock Origi is able to receive the ball after the turnover and takes a shot outside the box.
South Korean keeper, Kim, is able to make a decent save, but Belgium skipper, Jan Vertonghen, pounced on the rebound and finished it with the left foot with ease.
Even with a man up, South Korea was unable to prevent Belgium from scoring and it was over at that point.
South Korea finished last in the group with one point and a minus three goal differential. The game plan was good heading into this game, utilizing Kim’s aerial threat and making Belgium uncomfortable in the back.
But, Korea still lacks the kind of player who can create space on his own and make something happen.
Son Heung-Min, of Bayer Leverkusen, was supposed to be that guy, but he is still young and needs a little more help. But, the help isn’t coming for him and that’s where the Korean manager needs to come up with a game plan that’ll suit Son’s abilities. He had one goal in the tournament, but the lack of support from his teammates made it harder for Son to shine.
The defense, in this game, was a little bit better than the previous game, but their attack lacked the final ball. They were very conservative and tried to find their teammates rather than to attack the defenders at will.
Whether Hong is kept for the next World Cup or sacked right away remains to be seen, but it has been a very disappointing World Cup campaign for the Koreans. They were expected to move on to the round of 16 with the amount of young talent in the squad, but they fell far below their expectations, finishing last. This young South Korean team has plenty of promise, but there needs to be a leader that’ll take them to the next step whether it’s from the captain or the manager.