South Korea was headed in the right direction after the 2010 World Cup and the eventual hiring of Hong Myong-Bo as their new manager for the South Korean national team. Hong had some managerial experiences before as he coached the South Korean Olympic team to a bronze medal in 2012 Summer Olympic games and the Under-23 South Korean teams.
And the addition of a vast majority of players playing overseas in top competitions helped the growth of the sport in the country. With 10 players playing for clubs in respectable leagues, there was plenty of optimism and promise for the young South Korean team heading into the 2014 World Cup.
But in the end, their inexperience held them back from ever reaching their potential and expectations for the World Cup.
They ended the 2014 World Cup campaign finishing last in the group with only one point in three games and a minus 3 goal differential.
The Koreans were nowhere near their expectations of making it out of the group stages and get to the round of 16. They vastly underperformed and the blame should be on everybody except Son Heung-Min, Lee Keun-Ho and Kim Shin-Wook.
These three players were the stand-out players for the Koreans. They gave it their all in all of the games they’ve played and looked as if they wanted to make a difference in the game. Their passion and their willingness to keep going avoided humiliations from all of their games.
Son, in particular, wanted to make something happen every time he had the ball at his feet. As the star player for South Korea, he led by example with his dribbling and scoring abilities.
But, the supporting cast around these players failed to live up to their potential and to follow their lead to help Korea win.
Korean Football Association, KFA, should be the starting point of taking the blame. They refused to do what’s best for the team and utilized players who have connections within the hierarchy according to daum.net, a Korean website. These connections are either family or money related issues and those players were picked over players who were more deserving. Players such as Yun Suk-Young and Park Chu-Young, to name a few, were allowed to be in the starting line-up even though they barely played for their respective club teams.
Yun featured in 10 games this past season. Compare that to a player who plays in the same position, but is unable to play because of the lack of connection in the hierarchy, Park Joo-Ho, who featured 27 times for Mainz 05.
Now, it’s a no-brainer to start Park J. over Yung because one, he has more experience with 14 caps versus 7 caps respectively, and is match-fit because he has played all season. Considering Yun also plays for a Championship Club and barely featured compared to Park J. who plays in the Bundesliga and featured regularly should have been a signal to Hong that Park J. should’ve played over Yun. But then again, Hong had to listen to his superiors to choose his team and not what’s best for the team.
Park C. is another who should never play for the national team ever again. He is the type of player who gives absolutely nothing to the team, basically a waste of a roster spot. He is very slow; he cannot dribble, make runs, beat defenders, and encourage the team. As a veteran player, he should either lead by example or by giving team talks to encourage the team. Since he can’t lead by example, he should at least be vocal and lead the team that way. But, he does neither and just fills up the roster sheet rather than the stat sheet.
In contrast, Kim or Lee should’ve started over Park C. who would have performed much better than Park C. Lee adds pace to the team and his long range shots can be deadly from time to time as seen against the Russian game. Kim, on the other hand, would add an aerial threat that the Koreans would badly need, since Koreans are rather small in stature, and a physical presence. He was very effective against Algeria when he came on as a substitute and was again effective against Belgium when he was a starter.
Inserting either of these players would not guarantee Korea a berth to the round of 16. Yet, it would drastically make them better as a team from a tactical standpoint and would’ve had a better chance in all of their games. But, it’s also Hong’s inexperience that let the team down as well.
Hong, although appears to be in line to manage the team through the 2018 World Cup according to daum.net, has shown his inexperience as a manager in the World Cup and the KFA has only themselves to blame for that. KFA had a great chance to sign Luis Felipe Scolari, the current Brazil manager, as their new manager and he, himself, stated that he wishes to coach the South Korean National team according to daum.net. He just finished managing a Brazilian club and wanted to challenge himself by managing the South Korean team. But his wage demands were too much for the Koreans and felt it was necessary to not go after a World Cup winning coach and hire an inexperienced coach to manage the team.
Hong’s management skills were questionable, at best, as well as his tactical analysis. Hong’s failures to keep his team focused and not get complacent against Algeria as well as the questionable tactical awareness was a huge problem. Algeria completely exposed the inexperienced and unprepared Korean team and Hong has only himself to blame for that game, and he has admitted to it.
But, Korea also had an issue regarding the captain. A captain’s responsibility is to lead the team either by example or by vocally expressing his feelings. Koo Ja-Cheul, the South Korean skipper, isn’t the type of player to lead by example, but to vocally express his feelings toward his teammates. But, that captain type intangible is not there for Koo and was a wrong choice to be the captain.
Instead, Hong should have selected Lee Cheung-Yong, the veteran winger, as the first choice captain. Even though he is one of the quieter players in the dressing room, he has the leadership qualities to be a successful captain to lead the team. He leads by example and hustles all the time, although he was misused as a central midfielder instead of a winger during the tournament.
Korea used to have that kind of player and his name was Park Ji-Sung. He was the captain, not because he was the best player on the team, but because he led by example, guiding Korea to plethora of victories. His hustle and passion was transmitted to the other players which allowed them to perform at a higher level. Park’s presence as a player and captain on and off the pitch was badly missed in this World Cup. This youthful team needed a leader to guide them, but it was individuals doing their own thing for the betterment of themselves.
South Korea badly underperformed in the 2014 World Cup and Hong should take majority of the blame for it. His lack of managerial skills and the lack of ability to pick out the right captain for the team was a disaster waiting to happen. He has the experience now and will have better and more mature players in the next World Cup, but he should do what’s best for the team when picking his starting 11 and prepare the team better for each game and not just the important games.