World Cup: Post-Game Thoughts On Korea’s Draw With Russia


Despite taking the lead with Lee Keun-ho’s go-ahead goal in the 68th minute, South Korea settled for a 1-1 draw with Russia in its first game at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil on Tuesday. Korea is now tied for second place in Group H behind Belgium which defeated Algeria 2-1 earlier that day. Korea takes on Algeria this Sunday at 3 p.m. EST.

Here are three thoughts on the game.

Expect Korea to get better as the tournament progresses. Many Team Korea fans may be disappointed that their team couldn’t hold on to the lead with only about 15 minutes remaining, but head coach Hong Myung-bo has a track record of building a stronger team as these tournaments progress. In his first international tournament in 2009, the Under-20 World Cup in Egypt, Hong led Korea to the quarterfinals after losing 2-0 to Cameroon in the first game of the group stages. At the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, Korea only managed a draw against Mexico in its very first game, but went on to beat Switzerland, the U.K. and Japan to win a historical bronze medal. Korea’s renowned Japanese physical trainer, Seigo Ikeda, also worked with the previous two teams. He’s famous for designing a training program for players to gradually peak with more games.

Han Kook-young is a real find. Before the tournament began, Han—Korea’s defensive midfielder—was considered to be the weak link of the team. In his World Cup debut, the 24-year-old midfielder anchored Korea’s defense with a first class performance against the Russians. To put his pleasantly surprising performance into perspective, Han ran a total of seven miles in the game, outworking the Russians whose individuals averaged six miles. What makes Han’s fine performance in Brazil even more special is the heartbreak he suffered in 2012 when he broke his foot days before the Summer Olympic Games and missed the competition altogether. Han, who is currently playing professionally in Japan, is drawing interest from several European clubs. If he maintains his level of performances against Russia for the rest of the tournament, he could soon be on his way to Europe.

Team Korea’s stars—Ki Sung-yueng and Son Heung-min—delivered when it counted most. Head coach Hong Myung-bo emphasizes “balance” between attack and defense as the most important factor for his team to play the way he wants. Two players with critical roles of striking that balance is Ki and Son. Ki completed 84 percent of his passes throughout the game. His contribution to Korea’s ball circulation as well as his smooth touches in the defensive half helped his team free itself from Russia’s high press. Also, even though Son couldn’t score, he played an instrumental role in spearheading Korea’s attack by getting to the end of passes and making electric runs into dangerous areas. Even though it was Lee Keun-ho who scored Korea’s goal, Son’s overall performance was impressive enough for him to earn the Man of the Match honor after the game.