World Cup: What’s Left For Korea After Devastating Loss To Algeria


So much for exceeding expectations. After tying with Russia five days ago, South Korea took a knockout blow from Algeria in its second 2014 FIFA World Cup match, losing 4-2.

Algeria, which changed five players in their starting lineup after their 2-1 loss to Belgium in the first game, blitzed Korea and scored three goals in the first half alone. The shell-shocked Koreans came back strong in the second half with two goals, but the damage had already been done by the time they tried to turn things around.

Three thoughts on Korea’s loss:

Technically, Korea is still alive in the competition even with just one point from two matches, but they need a miracle to advance from Group H.
The loss to Algeria by a two-goal margin drops Korea down to the very last place in the group. Belgium already clinched its berth to the next round with six points, followed by Algeria and Russia with three points and one point, respectively. Korea must beat group leader Belgium on Thursday by at least two goals and needs Russia to beat Algeria by a scoreline of 1-0. Perhaps the good news is that Marc Wilmots, the Belgian head coach, said he’s likely to start his second string players to rest his regular starters for the match against Korea in order to prepare for the second round.

All of Korea’s attack was a one-man show by Son Heung-min.
The Korean players seemed flatfooted and lethargic on both ends of the pitch. However, there was one player who created all sorts of problems for the Algerian defense when Korea somehow managed to deliver the ball to him—the 21-year-old Son Heung-min, who plays professionally at Bayer Leverkusen in Germany. Son, who scored in the second half to spark the comeback that eventually fell short, had nine successful dribble penetrations in the match, the highest among any other players at this year’s  World Cup. What’s more astounding is that eight of those nine dribble penetrations were in the opponent’s half, which is also a tournament-high among players of all teams.

This Korean team is in severe need of a veteran presence.
The average age of the Korean team in Brazil is just 26.1. Belgium, Korea’s next opponent, is younger on average at 25.6, but it has a 36-year-old veteran Daniel van Buyten whose decision to retire from international soccer at the end of the World Cup certainly serves as a motivation for the rest of the team. Algeria is led by a 31-year-old captain Majid Bougherra and Russia also consists of several veteran players. Korea’s only player above 30 is Kwak Tae-hwi at 32, and has very little international experience. Perhaps the 33-year-old Cha Du-ri, a two-time World Cup veteran who missed the cut for this year’s tournament in Brazil, summed it up best in his post-match broadcast commentary for Korean TV network SBS:

Our players gave the game away in span of about 10 minutes, because they lacked experience. It’s disappointing because I feel like I owe them an apology. It’s important for veterans like me to play well and earn a place on the team, so that these young players have someone leading them. I couldn’t do that, so our young guys had to carry the responsibility that they didn’t deserve. So I want to say sorry.