This international break has been particularly unkind to the Korean men’s football squad. In their second friendly in preparation for the World Cup in Russia, this time against Poland, they fell to defeat by a score of 3-2.
Korea was under pressure right from the beginning of the match as Poland had much of the possession and were threatening in front of goal. They could have gone ahead if not for their poor final touch in the area on several occasions.
There was some hope for Korea though as Lee Jae-sung managed to test Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the 12th minute. However, his shot on goal proved to be of little difficulty to handle.
Ten minutes later, it was the home side who almost went into the lead when Kamil Grosicki had enough space on the right flank to cross into the box for Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski. However, Kim Seung-gyu was able to keep the ball out of the net from close range.
The Poles kept pressing and would get their reward just after the hour mark. The same combination which created the earlier chance wreaked havoc on the Korean back line again as Grosicki crossed into the area, this time from the left, for Lewandowski. The striker atoned for his earlier miss by slotting a header into the bottom right corner to put the European side into the lead.
Korea’s defense took a hit in the 38th minute when Kim Min-jae, who did not perform particularly well in the friendly against Northern Ireland last Saturday, had to leave the match because of an injury.
The agony was compounded when Poland went two in front just on the stroke of halftime. This time it was Grosicki who fired home following a nice assist from Krzysztof Maczynski.
Aside from a few half chances in the early stages of the second half, it looked as though there would be no way back for Korea to salvage anything from the match.
That all changed when Jeju United midfielder Lee Chang-min was introduced to proceedings with just ten minutes left in regular time.
He was one of the discoveries against Northern Ireland and proved his skill once again against Poland.
Only five minutes after coming on, he powered a low shot from outside the area into the bottom left corner following a nice pass from Son Heung-min to cut the deficit in half.
Only two minutes later, Korea would get an equalizer through Hwang Hee-chan whose shot beat Szczesny low and to the right, capping what seemed to be an improbable comeback.
The joy was short-lived, however, as another defensive breakdown led to a Polish winner in the second minute of injury time. This time Piotr Zielinski was given ample space and time at the top of the box to blast home a shot into the top corner past Kim, leaving the Koreans to ponder once again how to mend the gaps in their defense ahead of football’s prime showcase in just over two months time.
Following another shoddy defensive effort, it looks as though it will be back to the drawing board for Shin Tae-yong and his staff as they look to find a solution for the leaky back line.
If a solution can’t be rendered in time, the floodgates could be waiting to open once the squad touches down in Russia. The good news is that Korea will have another chance to get things moving in the right direction on May 28 against Honduras.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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