|South Korean forward Hawang Ui-Jo, surrounded by Kyrgyz players, reacts after a miss during the AFC Asian Cup Group C match between Kyrgyzstan and South Korea at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain, the United Arab Emirates, Friday. AP-Yonhap|
South Korea had no luck and precision against Kyrgyzstan at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup, Friday, which prevented them from scoring multiple goals, as they hit the woodwork three times.
However, the team beat Kyrgyzstan 1-0 at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain, the United Arab Emirates, to collect their second straight win in Group C. The Taeguk Warriors previously edged the Philippines 1-0 in their opening match, Monday.
The latest result put South Korea in the round of 16 regardless of their final group stage match against China, Wednesday.
For their first encounter with Kyrgyzstan, South Korea stuck to their usual 4-2-3-1 formation. However, Paulo Bento's side made three changes to their starting lineup from their opening match against the Philippines. With midfielders Lee Jae-sung and Ki Sung-yueng ruled out with injuries, South Korea deployed Lee Chung-yong and Hwang In-beom to fill their shoes. Left back Hong Chul made his first Asian Cup appearance by starting ahead of Kim Jin-su.
|South Korean midfielder Koo Ja-Cheol controls the ball in front of Kyrgyz Republic defender Daniel Tagoe during the AFC Asian Cup Group C match between Kyrgyzstan and South Korea at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain, the United Arab Emirates, Friday. AP-Yonhap|
Against the Philippines, South Korea had a difficult time hitting the net as the opponents decided to sit back and build a fortress near the box. But unlike the Philippines, Kyrgyzstan decided to challenge from the midfield and that didn't allow South Korea to dominate the ball possession as they did in the opening match.
South Korea had 71 percent of the possession against Kyrgyzstan, more than 10 percentage points down than in the match against the Philippines.
What really caused South Korea a problem in their attacking process though was their sloppy passes. In the opponents' half, South Korea only marked 76.6 percent of passing accuracy, according to match statistics provided by the AFC. This again was nearly 10 percentage points worse than against the Philippines.
|South Korean defender Kim Min-Jae fights for the ball with Kyrgyz Republic midfielder Bekzhan Sagynbaev during the AFC Asian Cup Group C football match between Kyrgyzstan and South Korea at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain, the United Arab Emirates, Friday. AP-Yonhap|
Against Kyrgyzstan, Bento apparently ordered his full backs to play more aggressively when South Korea had the ball. Both Hong and Lee were seen playing like wide wingers and were frequently seen delivering crosses to the box.
But South Korea again lacked accuracy on the flanks and were actually even worse than against the Philippines.
According to AFC statistics, Bento's side made 25 crosses against Kyrgyzstan with an accuracy rate of 24 percent, 6 percentage points down from the previous match.
South Korea's emphasis on wing play and active goal attempts did have a bright side: producing corner kicks.
The Taeguk Warriors only had three corners against the Philippines compared to 10 with Kyrgyzstan. And their match winning goal came from just such a set piece. In the 41st minute, Kim Min-jae unleashed a powerful header off Hong's corner.
|South Korean head coach Paulo Bento argues with a line referee during the AFC Asian Cup Group C match between Kyrgyzstan and South Korea at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain, the United Arab Emirates, Friday. AP-Yonhap|
They had several opportunities to double their lead in the second half, but the starting forward didn't have the finishing touch.
Hwang Ui-jo's header off Hong's cross hit the bar in the 68th, and in the 73rd, the Gamba Osaka striker's left-footed shot from a tight angle also rattled the bar following a save by goalkeeper Kutman Kadyrbekov. In the 76th, Hwang Hee-chan's right-footed effort at an empty net also hit the bar.
In the end, South Korea attempted 19 shots against Kyrgyzstan, and saw seven of them land on target. This was a slight improvement from the numbers in the previous match, which saw five out of 16 on target.
However, against the Philippines, only eight of the shots were made from inside the box. In the match against Kyrgyzstan, South Korea had 17 attempts inside the box, and the fact that only one was able to find the net actually indicates that the team's precision in the penalty area didn't improve. (Yonhap)