Hwang Seon-hong’s first step toward advancing to the 2024 Paris Olympics finals took a big hit. Although it doesn’t reflect on his performance, he did save face by suffering a crushing defeat at home to Qatar, his opponent in the U23 Asian Cup finals.
The Republic of Korea U-22 soccer team, led by coach Hwang Seon-hong, scored two goals against Qatar in the first match of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U23 Asian Cup Preliminary Group B match held at the main stadium of Changwon Football Center on the 6th and lost 0-2. It was a complete defeat.
In this tournament, a total of 16 teams will advance to the U-23 Asian Cup finals, including the first-place team from each of the 11 preliminary groups, the top four teams from the second-place groups, and the host country, Qatar.
Korea is the team that has reached the semifinals most times in the U-23 Asian Cup, which will be held for the 6th time next year. In addition to winning the 2020 Thailand tournament over Saudi Arabia, the team took second place in the 2016 Qatar tournament. He took 4th place in the 2013 and 2018 competitions, respectively.
However, in the most recently held 2022 Uzbekistan tournament, they were defeated 0-3 by Japan in the quarterfinals, sending a huge shock to the domestic soccer world. In particular, unlike Korea, Japan only had players under the age of 21 enter the U-23 Asian Cup in preparation for the Paris Olympics, so the pain of defeat was even greater. The first qualifying round held in Changwon is the starting point for avenging last year’s humiliation at next year’s Qatar Games.
The 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup finals will be held in April next year, serving as the final Asian qualifier for the Paris Olympics. The top three teams in the competition advance directly to the Olympic finals, and the fourth-place team must play a playoff against the fourth-place team in the African qualifiers for a spot in the Olympics.
If Korea secures a ticket to the Paris Olympics finals by placing in the top three at next year’s Qatar finals, it will become the first in the world to advance to the Olympic men’s soccer finals for the 10th time in a row.
Korea was in Group B with Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, and Myanmar in the preliminaries of this tournament. During this preliminary round, the match against Qatar, the host country of the finals, is considered a friendly match and the result of the match does not affect the rankings. However, the importance of this match was high for Hwang Seon-hong as it was an opponent he could face in the finals.
However, Korea needed to show good performance even though it was a friendly match against Qatar. Korea was unable to break through Qatar’s well-organized defense at all and suffered a shock loss by conceding two goals.
Korea went with a 4-1-4-1 pattern. Goalkeeper Baek Jong-beom, Min Kyung-hyun, Jo Seong-kwon, Jo Wi-je, and Lee Tae-seok formed the defense. Lee Jin-yong protected the defense alone in the midfield, while Uhm Seong, Kang Hyun-mook, Oh Jae-hyuk, and Jeon Byeong-gwan were in the second line, and Heo Yul was in the front line.
Qatar responded with a 4-3-3 pattern. The defense consisted of goalkeeper Youssef Amdullah, Abdalla Shirelka’s team, Mohamed Emad Aisash, Jassem Abdulsalam, and Hassan Fadrallah. Abdulaziz Hassan, Abdelrahman Zaki, and Osama Abdulkarim Al-Tairi defended the midfield, while Tamim Ansur Al-Abdullah, Iliyes Brimil, and Ahmed Allawi played in the attack.
Although it was a friendly match, the match against Qatar, which was played as a simulated final match, was not easy from the beginning of the first half. Qatar appeared to have the upper hand by taking possession with strong pressure and passing.
Korea overcame initial difficulties and attempted to attack by increasing ball possession time. Korea found a way through a flank attack, and in the 12th minute of the first half, Jeon Byeong-kwan shot Lee Tae-seok’s low cross from the left, but it was blocked by the goalkeeper’s save.
Two minutes later, Heo Yul penetrated the left flank and attempted a low cross again. Jeon Byeong-gwan shot a slightly long ball, but was unable to make an accurate shot.
Korea again created a chance on the wing. In the 24th minute, after a left turn, Uhm Seong penetrated and attempted a cutback. Heo Yul tried to shoot, but hit the high post. Earlier, Um Ji-seong’s position was offside, but missing the shot remained a regret.
Qatar attempted to advance by gaining the upper hand in the midfield battle. After succeeding in the possession battle in the 29th minute of the first half, Altairi attempted a shot with his right foot, which Baek Jong-beom threw his body to block.
Korea eventually collapsed in vain due to a single attack from Qatar. In the 38th minute of the first half, Allawi calmly controlled a long pass from the left with his chest and hit the right corner of the goal with an accurate right-footed shot.
Even right after conceding a goal, Korea went through a period of uncertainty, including a crisis due to a back pass mistake. In the 41st minute, there was confusion in the box and they conceded a goal to Allawi again.
Korea could not easily overcome Qatar’s defense and their decision-making power was also poor. During the 4 minutes of added time, Korea’s attack was dull and Qatar was allowed to shoot again. The first half ended just like that.
Hwang Seon-hong-ho made a change at the start of the second half. He removed Kang Hyeon-muk and Jeon Byeong-gwan and brought in Baek Sang-hoon and Hong Yun-sang. It was a change in the same place.
The early part of the second half was Korea’s trend. By increasing ball possession time in the offensive zone, shooting opportunities were created. Attacks were mainly made from the left side, where Uhm Uhm-seong was located.
Once Qatar was released from the defensive zone, it even connected with a threatening shot. In the 6th minute of the second half, Allawi attempted a mid-range shot again in open space, and Baek Jong-beom had to dive to block it.
As frustration continued in the offensive camp, Korea removed Jin-Yong Lee, who was protecting the defense, in the 15th minute of the second half and brought in Hyun-Joo Lee, a member of the second division of the German Bundesliga with good offensive ability.
But the frustration continued. As Qatar maintained possession, the attack time lengthened, and in the 21st minute of the second half, they made an absurd mistake in a throw-in situation and ended up conceding a point. The throw-in was headed into the goal after a fight for the aerial ball between Korean and Qatari players, but goalkeeper Baek Jong-beom made a mistake and the ball went beyond his height and bounced into the net. It was a gag-like mistake. Officially, it was Mansour Abdullah’s goal, but Baek Jong-beom’s judgment also left something to be desired.
Korea, which found it difficult to relieve pressure from its opponent, was unable to advance easily. Korea did not show enough organizational power in the center to make it difficult to cross the halfway line.
Uhm Uhm-seong struggled alone and had to provide vitality from the left. In the 30th minute of the second half, he struggled by taking a free kick near the left box and creating space by dribbling through.안전놀이터
Korea created space little by little. In the 34th minute of the second half, Uhm Seong, who came into the center from a low cutback pass from the right side, connected with a shot. Although it flew high, it was a good shooting opportunity in the second half.
In the 41st minute of the second half, Park Chang-woo attempted a right-footed mid-range shot near the box, and the goalkeeper threw his body to block it. Afterwards, they tried to continue the offensive situation, but inaccurate passes and crosses interrupted the flow.
In the 45th minute of extra time in the second half, Tae-Seok Lee’s low cross from the left was headed toward Yul Heo, giving him an opportunity to score a goal, but this shot also went inaccurately high into the sky. Heo Yul fell down and was frustrated.
Korea, which continued its inaccurate attacks throughout the extra time, successfully saved face against Qatar. In this age group, Korea was inferior to Qatar with a record of 1 win and 2 losses. Above all, even if they advanced to the Asian Cup finals by defeating Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan, their performance seemed difficult to match against them in the finals held in March next year, leaving only disappointment.
Korea will play the second match against Kyrgyzstan at the same venue at 8 p.m. on the 9th, and the third match against Myanmar at the Changwon Soccer Center on the 12th at 8 p.m. to advance to the finals. It appears to have a superior military power than Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan, but looking at its performance against Qatar, there is a question mark over whether it can easily defeat Kyrgyzstan, which is considered a Central Asian ambush.
In addition, even if they make it to the finals, the question remains as to how much they can improve in 7 months to win a ticket to the Paris Olympics. In the finals, it is expected that there will be a tough fight against Qatar, which defeated Korea that day, as well as Japan, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Today’s match against Qatar reminded us that if Korean soccer does not come to its senses, it will not be able to become the first team in the world to advance to the Olympic men’s soccer finals for the 10th consecutive time.
Unlike the Olympics, in the case of the U-23 Asian Cup, there is no rule for three wild cards over the age of 23 to participate, so the reality is that the members of this competition will have to train mainly and participate in the finals in April next year.
Coach Hwang, who is competing for a gold medal with the U-24 national team at the Hangzhou Asian Games starting on the 19th, has one more worry to worry about due to the crushing defeat of the U-22 national team.