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Opinion: Is It Right To Let Shin Tae-yong Go?

Despite an emotional 2-0 victory in their final group match against defending champions Germany, South Korea did not advance from the group stage of this year's World Cup in Russia.  Interest for the men's national team seemed at an all-time low on occasion, and much has to do with the overall ineptness of Shin Tae-yong to utilize the squad he had at his disposal.  Some will argue that Korea were in fact depleted with so many injuries befalling the team before the tournament, but results on the pitch tell a much different story.

Failed Tactics, or Players Tuned Out?

It was perfectly easy to see that things would not go well for Korea at this World Cup based on their results leading up to the finals in Russia.  Having won only one of their four tuneup matches from May forward prior to the showcase, a 2-0 home win against Honduras in Daegu, where the star of Cho Hyun-woo was to be born, there was little else to be positive about as failed tactics and a lack of realization in front of goal contributed greatly to what was to come in Russia.

Shin wasted too much time experimenting with his lineup, which proved two things.  Firstly, he didn't have a grasp of coaching at the senior level, which calls into question why he was selected to lead the squad to Russia in the first place, and second, and more importantly, he showed a complete distrust in his players.

Even the match against Honduras was difficult to watch, particularly in the first half, when Korea struggled to make an impact in the offensive half of the pitch, before scoring twice after the break.

Entering the finals on a three match winless streak, which included a 3-1 embarrassment at home against Bosna-Herzegovina in Jeonju in early June proved that Korea under Shin was always going to be a team lacking direction, and it showed through when it mattered most in the first two matches against Sweden and Mexico.

However, there is a case that could be made for the fact that the players themselves were completely aware that Shin was not the type of coach who could lead them to success at these finals.  

In the first match against Sweden, which was Korea's best chance to win on paper, they didn't go forward with the sort of urgency needed to get a result.  The same was true against Mexico, as a 4-3-3 attacking oriented formation quickly reverted to a 4-5-1 defensive structure too often for Korea's speed men to be able to impact the result in their favor, instead having to settle for a consolation goal in injury time, a scorcher of a hit from Son Heung-min, of whom so much was expected in Russia.

Did they really want to play for Shin?  At times, it really didn't seem to be the case.  He was brought in near the end of the qualifying campaign and he only managed two draws, even though it was enough to punch their ticket to the finals.

Shin never really seemed to have his hands on the reigns of the squad, and that could have easily given the players reason to tune out to Shin's approach.  A perfect example of this was made apparent when the players switched their jersey numbers in training in an attempt to try to confuse the opposition.  Not only did this show a complete lack of mental preparation on Shin's part, but also a deep lack of respect for his opponents.

U-20 Failure at Home: Was it a Sign of Things to Come?

When the U-20 World Cup was held in Korea last year, fans were blessed to a spectacle of fantastic football from players who will soon become household names in their own right in the years to come.  To be sure, several of them will most likely make their maiden appearance at the next World Cup in Qatar.

The home team led by Shin started well enough, with back-to-back wins over Guinea by a score of 3-0 and a surprise 2-1 success over Argentina, highlighted by Lee Seung-woo chipping Argentine 'keeper Franco Petrolli to open the scoring.  They would finish out the group stage with a 1-0 defeat to eventual champions England, but they were outplayed considerably from a statistical standpoint against stronger opposition.

This realization made it clear that Korea's exit at the first knockout phase, a 3-1 loss to Portugal in the Round of 16, was inevitable.  Lee Seung-woo showed well for Korea however, and many considered him to be one of Korea's "futures" despite what was for some an early exit.

Ahead of this year's finals, there was much debate over how much playing time Lee should get, with a fair number of observers concluding that he should indeed have been considered for the first eleven, but in the end, his time on the pitch was quite limited.

Then there is the debate with regards to coaching in the younger ranks as opposed to coaching senior players in the national program.  The end conclusion is that Shin failed in both respects, as he chose openly to disregard one of his brightest young stars for the majority of the tournament in Russia.

Germany: A Players' Victory

While their performances in their first two matches left them with little or no hope of getting past the group stage, there was a different motivation in the Korean side as they took the field against the Germans to close out the group.

There was a sense of purpose, a sense of the players playing for each other like they had not done before, a sense that they would at least exit stage left with their heads high.

They were able to keep the Germans off the scoresheet the entire match, thanks in large part to the exploits of Cho Hyun-woo, who has become Korea's next big thing thanks to his overall exceptional performance at these finals, by far the team's best player over the three matches, conceded penalties notwithstanding.

In their final match against the defending champions, there was a sense that they wanted to win.  They fought.  They contained the Germans, and then they took advantage of their chances when presented with the opportunity.

Kim Young-gwon and Son Heung-min scored within minutes of each other in injury time to seal one of the greatest shock upsets in World Cup history.  And, they did it as a team.  They did it as a group of players who amongst themselves pledged to go out and defend their pride, doing so in style.

Perhaps the victory over Germany will signal the beginning of a new chapter in Korean football in the near future.  It would be a shame to see this group go to waste, because there is considerable talent here upon further examination, and, with the right direction, the only place to go is up.

Life After Shin

It seemed that Shin was always looking for a scapegoat to hide his own shortcomings as a manager during his tenure with the national team.  Whether it was lamenting injuries to key players, such as Kim Min-jae and Lee Keun-ho, before the tournament, or lack of organization on the pitch leading to poor results because of his lack of preparation, there always seemed to be a reason why Korea came up short.

In fact, it was Shin himself who was the perpetrator of the entire situation.  Thus, it came as no surprise when reports began circling that the KFA rendered will decide not to continue with Shin immediately upon the team's return home from Russia, though no official statement has yet been made.


He expressed his pride in the players following their defeat to Mexico, which indeed sealed his fate as manager of the national team.  After the win against Germany, he told the media he felt "empty," with media reports stating he gave his players only a "one per cent chance" of victory and a place in the knockouts.

It's no wonder that the players themselves took matters into their own hands and ended up with the victory in the end.  

According to Shin, a win against Germany likely would have curtailed any criticism at home, then the time would come to give an explanation.  

His final words were that he and his staff would get together to review their final match, as well as the others, so that they could prepare better in the future.

Were he out of the picture, preparations for the future could move along quite nicely.

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