At the end of the day, Russia and Algeria played to a draw which made qualification for Korea just about impossible and the result of the match just about moot. And Korea had a tough time getting past a tough Belgian defense, who bunkered down even harder after going down to ten men. Yes, Belgium played some new faces, but there was plenty of top talent.
Hong Myung Bo changed things up at striker with Kim Shin Wook coming in for Park Chu Young. He worked hard and provided space and balls for the attacking midfielders to work behind. And yet Korea still struggled, especially as Son looked a bit tired. But Korea was given a break just before the half when Defour received a red card just before the half.
In the second half, Han Kook Young was taken off and Koo shifted back to DM and Lee Keun Ho joining the attack. It provided a lot of life to have a player running and pulling defenders around even despite his few poor decisions. And moving the ineffective Koo out of the hole helped provide a bit of fluidity to the attack.
But then Hong went and made the surprising switch of dropping Kim Shin Wook in favor of Kim Bo Kyung. The Wookie did appear to be tiring somewhat, but he was still doing yards better than Lee Chung Yong who was one of the worst of the day. And when Son was taken off a few minutes later for Ji Dong Won, it certainly felt like momentum had been lost. And then Belgium scored by tapping in a rebound and soon Korea's World Cup was over.
It was somewhat disappointing to go out and not do more against a 10 man team as Belgium. And it illustrates the distance Korea has to go to reach the elite tiers, looking at how they struggled against a mixed lineup. But despite the continuous lack of sharpness that Korea exhibited all World Cup, the Korean players fought hard to the end. It was not their year after so many missed minutes from the players but hopefully lessons were learned so that this young squad will be better positioned for 2018.
I'll put up a more comprehensive autopsy of the Korean 2014 World Cup later this week.
Kim Seung Gyu - 6 - He did quite well. Still had a few moments showing his inexperience, but did far better than Jung Sung Ryung. I think he has the job for the immediate future (Asian Cup)
Lee Yong - 3 - Invisible to poor. I read that he was having fitness problems and it showed as he struggled.
Hong Jeong Ho - 6 - I thought he stepped up a lot. Still far from commanding but he looked to err on the side of taking charge rather than hoping someone else would do so.
Kim Young Gwon - 4 - Some parts were better but he needs to get better. He has a lot of the tools necessary to be a better CH but he lacks the strength and experience to be that now.
Yun Suk Young - 5 - He tried but his touch was a bit lacking. He needs to play regularly against a high level of competition to tap the potential he flashes every match.
Han Kook Young - 3 - Was a waste of starting spot. He needs to learn to tackle without sliding and has to contribute more going forward (and not lose the ball) if he wants to keep this role.
Ki Sung Yueng - 7 - Took charge and was willing to go into the box when nobody else seemed willing. His shot was so close and could have change the complexion of the match.
Son Heung Min - 6 - Still worked hard but he was not as sharp on the ball... probably fatigued. He needs to be able to handle this load better.
Koo Ja Cheol - 4 - Among the worst on the pitch as the 10. He slowed down every counter with bad passes and decisions. Only improvement was when he moved back where he may need to play if he wants a continued role on this team. His energy makes up for his lack of discipline in the back.
Lee Chung Yong - 3 - Supremely disappointing. I had no idea what he was trying to do, and he couldn't beat any defenders at all. Was he tired or fighting off injury? I'm not sure but it was a huge problem to have one flank where Belgium was weak, so poorly exploited.
Kim Bo Kyung - 4 - I'm not sure what the purpose of throwing this guy onto the pitch was. He likes to run at defenders and then spin around for no reason, then pass it back if he still has the ball. He needs to learn efficiency (not unlike Koo).
Ji Dong Won - 5 - Had a hard time integrating into the match and the match lost its spark soon after coming on.