Friday 5 September 2014
South Korea 3-1 Venezuela
The Noel Sanvicente era began in Bucheon with defeat as a line-up consisting mainly of regulars from the Farías reign plus a couple who were overlooked and one discombobulating absence were gradually overran by a Korean side keen to avoid any more toffees being lobbed at them, with the crowd of over 30,000 similarly eager to see their representatives compensate for a dire World Cup campaign.
(4-2-3-1): Hernández; Rosales, Vizcarrondo, Perozo, Cichero; Rincón, Jiménez; Martínez, Guerra, M. Rondón; S. Rondón.
Substitutes: Falcón for Martínez (’56), Seijas for Jiménez (’62), Miku for M. Rondón (69′) and González for S. Rondón (’74).
(For additional information, such as the South Korea line-up and the unused substitutes, click here.)
Arranging his side in a formation resembling the in-vogue 4-2-3-1, the new boss, affectionately known as ‘El Chita’, unsurprisingly opted for Real Valladolid’s Dani Hernández in goal, with Málaga new-boy Roberto Rosales at right-back and Nantes’s reliable Oswaldo Vizcarrondo as one of the centre-backs. However, finding Vizcarrondo a partner provided the former Zamora coach with some problems as both Fulham’s ostracised Basque, Fernando Amorebieta (club and possibly personal issues), and Buriram United colossus, Andrés Túñez (injury), could not be called upon. Instead, Sanvicente opted for Ajaccio’s experienced Grenddy Perozo, who has recently returned from injury, with Gabriel Cichero, currently back from Europe on loan at Mineros de Guayana, playing on the left side of the back line.
Playing in front of this back four, Tomás Rincón’s inclusion was never in doubt and he will have surely been honoured to have been awarded the captain’s armband, recently vacated by the veteran icon Juan Arango, who had asked not to be included in this squad but may return once he feels he has settled at his new club in Mexico. Yet there was some unexpected drama regarding Rincón’s partner-in-crime, as Rafael Acosta was originally pencilled in to play but suffered a strained right calf in a run on the morning of the match and was summarily replaced by his Mineros team-mate Édgar Jiménez who, despite nearing the age of thirty, has now been capped for the sixth time.
The attacking three in front of this line consisted of two players who had regularly featured in the line-ups of Farías, Torino’s emerging talent Josef Martínez (playing on one of the flanks) and Atlético Nacional’s Alejandro ‘Lobo’ Guerra (playing more centrally), who were joined by Mario Rondón who, despite regularly starring for Portuguese side Nacional, has no more than a handful of caps to his name. He was afforded a rare opportunity to show what he can do from the start and was to link up regularly with the lone striker and undisputed biggest name in the side, Salomón Rondón, who has been firing in the goals at a formidable rate for Zenit St. Petersburg since his arrival in January.
For extensive highlights of the first half, click here.
It is unfortunate that Sanvicente’s reign is likely to begin with a decline from their, arguably undeserved, record-high FIFA ranking of 29th in the world (South Korea are currently 57th) but things could well have been different had Salomón Rondón managed to convert a gilt-edged opportunity with less than three minutes on the clock. Indeed, at a time when many Venezuelans, lacking any live domestic television coverage, were still attempting to connect to shady online streams, a low pass across the area from the right found the Zenit goal-machine unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box. Yet, perhaps due to a lack of concentration and/or a casual instinctive assumption that there would be plenty more opportunities to come – as is often the case in Russia – his attempted tap-in was blocked by the goalkeeper, leaving Rondón with a stunned expression on his face.
It was a rather open game in the first quarter, though Korea did gradually come to enjoy more of the ball in the final third, with Son Heung-Min, who exposed many defensive frailties throughout the match, letting Venezuela’s back line know what they were up against from an early stage. After 11 minutes, the Bayer Leverkusen forward craftily evaded two challenges, nearly winning a penalty following a collision with Vizcarrondo and just a few minutes later, he struck a pacey 25-yard drive at Hernández, who parried the shot a little too close to his goalmouth for comfort. The Valladolid goalkeeper was to look vulnerable on several occasions throughout the match yet it was his opposite number, Kim Jin-hyeon, who was to make the most egregious howler of the evening, gifting Venezuela the lead against the run of play after 21 minutes. What should have been a routine clearance was hit low and consequently blocked and chipped speedily with sublime grace by Mario Rondón from nearly 40 yards, providing his compatriots with a moment to savour that came out of nothing and, of course, aiding his personal cause for more starts in the future.
Korea attempted to get an immediate response and were able to gain some space down the right flank to put in some testing crosses though Cichero, the man primarily responsible for shielding this area, did manage to get forward on his left in the 29th minute to put in a cross that Mario Rondón attempted to nod back into the path of his namesake Salomón, though could not quite guide it towards him. Nevertheless, Korea were having more success exploiting the holes, slow tracking and general disorganisation that was a hallmark of Venezuelan defence throughout the game and in the 33rd minute they found themselves on level terms. The goal came following a forward pass from the halfway line to Son Heung-min on the inside-left, who caused disarray as he bombed forward towards the edge of the area, turning when surrounded, to slide in the onrushing Lee Chung-yong on the edge of the dee. He ran into the area and attempted a low cross from an acute position on the left side of the six-yard box which was blocked by a defender but fell to Lee-Myung-joo – another Korean not short of space – who controlled the ball, then curled a wonderful shot into the far corner of the net.
In the remainder of the half, the closest Venezuela came to restoring their lead was an attempted acrobatic effort from Perozo that did not really connect with the flick-on from Vizcarrondo but it was up the other end where the most dangerous attacks occurred, as Sanvicente’s boys were regularly found desperately scrambling around, attempting to block shots and keep up with attackers.
For extensive highlights of the second half, click here.
Just over a minute into the second-half, Hernández needlessly punched out a harmless cross, an act that was not only highlighted several times in replays but which was also one of at least a few instances of his poor decision-making, which could not have helped the confidence of the already hesitant back line. Shortly after in the 52nd minute he was picking the ball out of his net as Lee Dong-Gook, recalled at the age of 35 to earn his 100th cap, rose high to head home a corner that hit the underside of the bar before crossing the line to put South Korea 2-1 up.
Afterwards, Venezuela struggled to really get back into an increasingly dirty game, with a Vizcarrondo header from a corner that sailed well over the bar the best chance they had before Lee Dong-Gook turned up again to score his second and Korea’s third in the 63nd minute. This goal, far more than the other two, really highlighted Venezuela’s defensive disarray as, after Cichero was easily beaten for pace on his left, the ball was briefly recovered until Seijas (the replacement for Jiménez) was dispossessed and a cross was sent in that was closer to both Vizcarrondo and Rosales than any attacker, yet both men failed to deal with it. It is debatable as to who the main culprit is, as though Rosales looked absolutely hapless, facing the wrong way as the ball bounced off his back and into the path of Lee Dong-Gook, he was not helped by Vizcarrondo’s air-jump that may have made minor contact with the ball, thus diverting it away from the head of Rosales and towards his back.
Less than ten minutes after the goal, little had been learned as Son Heung-Min easily out-jumped the diminutive Rosales to get onto another cross from the Venezuelan left and headed just over. Soon after and again from the left, Son Heung-Min was played into acres of space within the area but Hernández blocked his shot from an acute angle, yet barely a minute afterwards the goalkeeper nearly emulated his opposite number’s first-half embarrassment, when his clearance was almost blocked by an opponent. However, luckily for the Valladolid man, the Korean could not quite get a strong enough leg in the way to stop the ball and cause further embarrassment to Venezuela.
For the remainder of the game, Korea had a few more dangerous attacks and the closest the South Americans could get to another goal came courtesy of some half-chances that were often started by space-opening passes to the flanks from Rincón that substitutes Alexander González, Juan Falcón and Miku could not quite finish off. With five minutes left on the clock, a rather downbeat new dawn was capped off by Salomón Rondón, now sitting on the bench having been substituted, receiving a red card. Although there has been no official word on why he was sent off, it was most likely for vociferously protesting at match officials, as some rather strong challenges had gone unpunished throughout the game and particularly in the second half.
Nevertheless, as it was a friendly match, he will not be missing the next test against Japan later on today and though for this Sanvicente will want to improve the organisation and confidence of the back line as well as create a system that facilitates more clear shooting opportunities, as this was his first match, it is perhaps not worth drawing too many conclusions from it. What we can say is, though there were a few changes, the majority of this team were regulars under the previous incumbent yet have only played together once previously in the preceding 11 months, which may explain some of the disorganisation, disarray and general ring-rustiness.
The line-up for the Japan game has already been announced and includes a few intriguing experimental changes from this first match and, depending on the performance, may well offer some clues as to the direction Sanvicente wishes to pursue. If you are up and about at 11:20am GMT, please join Hispanospherical on Twitter, where the game will be covered in more detail than anyone ever asked for. Look forward to hearing from you.