Hey, guys, I am writing to share my thought with you. I noticed that there are many Koreans who seem to be overly jubilant about the "victory" (notice the quotation here. Penalty shoot-out isn’t a victory or a loss, it’s a draw in record. So let’s calm down here just a bit.) and that there are just too many overly dejected Japanese here about the game yesterday. (Firing Osim will not automatically put Japan in the top 10 elite teams in the world. Let’s be realistic. The problems of Korean and Japanese soccer are far worse than a coaching choice or strategy points here. The problems lie in the fundamental aspect of playing soccer.) I am a Korean American, so by nature, I may be biased here. But hey who isn’t here? Anyway here we go, and I welcome any constructive comment (no pejorative one-liner please) from many posters so that we can shed different lights on the state of not only these two teams but on the whole Asia soccer. I am very confident that through our different outlook on our soccer we can learn many wonderful insights. Korea. Strength: Am I the only one here who believes that Korea is becoming more and more like Italians but with less skill? Or Detroit Pistons without any offensive power (Richard Hamilton)? I believe that we may have to get used to this 0-0 score for the future, for I sense that there will be more games like this. The greatest strength of Korean soccer team through this Asian cup tournament is that the team was able to finally stablize the four back formation in the defense. The emergence of Oh and Kim in the wing back positions brighten up the prospect of future Korean soccer. Both are young (presumably less than 23 years old?), fast, resilent, and smart. The only knock on these two new backs is that they do not have the physique to be constantly on a par with top of the line strikers playing in Europe. (But again, who else in Asia does have the physique to match up with the players like Henry, Rooney, or Ronaldo?) If anything, these two young players proved that they belong in Asia, and the caliber of their play should demonstrate that it would be awfully hard for any opposing Asian team to score against them. Granted, one single tournament isn’t enough to convincingly cement their status in the four back formation, and we should learn more about them as they play more A matches in the future. Weakness: I’ve gotta admit that Japanese players are far more technically superior than their Korean counterparts. For those of you who keep on insisting that Koreans are better technicians than Japanese… what games have you been watching??? Japanese players are crisp, sharp with their passing, and great athletes who know how to possess the ball and how to pass the ball through the openings. On the other hand, Korean players need to learn how to play in the grass. I don’t know whether it is the sandy nature of many Korean high school soccer field or it is the destruction of ozone layer fueling the rapid increase in the region’s temperature that destroyed many grass fields in Korea, but whatever the reason, Korean players need to learn play with the freaking ball. Being a good technician in the world of soccer doesn’t mean putting the ball 10 yards in front of you and starting a mad-dashing to the ball a la 100 meter dash. Being a good technician doesn’t and shouldn’t mean passing the ball five yards behind teammates in counter attack mode. Being a good technician doesn’t mean kicking a long ball to a group of red and white with close eyes and hoping prayers. Korean players need to get back to basic and learn to keep the ball on a consistent basis. Moreover, Korean players need to understand that offense starts with a defensive player intercepting the ball, controlling the ball clearly, and making a crisp pass in front of (not behind!) attacking teammates. Unfortunately, Korean players couldn’t do any of the aforementioned three things on a consistent basis. Oh, yeah, you can blame all you want on the coach, but one thing wont change: without the fluid passing game initiated by Korean defense, by the time Korea settles in the attacking mode, we will face 10 deep backs comfortably waiting in the opposite field. The lack of any sharp passing in the defense, the inability of any Korean midfielders to decisively win one-on-one battles with opposing midfielders (note: kicking and dashing in the sideline shouldn’t be counted as winning the one-on-one battle), and the horrendous crossing accuracy are all the fundamental problems imposed on Korea, and a simple coaching change or strategic tactics won’t fix these fundamental problems. Many of Koreans may feel vindicated that Korea was able to withstand and overcome the offensive-minded “A-level” Japanese team with one man down, but in essence, Korea has been guilty of not taking advantage of such clear opportunities (remember the East Asian Cup game a few years ago against China with not one, but two! man down???... we ended up tying the game 1-1, with the late free kick goal by Kim Jin Kyu). Moreover, I am really sick and tired of this B.S. “A-level,” “B-level”, and “C-level” ranting by both Korean and Japanese posters here. I don’t care about what happened to Park Jisung, Lee Youngpyo, or Seol. The members we brought to this tournament is our BEST team, our A-level team, so don’t try to find solace in the hypothetical, unsubstantiated comment like “Oh, with Park and Lee, we couldn’t have won with the margin of 3-0.” After all, the addition of Park and Lee (both of them are arguably midfielders) won’t in my opinion change the outcome of the matches. What Korea lacks are the offensive firepower and fundamental understanding of how to play soccer, not a work-horse midfielder. Park Ji Sung could have been a major plus in that he could help us control the midfield, but then who would receive his passing? Clearly, Korean team doesn’t have the players in the caliber of Rooney or Ronaldiho. So, let me make this crisp clear: This is the A-level team by Korea (the average age of Korean team be damned!), and an addition of one or two players wont make this team in any substantial way much better. This is the sad state of Korean soccer, and the very thin bench and thin talent pool in Korean soccer only worsens this state. Ditto to Japan. One missing player doesn’t automatically make A-level into B-level team. Missing two players doesn’t automatically make A-level into C-level team. Missing five players shouldn’t make A-level into D-level team. Japan, in my opinion, faces the same predicament faced by Korean soccer. The thin talent pool suggests that there isn’t a much difference in the quality of play between A-level and B-level team. And additional of Ono would only help the strength of midfield play, but again, I don’t see anyone in Japan who would be counted to finish the play on a consistent play. What? You think Inamoto, Yanigisawa would have helped Japan? Oh, please…. So, in sum, Korea team is basically a soccer team version of Ben Wallace (a former Detroit Pistons center) without ego but clearly without any offensive threat. I wholeheartedly sympathize with many Korean posters here who wish to believe that a coaching change would instantaneously transform Ben Wallace into Shaquile ONeil. But the truth of matter is that teaching Ben Wallace a trick of hook shots, fade away jumpshots would only confuse him. Japan.Strength: The firm coming out party for Nakamura and Takahara (?). I must admit that I wasn’t too high on Nakamura. At best, he was the Asian version of Beckham with a strong free kick and passing game but nothing else. Well, I was wrong. I found many of his awesome skills today, and I believe that he will be the backbone of Japan for many years to come. His vast vision on the field, up tempo passing game, crossing ability, and to some extent effective one-on-one maneuver clear stood out today. In terms of technicality, he was a head and shoulder above most players in the field yesterday. As for Takahara, this tournament was clearly a coming out party for him. Many of Japanese posters may feel like killing him, but before electrocuting him tomorrow, get realistic here. No Ronaldho, No Rooney for many, many years to come for both Korean and Japan, so stop whining about “Takahara this, Takahara that.” I have seen so many posts in Korean websites about things like “What if Kaka played for Korean team….” Well, the prospect of finding Kaka or at least grooming players to the level of Kaka or Rooney in Japan and Korea is highly unlikely, given the rigid systematic soccer training regime in the region, so posters here would have a more realistic musing on what to do with million dollar jackpot. Takahara is a good player, but a tier or two below the level of “greatness”. But again, I should mention this with some degree of conviction, who the hell in Asia can be put in the level of great strikers???? Right. Your silence suggests that lack of reliable forwards is rather a common problem for virtually every single team in Asia. It is the sad predicament faced by virtually every team, so let’s not go into bashing your “good” players who can’t quite reach the level of greatness. It is too early to give up on good players like Takahara, and admit this much: you guys don’t have any backup plan. Korean team certainly doesn’t. It’s either Jaejin Cho/Lee Donggook or a bust for Korea. Another point: Nakazawa (?), the full back center defense, is good, perhaps great, yes, really really good. He reminds me of Hong Myung Bo with better speed. I really like him. Weakness: lack of physical strength, soft play by some players who doesn’t belong to Japanese NT, the inability to finish off (ditto for Korea). All of these are rather a time honored problems for Japan, and I only see that these same elements are the ones that will continue to keep Japan from becoming elite soccer team in the world. I honestly believe that two strikers would be a better solution to Japan’s anemic offense. With Takahara firmly entrenched in the front, a shorter and faster striker (No, no okubo please. I have already seen many games of him, and he just wouldn’t cut it) would alleviate some of the problems in the offense. As much as I am enamored with Nakamura, I do feel that there were many moments in which he should have stepped up to fire up his teammates or vocally lead his teammates. There were many clear one on one chances for him in the side attack, but rather than attack with vengeance (especially against 10 men team), he passed to his teammates just too much at the end. As a leader, Nakamura failed to ante up the intensity of his teammates, and I believe that this – by no means marginal – mistake was his fault all the way. The lack of clear vocal leadership by Japan has been the major problem, and I honestly believe that more than a mere coaching change by Japan is warranted to address this problem. In sum, Japan resembles high flying Los Angeles Lakers with frustrated Nakamura waiting for others to step up than leading his teammates, you know those (my beloved) Lakers who gives the hints of flashness and greatness, but isn’t yet an elite team. As for Korea-Japan match, well, guys, you guys better get used to 0-0, or a boring 1-0 matches for many years to come. With or without Park Jisung, Ono, Yongpyo, Okubo, Inamoto, the teams yesterday were best both countries could offer, and a sequence of a soccer match could go like this: Short pass -> back pass-> forward pass-> cross! -> headed out -> back pass -> long pass -> intercepted -> short pass -> back pass -> forward pass -> cross!! (yet again) -> headed out (yet again)…. I don’t have to tell you which part is by Korean team, and which part is by Japanese team.