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Taeguk Warriors continue losing streak

Last-minute rally came too late to stop Poland from winning 3-2
Mar 29,2018
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The Korean national football team, in red and black, compete for the ball against Poland during a friendly match at the Silesian Stadium in Chorzow, Poland on Tuesday. [YONHAP]
Korea lost its second friendly match of the year 2-3 against Poland on Tuesday, just missing out on a draw in a tense contest that saw three goals scored in the final 5 minutes.

Despite stepping up their game in the second half, the team still lacked a strong defense. With another loss, No. 59 Korea has started the year with two straight losses. The team also lost 2-1 Northern Ireland on Saturday.

“I think we fought well against Poland,” head coach Shin Tae-yong was quoted as saying on Yonhap News Agency. “It’s positive that we didn’t give up even though we were two goals down. It’s also encouraging that we were able to score two goals against opposing players with good physiques.”

Since the match against sixth ranked Poland was played in preparation for the team’s FIFA World Cup group match against top ranked Germany, Shin came up with a 3-4-3 formation, focusing heavily on defense.

Korea attempted to slow down the tempo of the game and score later in the match, which seemed to be working until halfway into the first 45 minutes. Poland broke the silence after 30 minutes, as Robert Lewandowski successfully made a header assisted by Kamil Grosicki.

Then, right before the end of the first half, Grosicki scored to extend Poland’s lead to two.

“At the World Cup, all teams are stronger than we are, and if we concede easy goals, we’ll face serious problems,” Son was quoted as saying on Yonhap. “We have to consider that Germany is stronger than Poland. If we concede goals like we did in the first half, we’ll really have some trouble.”

Heading into the second half, Shin made a change to a 4-4-2 formation and brought on Hwang Hee-chan, changing the game plan from defensive to attacking. Keeping the same formation, Shin made additional changes in the lineup in the second half, bringing on Yun Young-sun, Choi Chul-soon, Kim Shin-wook and Lee Chang-min.

Two goals ahead with only a few minutes left to play, the Polish team grew complacent. Korea mounted a comeback in the 88th minute, with Lee scoring the team’s first goal of the match assisted by Son Heung-min. Then, a minute later, Korea tied the match as Hwang scored assisted by Park Joo-ho.

Despite the impressive comeback, Korea couldn’t hold things down for the final couple of minutes, with Poland snatching a win with a third goal just before the final whistle.

“It’s positive that our strong mentality helped us score two goals, but as players it’s a pity that we couldn’t get a good result in the end,” Son said after the game. “It makes us think about our shortcomings instead of our strengths. We have to accept that we’re not superior to others and need to concentrate even on small things.”

“We should stay focused until the final whistle,” head coach Shin said. “I’ll make our players keep their concentration and have a strong mentality until the end.”

Now that the two friendly matches in Europe have ended, Shin will announce the final roster mid-May and the team will be called up on May 21. Starting on May 28, Korea will play two friendly games against Honduras and Bosnia and Herzegovina on June 1, before leaving to Salzburg, Austria on June 3. Before heading to Russia, Korea will play two more friendly matches in Austria, against Bolivia on June 7 and against Senegal on June 11.

At the 2018 FIFA World Cup, starting on June 14, Korea is assigned to Group F along with Germany, 19th ranked Sweden and 17th ranked Mexico.

BY SONG JI-HOON, KANG YOO-RIM [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]