2026 Asian World Cup qualifiers, Chinese national team suffers a complete defeat against South Korea with a score of 03 Son Heung-min single-handedly scores three goals, while Wei Shihao is injured and forced to leave the match How should we evaluate this game?

On the evening of November 21st, 2000 Beijing time, the second round of the AFC World Cup qualifiers Group C was held at the Shenzhen Universiade Center Stadium The Chinese mens national team faced off against South Korea at home In the first half, Son Heung-min scored two goals, Zhu Chenjies penalty kick caused controversy, Tan Long missed a good opportunity In the second half, Zhu Chenjie cleared the ball off the goal line, Wang Shangyuan was injured and substituted, and Zheng Shengxuan scored a goal In the end, the Chinese mens team lost 0-3 to South Korea at home In terms of the Group C standings, the Chinese team has 3 points and ranks second, while South Korea has 6 points and leads the group AFC World Cup qualifiers - Chinese team suffers a 0-3 defeat to South Korea, with Son Heung-min scoring 2 goals and providing 1 assist, referees multiple decisions causing controversy

VAR controversy mars China’s impressive performance against South Korea

I used to look down on Ma Ning, but now I find Ma Ning everywhere in foreign countries.

When blowing the penalty kick for the Chinese team, the main referee Jassim’s positioning was textbook-level, accurately occupying a parallel perspective outside the small penalty area, bending down to observe the players' confrontation with a clear view.

But the penalty kick was just so wrong no matter how you look at it.

Even at the beginning of the penalty, from Jassim’s gestures, it seemed that he firmly believed that Zhang Linpeng, who was two meters away from the scene at the time of the incident, was the offender. Later, under the protests of the Chinese team, he pointed again to Zhu Chenjie, who was flopping like a fish.

Of course, if there was VAR, we would have found out that Zhu Chenjie actually didn’t touch the South Korean player, and the biggest suspicion of foul should be on South Korea’s own Cho Gue Sung.

Clearly so blind, yet clearly so confident.

As long as the players from both sides are slightly dissatisfied with the decision, Jassim immediately sprints a hundred meters to threaten the players and warns them with cards.

Let’s just say, Ma Ning is more reasonable than him. Ma Ning would at least ask the linesman if the penalty decision was controversial.

In fact, the entire first half of the Chinese team was the best performance of a Chinese team in the past five years.

The last time we had such a performance against a strong Asian opponent was against Iran in the 2019 Asian Cup when Feng Xiaoting made a mistake in the first thirty minutes.

Yang Shiyuan insisted on the tactical approach of low defensive positioning and quick counterattacks against Thailand at the start, and the defense was relatively stable. The combination of central defenders Zhu Chenjie and Jiang Shenglong, one fierce in the tackle, the other solid in positioning, has a taste similar to the partnership of Fan Zhiyi and Zhang Enhua in the past.

Up front, Wei Shihao and Wu Lei frequently switched positions, and Tan Long could basically hold his ground against South Korea’s Jung Seung-Hyun. Once in a counterattack, even the defensive midfielder or central defender could directly send the ball to the weak side striker, causing chaos in South Korea’s defense.

However, the old problem when facing strong Asian teams still exists. The two defensive midfielders cannot push forward, or if they do push forward, they cannot retreat. Another outlet, Liu Binbin, is tightly marked by Huang Hee-chan, which results in the Chinese team’s counterattack efficiency being very low. Many times, they can only rely on one pass or individual breakthrough, and once it’s gone, they hand over the ball possession.

So even without that penalty, after the Chinese team exhausted their energy in frequent low-efficiency counterattacks, they would still probably lose under the siege of the South Korean team, but with much more dignity.

For example, like the national youth team at last year’s Asian Youth Championship, which exhausted all their strength but narrowly lost to South Korea.

Overall, this Chinese team is the most low-key and pragmatic national team in the past five years. As long as they can persevere, it shouldn’t be particularly difficult for them to advance from the group stage.

But the ceiling for this team is probably just like this. The long-standing issue of midfield toughness shows no signs of being resolved in the short term. We had been hoping that Li Ke could recover after his injury and regain his form, but from the two World Cup qualifiers, it seems that he may not be suitable for the national team anymore.

And the three players in the forward line will continue to lose their vitality as they age. Of course, we still have Zhang Yuning and Lin Liangming, but it still feels like we are missing someone.

Finally, let’s talk about Wu Lei.

For the current Chinese team, Wu Lei is actually a luxury.

In order for Wu Lei to perform well, three conditions must be met:

First, the team must play as a defensive and counterattacking unit to create space for Wu Lei;

Second, there must be playmakers in the midfield and defense who can immediately deliver threatening passes;

Third, there must be a center forward in the front line who can provide support and cover for Wu Lei.

All three conditions are indispensable.

The current Chinese team barely meets one and a half of these conditions, and the remaining half also depends on Zhang Yuning’s recovery.

In fact, it might be better to try starting a young player who can run and attack, as well as be aggressive and tenacious. Then use Wu Lei as a secret weapon in the second half to make an impact. This might yield better results.

That’s all.

China’s Defensive Tactics and South Korea’s Difficulty

After watching the first half, even though they were behind, in fact, the Chinese team played very well or it could be said that they defended very well.

Breaking down the bus is a difficult task for any team in the world, and the South Korean team is no exception.

In the past, China couldn’t win against South Korea largely because the Chinese team saw themselves as being on a similar level as the South Korean team. They mostly played an offensive game and rarely used the ‘bus’ tactics.

Now, China’s football team, which has plummeted drastically, has humbly placed themselves in a weak position and adopted the ‘bus’ tactics.

As a result, the South Korean team is actually having a difficult time.

China’s game plan is actually very simple: a defensive ‘bus’ in the back, with Wei Shihao providing the link in the middle, Tan Long acting as the pivot in the front, and then Wu Lei or Wei Shihao following up in the penalty area.

From what we’ve seen in the first half, the Chinese team has set up their ‘bus’ quite well.

The forward players retreat near the midfield line to intercept, the midfield players block in front of the penalty area, and the defenders are doing quite well.

However, due to the difference in individual player abilities, the Chinese team has had almost no offensive plays.

It’s a simple matter: this is China’s home ground, but Chinese players often stop the ball too high or too far away. As a result, they need to make an extra move to control the ball, and in the transition from defense to offense, if you make an extra move, you might miss the opportunity to attack.

On the other hand, the South Korean players hardly have this issue.

Unable to break through, the South Korean team has tried various methods to break down the ‘bus’, such as long shots, scrappy goals, free kicks, corners… The last two goals were a penalty and a corner, which are also common methods of breaking down the ‘bus’.

Similarly, due to technical issues, the Chinese players struggle to control and stop the ball, and the rhythm of the game is mostly controlled by South Korea. Such defense is very physically demanding.

It’s difficult to say whether China can maintain this high-intensity defense in the second half.

Once their stamina drops and there are gaps in the ‘bus’, they are likely to concede goals.


At the beginning of the second half,

Yang Kewuich seems to understand that defending like this is not enough, so he arranged for some attacking plays.

South Korea also withdrew accordingly.

But to be honest, I don’t have much confidence.

Although there are more opportunities to attack now, there are also more chances for South Korea to counterattack.

South Korea has also escaped from the predicament of facing the ‘bus’.

At the same time, it is still due to the limited individual abilities of the Chinese players.

The effectiveness of their attack is uncertain,

but if they are caught in a few counterattacks,

it would be dangerous.


Indeed, it is now the 60th minute and South Korea had one open goal kicked away by a defender, and another was a one-on-one opportunity that was tackled away. In the first half, South Korea hardly had such opportunities.


Everyone is blaming the referee, and indeed, the referee is not doing a good job. Most 50-50 balls are adjudicated in favor of South Korea.

This is also the result of years of chaos in the Chinese Football Association.


In the 77th minute, China’s rhythm was disrupted.

Liu Binbin played poorly in this game, it’s normal that his defense was not good, and Yang Kewuich probably wanted his contribution in attack, but it didn’t work out.

Then they were ready to substitute him, the substitute was already standing on the sidelines.

But at that moment, Wang Shangyuan got injured,

so they had to use Gao Tianyi temporarily.


It’s already the 90th minute, it’s basically over, let’s summarize.

  1. I have been criticizing the Chinese team for a long time, but they played well in this game and deserve praise.

  2. The referee was biased and significantly affected China’s attack and the players' mentality. This is the Chinese Football Association’s problem and they deserve to be criticized.

  3. The defense in open play was quite good, but they need to improve their set-piece defense, and there are significant problems in their attack.

  4. Several substitutions were made, Dai Weijun and Chen Puxi were highlights, Zhang Yuning didn’t perform well and he’s not even as good as Tan Long, who was constantly criticized and disappeared. As for Gao Tianyi, apart from committing a few fouls, he didn’t have much of an impact.

  5. In the second half, South Korea had two counterattacks and created the best scoring chances of the match. After failing to score, they resorted to a goal from a set-piece, showing their sharpness.

  6. The gap in quality is still considerable.

  7. If there are no fitness issues, Xiaodai can definitely start the next game. This way, China will have a second player besides Wei Shihao who can receive the ball.

  8. Yang Kewuich did well. From the formation to the substitutions, it can be seen that he has ideas and competency, but unfortunately, the Chinese players' abilities are lacking, and he’s probably very helpless.

Inability to Compete: Analysis of China vs. South Korea Match

When the South Korean team was awarded a controversial penalty, I was anxiously refreshing my feed on my commute. After watching the replay from different angles, all I can say is that we acknowledge the gap in terms of strength. Chinese fans are no strangers to witnessing the home team lowering their posture and playing defensively against stronger opponents. However, it is sickening and deadly to be blown off by a West Asian referee in our own home stadium.

Take a look at how “Hwang Ui-jo,” who has had multiple conflicts with the Chinese team, performed - he fell down at the same spot as his teammate Cao Guicai, seizing the opportunity to win a penalty and allowing Son Heung-min to open the scoring, thus breaking down the defense logic of the Chinese team in the eleventh minute. The balance of the game was tilted early on.

Later, when Liu Binbin tangled with Hwang Ui-jo on the wing, even though he didn’t have control of the ball, he managed to trick the referee into calling a foul by performing a “phantom Marseille turn,” thus retaining the possession that should have been lost. Being officiated in this way by a West Asian referee, along with the way the opponents played, is simply unacceptable.

Alright, after expressing my emotions regarding the controversial calls, it’s time to focus on the technical analysis, which should occupy the majority of the discussion.

Looking at the game itself, there weren’t many positive aspects for the Chinese team, but there were still some commendable moments. After falling behind early on, the team showed much stronger resilience under pressure. While the defense continued to be under pressure and they needed to push forward and seek counterattack opportunities, the team didn’t expose too many vulnerabilities for skillful players like Li Gangren to exploit. On the contrary, just before the end of the first half, when the Chinese team suddenly increased their pressure and collectively pressed high, they almost caused the Korean team’s defense, which was too relaxed, to collapse. Unfortunately, Tan Long’s shot was slightly off target. From this, we can also see that the overall configuration of the South Korean team is a bit unbalanced. They have numerous attacking talents at the front, but less protection from the double defensive midfielders, Huang Renfan and Park Joo-ho. Facing the sudden high press from the Chinese team’s defensive line, they may not be able to easily resolve the situation.

As fans, we are easily motivated. All we want is to see our national team fight and not give up easily. We want to see the spirit of persistence, even if there seems to be no way to win. That’s all.

Although the chances of a comeback in the second half were slim, the fighting spirit of the Chinese team under Li Tie’s coaching deserves praise. Tan Long couldn’t run anymore, Wu Xi couldn’t keep up, so the logical choice was to bring on fresh troops like Zhang Yuning and the playmaking Dai Weijun, to confront the opponents fiercely. When the Korean team took the ball from the midfield and launched a rapid counterattack, I could see our red-clad trio swiftly rushing back into the penalty area. Finally, it was the young player Zhu Chenjie, who was involved in the penalty incident caused by Hwang Ui-jo, who managed to block Li Gangren’s goal-bound shot with a flying save on the goal line, denying a certain goal that had already passed Yan Junling. I wonder if these selfless efforts can wash away the bitter memories left by Fu Huan?

In fact, we all know that the Chinese team’s strength and pace are not at the same level as the opponents. In this game, we did a good job of constantly restraining top players like Son Heung-min and Li Gangren in the running battle. However, in terms of our Achilles' heel - the arrangement and defense rhythm of set pieces - the well-coached Korean team, who have been immersed in the top tactical culture of the top five European leagues, dealt a blow. Son Heung-min’s ghostly near-post run and Klinsmann’s textbook header just before halftime completely disorganized our defensive positioning during set pieces. In the running game, with the encouragement of our Dragon supporters at home, we held on and tried to cross the ball, to boldly take possession and pressurize the Korean team’s offense and defense. Although we didn’t have many threatening opportunities, the team’s tactics were not aimless and there was a method to the madness. However, when it comes to set pieces, it’s a different story. After all, this aspect assesses the overall tactical execution and comprehensive ability of the team. We do have weaknesses in terms of physicality and protecting our goal from second-ball situations, just as I mentioned earlier. The Korean players have been exposed to the intensity and competitiveness of the top five European leagues year-round, completely surpassing the Chinese Super League. It is this weakness that resulted in the disadvantage of conceding goals today.

At this point, a 0-3 result is completely acceptable. What I hope to see is that based on today’s performance, if we continue to improve our set-piece defending system, reduce the loose marking, and strengthen the ball-playing ability of our midfielders, we can defeat Thailand in both legs and advance to the third stage of the Asian qualifiers with a favorable position. It is not just a pipedream.

China beats South Korea with unexpected performance.

The result was as expected, but the process exceeded expectations. The performance was even better than the first game, and it was the best game that Yangkovitch has coached so far.

One aspect is that the skill is not as good as the opponent. The value of the Chinese team is only 1/30th of that of South Korea, and the gap in strength is evident.

However, football matches are still about how the game is played. If it weren’t for the first unjust penalty kick that directly changed the balance, the South Korean team would have been left in the dark. Although they were trailing 0-2 in the first half, the performance was much better than the previous game against Japan, where they trailed 0-1 at halftime.

Even without that penalty kick, the Chinese team would still have a high probability of losing, but this kind of judgment is indeed unpleasant. The dog-like referee Jahim’s performance in this game made Anthony Taylor and Xiong Gongju La Oss look like elegant beings.

For the Chinese team, the most important opponents are still Thailand and Singapore.

If they can win against Singapore in the next game, then the results of these three games will be quite acceptable.

After all, the problem for the Chinese team has always been losing to strong teams, but being stifled by teams slightly inferior in strength…

Unfair Referee, China’s Positioning in AFC; Team’s Future.

The worst part of this game is the referee. It’s unimaginable how China has such little influence in the AFC if the home team doesn’t even get the benefit of the doubt in officiating. Losing a game is acceptable, but can the referee at least treat fouls on both teams equally? Don’t football players deserve basic rights? Today it’s you, and in 2019 it was also you—these referees from West Asia are truly poisonous.

The game is over, and the score is 0-3. One penalty kick, two set pieces, no goals from open play—it’s already quite good! The difference in strength is apparent. Now, focus on the remaining games and try to secure second place in the group. In fact, looking at the ages of the players on the field, it’s the future of the national team that truly leaves one feeling hopeless! Perhaps today, we criticize these players, but in a few years, we will look back and cherish them, just like how in 2002 we mocked and ridiculed that group of players when we were young and ignorant.

Team spirit and tactics against South Korea.

Lost as expected, but the spirit of the national football team is good and they dare to play and find cooperation.

Facing South Korea, a team filled with stars, achieving such a scene is deserving of the full support of the fans.

In this match, the starting lineup of the national football team has been slightly adjusted compared to the match against Thailand: Liu Yang moved to the left wing to strengthen Wei Shihao’s attacking ability, and Wang Shangyuan came on to make up for the lack of threat on the right side by Liu Binning.

The national football team initially contracted their defensive line, adopting a progressive zone defense, with a 5-4-1 formation, in order to deal with the relentless attacks of the top stars. The limited short passes were one of the few aggressive ways of invading, but the counter-attacks from the backcourt to the frontcourt were often intercepted and lacked threat due to the long distance.

Son Heung-min is the attacking hub of the South Korean team, whether it’s layer by layer, partnering with either Huang Hee-chan or Lee Kang-in on the wings, or long passes from the backcourt, he is the first receiver and has the ability to find spaces, which is not difficult for Son Heung-min, who ranks in the top three of the Premier League goal scorers.

The first penalty in the penalty area, from a side view, it is obvious that Huang Hee-chan tripped himself; from the front view, it was Huang Hee-chan’s shin hitting the knee of his teammate Cao Guicheng, causing him to fall. No matter how you look at it, it is not a penalty. There is no VAR in the World Cup qualifiers, anyway, I don’t recognize this goal.

Wei Shihao and Wu Lei may have switched positions between left and right, and after Wei was injured and replaced, Yang Kewu considered attacking and brought on Dai Weijun instead of Li Ke. When Dai Weijun and Liu Yang led the counter-attacks, continued organizing breakthroughs, and led the press by Jiang Shenglong and others, it created several good scoring opportunities, but the consequences were also obvious: leaving gaps in the back, full of one-on-one chances.

Wang Shangyuan is adept at both attacking and defending. When the left side is activated, his cover is indispensable. In positional warfare, the midfield moved back, and Jin Min-jae limited the three central defenders of the national football team, repeatedly contesting for headers and interceptions. But when Dai Weijun organized the attack and activated the midfield, compressing the space, it weakened the opponent’s defensive lines to some extent.

One penalty, one corner kick, one set-piece.

Lucky goals for weak teams are scoring opportunities for strong teams. This needs to be acknowledged and is worth learning.

The value of this match far exceeds the result, as it does not affect the national football team’s advancement to the second stage of the World Cup qualifiers. As for the South Korean team, the top players from the top five leagues are all present, including Son Heung-min from Tottenham Hotspur, Kim Min-jae from Bayern Munich, Lee Kang-in from Paris Saint-Germain, and Huang Hee-chan from Wolverhampton Wanderers.

It is difficult for us to have the opportunity to come into contact with world-class players and experience the gap between us. However, in this game, it is very obvious that the national team gradually tried to counterattack from the second half, and also learned from them about off-the-ball movements and offensive connections.

After the match, Jiang Shenglong said in an interview, “The penalty in the eighth minute disrupted our tactical arrangement.”

Referee ah!

China vs. South Korea: A Difficult Match for China

Thank you for not inviting. To be honest, the Chinese team has already done their best.

Personally, I think this game has been given a significance higher than itself by us—under the immense noise in Shenzhen’s home field, with the national anthem being sung throughout the stadium, I clearly felt that the national team was under a pressure beyond their abilities. To be honest, with so many people watching, how should they play and what result would justify it?

Overlaying the grudge between us and Korean football, Zhang Linpeng’s captain armband for his 100th appearance, and the huge gap in strength between the two sides—I felt that it wasn’t until the final whistle that the national team finally had a slight relief from their tense and heavy state of mind. To put it plainly, this match was really difficult for the national team, and for us, it was a bit of an over-dramatization.

Issue with the Referee?

To be honest, I personally have never agreed with bringing up the issue of referees. But in this game, Abdulrahman Al-Jassim’s “certain calls” did leave people a little confused. The controversy mainly came from the penalty kick at the beginning of the game and the stoppage of play after a Korean player fell in the second half. For the national team, both of these calls were morale-damaging, especially the penalty kick at the beginning which completely disrupted our normal deployment for the game, leaving us full of regret.

Honestly speaking, I couldn’t really tell which action or who caused the penalty.

However, in truth, similar calls have also been experienced by the Korean team (such as the referee’s position affecting the output, which happened a few times). Even several tackles in our penalty area didn’t harm us. Since we don’t have VAR at this stage of the World Cup qualifiers, we can only reluctantly accept this situation with a sense of frustration. I want to say that referees are also human beings, and humans are bound to make mistakes. It’s quite childish to blame all three goals on the referee’s attitude.

How did we lose?

Let’s briefly review the Chinese team’s strategy. Looking at the starting lineup, I understand that Yang Liyu still intended to at least score a goal with Liu Binbin, Wei Shihao, and Wu Lei—theory suggests that there is a threat of speed on the wings. As for the 541 formation, as I have mentioned many times before, the disadvantage on the wings doesn’t seem to be too obvious due to everyone’s joint defense. On the left side, Liu Yang played extremely steadily—I personally feel that this was the highest quality game he has played for the national team. With Wu Lei’s assistance on the right flank, Liu Binbin didn’t have to fight alone like he did against Thailand in the previous round.

The set pieces were still terrible. In fact, before Son Heung-min’s headed goal from a corner, the tactic of him attacking the near post had already occurred once—clearly, we made a defensive mistake by not marking him, and that was our own problem for not being in position. And in the second half, his curved assist was beyond the level seen in Asia. We didn’t have the corresponding mental preparation or appropriate countermeasures—simple moves led to simple goals, amplifying and irreparably widening the gap between us and our opponents.

Hwang Hee-chan, Son Heung-min, and Lee Kang-in form a world-class front line—most of South Korea’s effective attacks come from through balls on the flanks, and under various pressures, we didn’t make any “unbearable” mistakes in front of the goal.

In terms of offense, it felt like Tan Long’s second shot in the first half directly passed to Wu Lei, which would have been the perfect choice for a score of 100—while his own shot was like a 70, a bit risky and selfish. And in the second half, Dai Weijun’s shot lacked confidence. I want to say that with the current attacking ability and level of the Chinese team, this kind of performance cannot be considered poor—it’s just that this time we didn’t create any miracles or surprises, that’s all.

Is it regrettable? Perhaps on a micro level, but on a macro level, it’s not surprising at all. Especially since South Korea didn’t score any goals from open play throughout the game—they had at least 2-3 chances, right? At least in this regard, the difference between the two sides is not huge. Maybe 0-2 would be a more reasonable result compared to our performance.

Let’s not talk about the rest of the insignificant details. Abandon fantasies and prepare for battle. This will be the main theme of Chinese football’s confrontation with the Korean team in the coming years. The so-called “historical burden” has completely lost its meaning in this matter, and the gap in reality cannot be bridged by daydreaming and imagination.

All we can do is to face our opponents, step up, and have no regrets. I think tonight the Chinese team has accomplished this task—in the midst of the chaos in Chinese football in the year 2023, to end with such a game, we as spectators should give them applause.

There is still the next game, China, let’s go.

China’s Strong Spirit Shines in Defeat

Lost the game, the score of 3:0 is not pleasant to watch, but the Chinese team played decently.

In the 8th minute, Liu Binbin was tricked by Huang Xican’s sudden burst and couldn’t commit a tactical foul in time. A chaotic fight in front of the goal resulted in a somewhat inexplicable penalty kick, which Son Heung-min scored.

In the 42nd minute, Li Gangren’s left foot had some strength, and his accurate guiding led to a perfect arc for Son Heung-min to score. Yan Junling had no chance.

The Chinese team’s defense was relatively compact, with Wang Shangyuan and Wu Xi mostly staying in their positions, and Wu Lei and Tan Long showed more dedication in defense compared to the previous game against Thailand.

This game objectively reflects the gap in strength between the two teams, as well as the reason why Li Tie deployed a 541/532 formation.

Even with a fully equipped and luxurious front line, the South Korean team failed to score during open play. The Chinese team also had some opportunities, taking advantage of the South Korean team’s defensive mistakes to intercept the ball, and Tan Long had a shot that grazed the post.

Conceding a goal before halftime is an old problem for the Chinese team. Generally, around the 35-40 minute mark, there is a small bottleneck in energy, and the Chinese team’s intense running in the first half has somewhat exhausted them.

It is inevitable for a weaker team to consume more energy in defense against a stronger team.

In the first 60 minutes of the second half, the Chinese team’s energy tank was almost depleted, and their defense started to struggle.

Rationally speaking, this game is not a life-or-death battle, and losing is far from the end of the world. The Chinese team showed strong fighting spirit, and the 5-defender formation also worked well. There were highlights on the field, and they didn’t concede any goals during open play.

Li Tie seems to have done a good job in building the team’s spirit. The unity and fighting spirit of the team resemble what the national team was like in 2002 under Bora Milutinovic.

The South Korean players were a bit arrogant in front of the Chinese team. This is due to the long-term superiority of South Korean football over Chinese football, as well as the confidence of the overseas players returning to Asia.

It is unrealistic to completely restrict players like Son Heung-min and Lee Kang-in. Although Wei Shihao’s fruit basket joke was just a joke, when playing against a team like this, a certain level of determination is necessary.

To be honest, the South Korean media often exaggerates the so-called kung fu football. In recent years, the Chinese team hasn’t really provided much intensity to the South Korean team. Feng Xiaoting’s clash with Huang Xican was purely self-defense. However, perhaps because they still have to play in the league, these South Korean players are relatively well-behaved, except for Li Gangren’s and Wei Shihao’s slight aggression in the first half.

Losing to South Korea is normal considering the difference in strength. The Chinese team can also let go of the burden and focus on stably defeating Thailand and Singapore in this phase to secure second place in the group and advance to the top 18. Teams that can advance to the World Cup from the final 12-stage often cannot repeatedly cause upsets against strong teams, but they can consistently score against weak teams.

Tactically, the most crucial game in the following stages is the second match against Thailand at home. Even if they completely stick with the same formation and style of play as today, pushing higher pressure on both wings may be more stable than using a four-defender formation and less likely to capsize in troubled waters.

After all, the situation in this group is already quite clear. As long as they remain unbeaten at home against Thailand and stably defeat Singapore twice, unless there is an abstract situation where South Korea loses to Thailand, the Chinese team will secure their place in the top 18.

Regarding the referee, veteran fans know that Jakhem is a nemesis for the Chinese team. In games he officiates, the Chinese team often doesn’t benefit much from the calls, and to make matters worse, he frequently referees Chinese team’s matches.

However, in terms of the calls in this game, apart from the referee’s perspective, there is also a difference in the playing styles of the two teams. The Chinese team is fierce but also appears relatively rough and reckless, committing many fouls. The South Korean team also commits a lot of fouls but they are more discreet, with good timing and measurement. This disrupts the Chinese team’s attack, and the referee often can’t give out cards.

Lackluster performance against South Korea

The recent changes that have occurred to the Chinese national team are a reversal of fortunes for the team in Thailand.

From having no one to pick them up at the airport to having someone there, from being ignored to having some expectations, from watching a match just for Son Heung-min to trying to support the Chinese team at the home stadium. The national team should be able to feel this change more clearly.

The world of football is always changing, no matter from which end to the other.

So, if one had even the slightest imagination before the match against South Korea, it could be attributed to being overly optimistic. Because it is obvious that the strength of the South Korean team has been enhanced. However, the Chinese national team is not the same as the team led by Gao Hongbo in 2010 or the team led by Marcello Lippi in 2017.

This is what Yang Xiaoyu’s national team looks like in terms of the game result.

In this match, Yang Xiaoyu did not provide any novel tactics.

The basic approach is still the same, but in terms of personnel, he replaced Li Ke and Li Lei with substitute players Wang Shangyuan and Liu Yang from the previous match. However, Liu Binbin, who had an average performance in the previous match, was still in the starting lineup.

This may be seen as Yang Xiaoyu not simply basing the lineup for this match on the performance of the previous match. But no matter what he thinks, South Korea is still a powerful opponent.

South Korean coach Uli Stielike is so confident in his team that he doesn’t really care about the balance between offense and defense.

He inserted three attacking players, Son Heung-min, Hwang Hee-chan, and Lee Kang-in, between the four defenders and the lone striker.

Aside from them, he only sent Park Jong-woo, a defensive midfielder with decent defensive ability, to the field. His partner should be someone who should move further forward and appear in the front court, like Hwang In-beom.

Stielike’s basic approach is clear, which is to use the big center forward Cho Gue-sung to press China’s defensive line, and then use passing and the movement between the two lines to stretch China’s midfield line:

If you rush towards the ball, he will play between your two lines. If you don’t rush towards the ball, you basically won’t get possession.

All of this, of course, is based on the solid fundamental skills and physical qualities of South Korean players in general. It is precisely because of this that the South Korean team can sustain such tactics.

And also because of this, the Chinese team entered a state where all nine outfield players needed to defend deep within the starting phase of the match. When playing against Thailand, they could leave Wu Lei in the front court with Tan Long to conserve energy. But in this match, he had to shoulder defensive responsibilities:

This approach seemed reasonable in the starting phase because when the South Korean team was looking for attacking opportunities, the Chinese team made two consecutive interceptions in the midfield in the sixth minute, setting up counterattacks:

Of course, neither of them was successful and they were both intercepted by the opponents. But a problem occurred here:

It is understandable that Tan Long, as the player in the front and bearing tactical responsibilities, was intercepted. But as the player currently recognized as the strongest in the national team, Wu Lei being intercepted means that he, including in a match of this intensity, can only compete for space and not have control over the ball. Are these the players that the Chinese team, relying on underdog tactics, can rely on?

In other words, the attack by Wu Lei did not materialize. Of course, the players responsible for passing have their share of responsibility, but as the team’s strongest player, when your teammates can only reach this level, you should try to reduce the difficulty of their game as much as possible. That is, you should go for the ball instead of making runs.

In a similar position in the team, Cho Gue-sung did not handle some balls well. This is very normal, but under the intensity of this match, Son Heung-min has done much more than Wu Lei.

This is one of the reasons why the Chinese team, even at home, can only face the South Korean team in an underdog position.

And just 2 minutes later, the Chinese team, with all nine outfield players needing to defend, conceded their first goal:

There may be some controversy regarding the penalty call, but the key part of this goal is what happened before. After our own throw-in became the opponent’s possession, the South Korean team directly broke through from Wu Lei and Liu Binbin’s side, directly breaking through the peripheral defensive line and facing Zhang Linpeng.

So, of course, one could say that Zhang Linpeng was at fault for this goal, but less than 10 minutes into the game, the opponent used individual ball-carrying to penetrate into the core area. There is nothing more to say about that.

Before the match, South Korean striker Cho Gue-sung stated that the first goal is very important and with the first goal, they would have a chance to defeat the Chinese team.

This is a very accurate judgment. So, this is also the reason why the match suddenly became one without suspense:

With nine outfield players defending, the areas where the attacking players on the wings, like Wu Lei and Wei Shihao, are located, are naturally weak positions. Because they usually enjoy the privilege of not having to participate in defense frequently, defending in a match like this will inevitably lead to problems, at least exposing the routes. It is the same on Wei Shihao’s side.

But the problem is, Wei Shihao has the ability to carry the ball forward based on his individual skills:

And also the ability to get rid of defenders in small spaces and the mindset to pass:

Apart from Wei Shihao, the rest of the Chinese team’s front line, such as Tan Long, contributed very few exciting moments for the fans in the first half:

Even in the latter stages of the first half, Wu Xi was able to provide assistance during the push phase:

However, with teammates paving the way in front and protecting behind, Wu Lei, under this intensity and responsibility, still needs to rely on his teammates to lift him up:

As the second attacking option, it is difficult for Wu Lei to make outstanding contributions. As the ninth defender, conceding the first goal from his position as a result, this is the biggest dilemma for the Chinese team and Yang Xiaoyu tactically.

It is not only because of his status, fame, and historical performance, but also from an overall evaluation of his abilities, that Wu Lei does indeed deserve tactical privileges and resources, especially since he made solid contributions in the previous comeback against Thailand. This achievement cannot be erased.

But this does not mean that Wu Lei has no weaknesses in his abilities, nor does it mean that his weaknesses will not affect the team in matches against opponents other than Thailand. However, even if they do, as a head coach, it is very difficult to idealistically set him as a substitute player in such matches.

Real football matches cannot be compared to football games.

So, apart from conceding the first goal, losing Wei Shihao due to injury and substituting him at halftime, the Chinese team lost the slim hope they had in this match, which was already scarce.