Lee Dong Gook, left, clashes with Bahrain’s Mohamed
Lee Dong-guk, Middlesbrough forward, slammed South Korea coach Pim Verbeek’s tactics after his side suffered a shock 2-1 loss to Bahrain in their Asian Cup match in Jakarta.
The Koreans, one of the pre-tournament favourites, now have to win their final first round match against Indonesia, and hope that the other Group D match between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain does not end in a draw to stand any hope of making the quarter-finals.
Lee, who was selected ahead of star player Cho Jae-jin as Korea’s lone central striker, suggested his coach got the tactics all wrong on Sunday.
“The Bahrain players already knew our tactics and attacking patterns,” a disappointed Lee said.
“Our attack was focused only one way, using the wingers.
“Coach ordered me to just stay in the box, so I didn’t have the chance to touch the ball in midfield,” added the 28-year-old.
“Really big teams can keep a one-goal lead, but we couldn’t.
“Maybe the inexperience of our young players was a problem too.”
However Dutch coach Verbeek insisted that his team’s Asian Cup hopes are still on track despite the morale-damaging defeat.
Korea took the lead in the fourth minute and wasted numerous opportunities throughout the match before a collective lack of concentration and an individual error cost them goals at the end of each half.
They now sit alone at the bottom of Group D with a solitary point from two games, but Verbeek seemed unperturbed.
“If you look at the game we created more than enough chances to score goals but if you don’t score goals it puts more pressure on the defence,” he said.
“But I still think we played a good game and if we play like this it will be very interesting in the next game.
“I am convinced we can win that game by two goals and then life will look very different.”
Quarter-finals not assured
With head to head records counting before goal difference in the final group standings, even a two or more goal victory over Indonesia may not prove enough for the Taeguk Warriors, because if Saudi Arabia and Bahrain draw their final game, Korea cannot progress.
They can reach a maximum of four points and a draw in the game between the two Arab teams would leave the Saudis with five and Bahrain with four, with Bahrain finishing above Korea after
having beaten them on Sunday.
Bahrain may have won the game but Verbeek complained about their play-acting tactics.
Time and again Bahrain players were seen rolling around on the pitch, seemingly writhing in agony, only for television replays to show they had not even been touched.
As soon as they were stretchered from the field, each player jumped straight up to come back on.
“That’s Middle Eastern football. That’s part of football,” said the Dutchman.
“If the referee doesn’t take action it will continue.”