The Korea Herald


S. Korea coach wants to do Asia proud at U-20 World Cup

By Yonhap

Published : June 11, 2023 - 09:52

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South Korean players train for the FIFA U-20 World Cup at Estancia Chica training complex in La Plata, Argentina, on Saturday. (Yonhap) South Korean players train for the FIFA U-20 World Cup at Estancia Chica training complex in La Plata, Argentina, on Saturday. (Yonhap)

With his upstart South Korean team about to close out the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina, head coach Kim Eun-jung said Saturday he wants to make the continent of Asia proud of his players.

South Korea's final song in the U-20 tournament will come against Israel in the third place match here in La Plata, eastern Argentina, starting at 2:30 p.m. Sunday local time, or 2:30 a.m. Monday in Seoul time.

It's a matchup of two teams that weren't expected to come this far in the tournament. South Korea went undefeated in the group stage and then beat Ecuador and Nigeria in the knockouts to reach the semifinals. Italy snapped South Korea's Cinderella run with a 2-1 win in the semis.

Israel had perhaps the biggest upset of the tournament so far in the quarterfinals, where they beat Brazil 3-2. Israel lost to Uruguay 1-0 in the semifinals, but before that, they had defeated two Asian sides -- Japan in the group stage and Uzbekistan in the round of 16.

"Two teams from Asia lost to Israel and we don't want to suffer the same fate," Kim said at Estancia Chica training complex. "We want to uphold the pride of Asia."

Israel feature key members of the team that finished second at the 2022 UEFA U-19 Championship. Kim noted Israel's depth across the field and their physicality.

"I think Japan had their best match in the group stage against Israel, and Israel still beat them despite having one player sent off," Kim said. "Their striker (Dor David Turgeman) is a really skilled player."

Since it will be South Korea's last match in the tournament, Kim once contemplated giving lesser-used players a chance to take the field. He ultimately decided he would go with his optimal lineup.

"It's the last game in this age group for these players, and I think I have to send the best possible team out there," he said. "We want to have a great finish to the tournament."

Midfielder Bae Jun-ho is in the same boat.

"It'd be a huge disappointment if we don't grab a medal after coming this far," he said. "There's a world of difference between third place and fourth place. Though we didn't get to the final like we'd wanted, we will try to take home a medal at least."

Bae said as well as Israel have played so far, the collective confidence for himself and his teammates is running high.

"I think they are a cohesive, well-organized team like we are," Bae said. "But it doesn't matter how they've made it to this point. We absolutely want to win that match and we're confident we can get it done." (Yonhap)