Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sad End For Korea But Much To Be Positive About

Sad End For Korea But Much To Be Positive About.
For almost all teams, international tournaments end in sadness and thoughts of what-might-have-been. That is the case with South Korea in regard to the Under-20 World Cup in Egypt but as time passes, the competition will be remembered fondly in the Land of the Morning Calm.

The run to the quarter-finals ended on Friday evening with a 3-2 defeat against Ghana at the Mubarak Stadium in Suez. It was an exciting match though the teenage Taeguk Warriors could never quite recover from a poor start.

Dominic Adiyiah gave the Black Satellites the lead after just eight minutes, scoring from close range from a low cross from the right. The second goal came 20 minutes later in a similar fashion except it was Ransford Osei who got the finishing touch.

Minutes later, Park Hee-sung headed a goal back for the Koreans who then spent much of the remaining time probing the Ghanaian defense. Another lapse in concentration cost the Asians as Adiyiah scored his second and his team’s third twelve minutes from the end.

Just two minutes after that however, substitute Kim Dong-sub found the back of the net with a header to send the red-clad fans in the stadium into a frenzy and set up an exciting finale. It never quite happened and the Africans held out.

Thus ended two weeks of football that started badly but steadily improved. A 2-0 defeat at the hands of Cameroon suggested a short stay in North Africa but then coach Hong Myong-bo, a legend of Korean football, and his players dug in for a 1-1 draw against Germany. Then came a comprehensive 3-0 win over the United States which gave them a ticket to the knockout stage.

People at home started to get really excited when the youngsters put Paraguay to the sword with another 3-0 win. Suddenly, the team seemed to have the ingredient that is necessary in all tournaments – momentum. It was punctured by slack defending in the first 30 minutes against Ghana.

As the two defeats came against African teams there are suggestions that the less powerful Koreans struggle with opponents from that continent, adding a little extra spice to the senior team’s friendly match against Senegal in Seoul on Wednesday.

"We certainly found African opposition difficult to deal with, but the team will learn from the experience, that's for sure," said coach Hong after the match. "We're a quick team, both in possession and in terms of pace, but African teams combine that sharpness with power, which we found extremely difficult to cope with.”

The coach of Ghana put Korea’s defeat down, not to a lack of power, but to a lack of precision in the danger area.

It was a great match and it must have been nice to watch for everyone. For us though it was a very difficult match,” said Sellas Tetteh. “I have to pay tribute to South Korea; they gave us a very tough match. They pass the ball well and they have tremendous energy. If they'd have been a bit more clinical, it would have been even more difficult for us.”

Turning possession into goals has long been a problem for Koreans, and Asian, teams though the recent 2010 World Cup qualification campaign suggested that a corner may be being turned in this respect.

Coach Hong, a quiet but charismatic man, was a defender who played in four World Cups, made 125 appearances for the national team and was the captain during the 2002 tournament. The 40 year-old has done enough to hint at a bright coaching career to come.

He will do well though not to take too much notice of an excited Korean media. The signs are that he will keep his feet on the ground and he was happy to deflect the praise that came his way onto his players.

"They've been absolutely magnificent and I am very proud of them,” said Hong of his young charges.

"They gave their all. They showed that have a very strong mentality as well as a great aptitude to learn whatever has been asked of them. They're also a team in every true sense of the word. We don't have any superstars or big egos. We work together - and I hope they continue to do this for many years to come. They have a lot of potential.”

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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