Thursday, April 18, 2024

South Korea exits World Cup, improvement on way


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PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (AP) — Football in South Korea is a work in progress, South Korea coach Huh Jung-moo said after his team’s 2-1 loss to Uruguay, ending the Asian team’s World Cup at the round of 16.
Huh suggested after the match at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium that the state of his country’s football program is in better shape now than in 2002 when it reached the World Cup semifinals as co-host.
“We are growing, on the other hand we do have areas to improve on,” Huh said through an interpreter.
“It’s very important for our players to learn more from international teams by playing in foreign leagues and also to learn by playing against foreign opponents.”
Seven of South Korea’s starting lineup Saturday play outside the country, including Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung and Lee Chung-yong, the Bolton player who scored his team’s goal Saturday. Other players are in leagues in France, Germany, Scotland and Saudi Arabia.
“We have to have more players come over from Asia to play in Europe,” Park said. “That makes the Asian teams more strong.”
“It was a great chance to reach maybe the semifinals. But in the World Cup everybody is strong.”
Huh said the team “should practice on the technical side and start that training at an earlier age.”
Huh was appointed in December 2007 for his third stint as coach, and is undecided on his future.
“I focussed solely on the World Cup finals, I didn’t think at all about what to do,” Huh said.
“I want to take some time to relax, lay back and think about what I will do in the future. If possible, whatever I end up doing, I really hope that Korea will be able to play on the international stage and I want to contribute in any way.”
Cho Chung-yun, president of the Korean Football Association, said Saturday that “we will discuss his future, but now is not the time.”
If Huh listens to what his opposing coach, Oscar Tabarez, had to say Saturday about South Korea, he might be inclined to stay.
“Korea surprised us with their approach and their different style of football — a very direct style of play,” the Uruguay coach said.
Park said physical strength was an important facet of the Korean game, contributing to a dominance of possession after halftime.
“We knew before the game that we can make an impact particularly in the second half. The pace was our pace and we controlled the game in the second half.”
Tabarez said South Korea’s performance was evidence of how evenly football was now balanced between different regions.
“We can see how Korea has grown, and it is perhaps the strongest national squad in Asia,” Tabarez said.
“Korea had to lose the game, but they are leaving the World Cup with their heads held high.”


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