It was a disappointing loss, but one that bodes well for the future of Korean soccer.
Kim Eun-joong’s South Korea Under-20 team fell 1-2 to “traditional powerhouse” Italy in the semifinals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup on Monday at the La Plata Stadium in Argentina. Still, South Korea made history by reaching the quarterfinals of back-to-back tournaments after finishing runner-up in Poland in 2019. Italy, who beat South Korea, will play Uruguay for the title in the final.
Against Italy, the national team played the same “silly soccer” that they had played throughout the tournament. It’s a strategy that involves solid defense followed by sharp counterattacks to get at the opponent’s goal. Knowing this, Italy pressed hard from the start, and Korea conceded an early goal in the 14th minute through Chelsea’s Cesare Cassaday, who was on red card number one.
However, South Korea equalized just nine minutes later. In the 23rd minute, Lee Seung-won (Gangwon) calmly converted a penalty kick earned by Bae Jun-ho (Daejeon) to tie the game at 1-1. Lee now has two goals and four assists in the tournament, tying him with last year’s Most Valuable Player (Golden Ball) Lee Kang-in (Mallorca).
The tie was broken in the 41st minute of the second half. Italy’s Simone Papundi (Udinese) rattled the net with an exquisite kick from a free kick conceded by her team just outside the penalty box, which proved to be the winning goal.
Despite not reaching the finals of back-to-back tournaments, there was plenty of encouragement for a team that has been dubbed the “valley generation” and has been largely ignored. At the La Plata stadium, many fans, including local Koreans, cheered for the team. In Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square, more than 1,000 people gathered at 5 a.m. to show their support. Chung Mong-kyu, president of the Korean Football Association, also joined the crowd.토토사이트
On Facebook, President Yoon Seok-yeol said, “Coach Kim Eun-joong’s leadership and the players’ fighting spirit in reaching the World Cup quarterfinals gave the people hope and courage. You are the future of Korean soccer,” he encouraged. “When you overcome yourself and go beyond your limits, I and the entire Korean people are deeply moved,” he said, adding, “I will support your challenges with the people.”
The team’s journey is far from over. South Korea will play Israel for the third-place match at 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday. “The players dedicated themselves to the team more than anyone else and gave more than 100 percent,” Kim said, adding, “We will play without regrets in the third-place match.” National team forward Lee Young-jun (Gimcheon) said, “The players fought as hard as they could. I have no regrets.” “We still have one game left. We won’t give up. We will prepare well as usual and do our best until the last game.”