Korea’s World Cup dream ends in tears

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Korea’s World Cup dream ends in tears


Korea U-17 team forward Lee Seung-woo lies face down at the at Estadio La Portada in La Serena, Chile, after his team’s 2-0 defeat to Belgium in the final 16 round of the FIFA U-17 World Cup on Thursday (Korean time). Lee missed a penalty in the 72nd minute. [korea football association]

When the final whistle was blown at the Estadio La Portada, Lee Seung-woo lay face-down on the pitch and cried.

The distraught Korean Under-17 men’s national team forward was probably blaming himself for missing a crucial penalty in the second half of the game which could have turned his team’s fortunes around.

The final whistle also brought an end to the team’s dream of continuing their run in the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Korea lost 2-0 to Belgium in the Round of 16 in Chile on Thursday (Korean time).

Coach Choi Jin-cheul admitted after the game, “Overall, I think my management for the game wasn’t good. I feel sorry for my players.”

The U-17 team had big expectations to set their best record in this World Cup, after reaching the quarter finals in 1987 and 2009. They passed the group stage without conceding a loss or a goal, but their defense wasn’t solid when it mattered, allowing Belgium to create swift counter attacks.

Korea fielded same players who featured in a match against Guinea, using 4-4-2 formation with Lee and Yoo Ju-an up front. But Belgium went on the board first, just 11 minutes after the kickoff.

Dante Rigo’s long ball went straight to Jorn Vancamp after captain and defender Lee Sang-min failed to cut in the middle. The RSC Anderlecht forward cruised into the box as defender Lee Seung-mo failed to chase him. Vancamp shot underneath goalkeeper Ahn Joon-soo to score first in the match.

Korea tried to even the score, but frequent missed passes in the midfield stymied any progress.

In the 32nd minute, Korea’s only shot in the first half came when Lee Seung-woo’s corner kick led to Lee Seung-mo’s header that went over the cross bar. Belgium had five shots in the first 45 minutes.

Trying to change the tempo of the match, coach Choi substituted midfielder Jang Jae-won with forward Oh Se-hun, who scored the winner against Guinea, for the second half. Choi put Oh at defense, while shifting defender Lee Seung-mo to midfield.

The strategy appeared to work as Korea managed to make a couple of shots in just seven minutes, and Choi geared up the attack by replacing Yoo Ju-an with Lee Sang-heon. But a powerful left shot by Mattias Verreth in the 67th minute beat Ahn and put Korea further behind.

Desperate for a goal, Korea brought in attacking midfielder Cha Oh-yeon, while pushing center back Oh up front.

In the 71st minute, Oh was pulled back by Laurent Lemoine inside the box, while chasing a pass from Lee Sang-heon. Lemoine was sent off while Korea was awarded a penalty.

Lee Seung-woo, who was leading scorer in the Asian qualification, stepped up for the crucial spot kick. He briefly paused before taking the shot but goalkeeper Jens Teunckens guessed right and blocked the shot.

For the rest of the game, Korea had a number of chances against 10-man Belgium, but couldn’t make use of the advantage. In the final minute, Kim Jung-min’s made a final effort with an overhead shot on goal that was again saved by Teunckens.

The revenge the team sought for the senior team’s 1-0 loss against Belgium last year, did not happen.

“We really wanted to win and we had to win, but we easily lost,” said Choi. “Our transition was slower than our opponents and we couldn’t block their counter attack.”

Choi said after the defeat, “I hope our players will develop more in the future. If they can learn something from defeat, it will help their

The Korea Football Association said the team will return home on Saturday.

BY JOO KYUNG-DON [joo.kyungdon@joongnang.co.kr]
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