Coach Kim Eun-joong and the kids have made history in South Korean soccer. The South Korea Under-20 (U-20) National Team drew 0-0 with the Gambia on Monday (July 29) in their final Group F match at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023. South Korea joined France (2-1 win) and Honduras (2-2 draw) in earning a point against the Gambia. With one win and two draws in the group stage, South Korea became the first team in Korean soccer history to go through the U-20 tournament “unbeaten.
▶The ‘Valley Generation’, a delightful rebellion without a clear star
The team was dubbed the “Valley Generation,” a “delightful” rebellion by the youngest players. In Poland 2019, they had a clear star in Lee Kang-in (Mallorca). In 2017, the team was led by the ‘Barca duo’ Baek Seung-ho (Jeonbuk Hyundai) and Lee Seung-woo (Suwon FC). This time around, Kim Eun-jung-ho didn’t have a clear ace in the hole, and it’s true that the ‘name value’ has dropped a bit.
There were also variables. With just over 100 days to go before the start of the tournament, the venue was changed at the last minute. It was initially moved from Indonesia to Argentina due to political and religious issues. The time difference, climate, and everything else was unfamiliar. With the exception of Bae Jun-ho (Daejeon Hana Citizen), most of the participants in the tournament hadn’t gotten a chance to play for their clubs. Coach Kim said, “I’m worried about their lack of game sense.”
▶Turning Weaknesses into Strengths → Overcoming Twists and Turns to Show ‘Strength in Crisis’
The first opponent was ‘favorite’ France. Korea was one-sidedly pushed by France. Korea’s market share was 30%. France had 57% (14% in contested situations). In terms of shots, Korea had 9, France 23. South Korea played a smart game. They didn’t miss any chances. They capitalized on counterattacks and set pieces to win 2-1.
In the second game against Honduras, South Korea fought back from a 0-2 deficit to draw 2-2. After securing a spot in the round of 16, South Korea utilized rotation in their final match against The Gambia to earn a draw. Not only did it improve their fitness, but it also improved the team’s game sense. Most importantly, South Korea showed the ability to come from behind in their three group games. South Korea had its ups and downs, including two penalty kicks and one 메이저놀이터 ejection. However, they never wavered.
Kim Eun-joong-ho turned their weaknesses into strengths in this tournament. Instead of relying on a specific player, the team has become a team that does its job no matter who comes in. Park Seung-ho, who came on as a substitute in the second game, scored the game-winning goal for Korea. In the final, goalkeeper Moon Hyun-ho, who had his first chance of the day, put on a ‘save show’. FIFA highlighted Moon’s save and said, “The Gambia concluded that it was not their day against Moon. To console Park Seung-ho, who was sidelined with a right ankle injury, the ‘One Team’ took a group photo with a jersey bearing Park’s number 18 before the Gambia match.