Even when they were outnumbered, they didn’t go down without a fight. And with one sharp set piece from deep in the box, they knocked out one powerhouse after another. Kim Eun-Joong-ho’s “organizational football” is once again in the spotlight as South Korea looks to reach the U-20 World Cup finals for the second time in four years.
On Friday, the South Korean U-20 soccer team, led by Kim Eun-jung, defeated Nigeria 1-0 in extra-time in the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023 at the Santiago del Estero Stadium in Argentina to reach the quarterfinals. A win against Italy in the quarterfinals on Sept. 9 would mark the second consecutive appearance in the finals, following the 2019 tournament in Poland.
Kim and his players have only one tactic for this tournament, the classic ‘defend first, attack later’. With a solid organization, the team focuses on defense to keep the opponent off balance, and when the ball is stolen, the speedy second line strikers are quick to make a run for the goal.
The problem is when the opponent doesn’t raise their defense as much as Korea does. This was the case against Nigeria. Nigeria didn’t create many chances against South Korea’s tight defense, but they also didn’t raise their defensive line high enough to give South Korea’s attackers much room to operate.
It was a set piece that broke the deadlock. In the fifth minute of the first overtime, Lee Seung-won (Gangwon) sent in a corner kick from the left side, and Choi Seok-hyun (Dankook University) leaped up to head in a deflected header for the game-winner. It was the only shot on goal for South Korea on the day, and it was a killer.
In fact, South Korea has been having a lot of fun with set pieces this tournament. From the group stage through the quarterfinals, they have scored eight goals in five games, with half of those goals – four – coming from set pieces. Lee Young-joon (Gimcheon) scored a header in the first group game to defeat France, Park Seung-ho (Incheon) equalized in the second game against Honduras, and Choi Seok-hyun headed in the round of 16 against Ecuador and the quarterfinals against Nigeria.
What all four of these goals have in common is that they all started with a cross from the toe of their captain, Lee Seung-won, who has a great kick. Lee’s crosses were met by players who were in the right place at the right time and were able to get into great positions to convert them into goals. Goals were plentiful, too, with three of the four goals coming in the final minutes and one being an equalizer.
South Korea faced a number of challenges in preparing for this tournament. Indonesia, where the tournament was originally scheduled to be held, was switched to Argentina less than a month before kickoff after Islamic groups in the country refused to allow the Israeli squad to enter the country. Add to that the fact that most of the key players hadn’t gotten much playing time with their clubs, and the time crunch meant that they couldn’t get a chance to try out against a proper team. 먹튀검증
In this situation, Kim focused on improving his players’ organizational skills and worked hard on set-piece preparation, which helped Korea go undefeated in the tournament. They are the only team in the top four of the tournament to remain unbeaten.
“This team is reminiscent of the Greece team that won Euro 2004,” said Kim Dae-gil, a sports commentator. “In the tournament after the group stage, we need to show what we can do in the freeze-frame so we can be strong in defense,” said Kim. In that respect, the promised set pieces looked very good.”