“We were able to win with 21 players fighting as a team.”
Led by head coach Kim Eun-joong, 44, the South Korea Under-20 team advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup for the second consecutive tournament with a 3-2 victory over Ecuador in the round of 16 at the Santiago del Estro Stadium in Santiago, Argentina, at 6 a.m. ET on June 2.
Lee Young-joon opened the scoring in the 11th minute, before Bae Joon-ho doubled the lead in the 19th minute. After conceding a penalty to Justin Cuero in the 33rd minute to make it 2-1 at halftime, South Korea made it 3-1 with a header from Choi Seok-hyun three minutes into the second half. A late goal from Sebastian Gonzalez in the 39th minute cut the deficit to 3-2, but South Korea held on for the win in stoppage time.
South Korea’s next opponent is Nigeria. Nigeria defeated the Dominican Republic and Italy in group play before falling 0-2 to Brazil. Despite finishing third in their group behind Brazil and Italy, they still managed to advance to the round of 16 as the best of the six third-place finishers.
Facing Argentina in the round of 16, a tough match was expected, but Nigeria won 2-0 with goals from Ibrahim Muhammad and Lilwanu Halilu Saki to reach the quarterfinals.
After the match, coach Kim Eun-joong said, “The players responded well from the preparation process. Since it’s a tournament, there is no next game. We talked about the fact that today could be our last game. They were well prepared.”
Kim continued, “It’s the World Cup in South America, so (Ecuador) probably had the advantage of playing at home. They were confident. Their physical condition was also good. Our players struggled, but I’m grateful that they stayed focused until the end and finished the game well.” 안전놀이터
When asked about the player of the match, Kim said, “We talked about it after the first game. 21 players played together. All 21 players work together as a team. The players who played in the first half, the players who played in the second half, the players who couldn’t come on as substitutes, and Park Seung-ho, who returned home due to injury, also fought as a team. That’s why we were able to win.”
“For our next game, we have to focus everything on Nigeria. We have to focus everything on Nigeria because there is no next game. Nigeria had one more day off than us. We need to focus on recovery,” he added.
Meanwhile, South Korea will try to advance to the semifinals against Nigeria on May 5 at 2:30 am.