After starting Korea Republic’s quarter-final against Great Britain on the bench and watching in-form veteran Jung Sungryong keep his side in the hunt, reserve keeper Lee Bumyoung would have had little idea he would end the night pulling off heroics of his own.
Yet that is exactly what happened to the 23-year-old at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium last Saturday. One minute he was watching South Korean No1 Jung Sungryong keep out Aaron Ramsey’s second penalty kick of the first half, the next he was limbering up to come on as a replacement after Sungryong picked up a shoulder injury in a mid-air collision with Micah Richards.
That twist of fate came 17 minutes into the second half with the scores still locked at 1-1 and the tension rising in the tightest of fixtures. Despite his unexpected introduction, though, Bumyoung dealt with the pressure to thwart the hosts in the ensuing shoot-out and send the young Taeguk Warriors into the last four of the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012.
Reliving a night that ended with him diving to his left to palm away Daniel Sturridge’s firm spot-kick and send his side through 5-4 on penalties, Bumyoung shared his thoughts with FIFA.com in an exclusive interview.
“It all happened so quickly,” he said of the moments leading up to his sudden introduction. “Our goalkeeping coach just came up to me and told me to stay cool and keep calm.”
The young shotstopper followed that advice to the letter, concealing whatever nerves or fears he may have been feeling before the shoot-out got under way and letting each GB penalty-taker know how confident he was feeling by jumping up and down and waving his arms around.
“Throughout my career I’ve always been performed well in shoot-outs and I take a lot of confidence from that whenever decisive moments like this come around,” said Bumyoung, who plays his club football for Busan I'Park.
Should the 27-year-old Sungryong, one of the three over-age players in the Korea Republic squad and his country’s first-choice at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, fail to recover in time from his ligament injury, Bumyoung will have his resolve tested again in Tuesday’s semi-final against Brazil in Manchester.
One thing is for sure, as the South Koreans limber up for that stern test: their understudy keeper will be ready to stand tall again if required.
“When you’re the reserve you know that you’re only going to get a game by accident. That’s why you need to stay focused and keep your mind on the job the whole time. There’s no other way. At the end of the day, that’s the life we’ve chosen to lead.”