Summer came earlier than usual to the Korean Peninsula, with heavy monsoon rains pouring down almost every day, but the young Taeguk Warriors have brought home a ray of sunshine from the opposite side of the globe as they are making progress at the FIFA U-20 World Youth Championship in Montreal.
Now their last group match against Poland will be a decisive one for qualification to the second round, as Korea Republic are down on the bottom of their group with only one point. Nevertheless, they have shown some quality football and a never-say-die spirit through their matches against the United States and Brazil.
If the Koreans were unlucky and profligate in front of goal in a disappointing 1-1 draw with the Stars and Stripes, failure to deal with the Canarinhos counter attacks cost them a narrow 3-2 defeat. However, they simply did not stop running despite trailing by three goals until the hour mark, then came back with two goals through Shim Young-Sung and substitute Shin Young-Rok inside seven minutes.
The two forwards, dubbed the 'S-line duo' by the South Korean media and also referred to as "the future of Korea Republic" by a FIFA.com user named Choi Deok-Min, are ready to lead the attacks against the Poles.
Shin, who scored two goals in as many games, is confident that he will continue his scoring habit on Friday. "It was a shame for us, the strikers, as we couldn't score more goals because we had more chances and played better football (than our opponents did)," said the Suwon Bluewings starlet. "I'll do my best to open the scoring this time."
Despite suffering from a broken nose during Tuesday's game, Shin is eager to contribute again and has received a nod from the team doctor. "I'm still feeling the pain but it will be gone before the Poland game according to our medical staff. I'll have to depend on a protective gear but I'd prefer not wearing it because it would limit my vision," explained Shin, who also wore a mask and scored a goal during the first group game against Switzerland in the Netherlands at the 2005 edition of the tournament after breaking his chin.
For his part, Shim is almost certain to start on Friday and hoping to build on the brave fight-back from last game. "To come back as we did (against Brazil) felt great despite the result. And we'll take that momentum into the next match," recalled Young-Sung, whose name translates as 'eternal star'. "But at the same time I feel sorry because we didn't score first in the past two games. If we had scored earlier it would have been much easier for us."
All to play for
While the duo rue the missed opportunities, coach Cho Dong-Hyun remains confident ahead of the crucial encounter. "I've told my boys to keep cool under pressure and play steady and calm football," says the 55-year-old. "I have no doubt that we will be able to win if we play our game."
Even if all goes as he planned, Korean supporters will have to wait for the result of the game between Brazil and USA in Ottawa to see if the Taeguk Warriors can qualify as one of the best third-place teams. But while the local media are busy calculating the possibility of reaching the Round of 16, the youngsters are quietly waiting for their last chance.