Korea Republic take their leave of the FIFA World Cup™ with their heads held high after pushing Uruguay hard in Saturday's last-16 defeat, the South American team's coach said. The Asian giants head home after a Luis Suarez double sandwiched Lee Chung-Yong's header to give Uruguay a 2-1 win.
They bow out having qualified for the second round for the first time on foreign soil on the strength of an opening 2-0 win over UEFA EURO 2004 champions Greece, a 4-1 reverse to Argentina, and a 2-2 draw with Nigeria, with their journey ending at a rain-sodden Nelson Mandela bay stadium.
Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez said the Koreans had surprised him and his players. "They surprised us by their approach, their very direct play, it was they who determined how the game was played," he said.
"This Korean team played a great match. Perhaps they weren't very lucky in some of their moves but that's football. This match confirms how balanced football has become around the world, you can see how Korea have grown - they made us fight hard for our victory. Korea may have lost today but they are leaving this World Cup with heads held high."
Korea Republic coach Huh Jung-Moo, his team captain Park Ji-Sung and the rest of the squad have given their national team a major boost of confidence after their first round kock-out at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.
Reflecting on his side's South African adventure Huh said: "My players did their best. We have the capability, but we have seen here that we have areas to improve on. It would have been a lot better if we had played with a bit more confidence, but I feel hopeful for the future of South Korean football. The players are improving, our game is getting better."
He had a special word for the team's fans, the small group of supporters who made it to their matches in person and the half a million night owls or more who stayed up late to follow their progress back home.
"I'd like to thank them all, all the Korean public, for their support."
Asked about his own future as head of the national side Huh replied: "To be honest I've only been thinking about the World Cup, I haven't thought about what's going to happen after it.
"I'll take time now to relax and think about the future, whatever I end up doing I really hope South Korea will continue to be on the world stage and I want to contribute in any way I can."