Keeping a diary is not an easy thing to do, especially when you are in the middle of an event so important that it could change the course of your life. Yet ever since the age of 16, Korea Republic centre-back Song Juhun has written down every daily detail of his football life and, as such, that little book has accompanied him to Turkey for the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Song kindly offered FIFA.com a window into his mindset with a look at this diary, with the 19-year-old revealing, for example, his entry on the eve of his team’s opening match:
‘Now that we’ve finished our preparations, the practice is all over.
When this World Cup is finished, I won’t be a member of the national
team anymore. Don’t try to do well, but just work hard -
21 June, Kayseri.’
Korea Republic began their campaign by coming from behind to defeat debutants Cuba 2-1 the following day, and then held favourites Portugal to a 2-2 draw before losing 1-0 to Nigeria. Those results were enough to see them scrape through to the Round of 16, but there was cause for concern as they conceded goals within ten minutes of kick-off on every occasion. And three out of the four goals that flew past them were from set-pieces.
“I felt miserable because it seemed I wasn’t even half the player I used to be and I couldn’t play the way I thought I should during the group stage,” Song admitted. “The coach, my parents, and even my sister were all worried about me, so I was desperate to find my rhythm. I wanted to make them proud of me. So before I left my room for the Colombia game, I wrote:
‘I’m about to leave for the stadium and I’d really like to come back here
and open this book again after we’ve won the game. Let’s go out there
with a do-or-die attitude, with no regrets left on the pitch -
3 July, Trabzon.’
All’s well that ends well
As it transpired, Song’s greatest dreams were almost realised that night, when he put the Taeguk Warriors ahead with a left-foot volley after just 16 minutes. However, the Colombians forced the match into extra time with a brillant last-gasp free-kick from captain Juan Quintero, before responsibility again fell to Song in the ensuing shootout.
“Well, it wasn’t my first goal ever,” he said of his opener against the Colombians, “but it was my first international goal and very important to put us in the lead for the first time in the tournament. But at the same time, I was a bit nervous because we had to keep the lead for such a long team. And then in the penalties, I missed the second spot-kick so poorly I couldn’t even look at my team-mates. I could only feel sorry for them, and pray that we wouldn’t lose because of me.”
Fortunately for Song, the Koreans emerged victorious after an epic shootout. Less fortunately for his Konkuk University team-mate Cho Sukjae, Song also came off the pitch having won a bet.
“Now Sukjae is in trouble, because we had a joke about what we should do for one another if anyone scored against Colombia,” he said. “When I actually did I just lost my mind and I forgot to rush to him as we had promised, but now I remember he said he would buy me a big buffet dinner when we get home!”
History in the making
Song is hoping, however, to delay calling in that debt for a while yet. Korea Republic are, after all, on the verge of reaching the FIFA U-20 World Cup semi-finals for the first time since Mexico 1983. Standing in their way are none other than Iraq, whom they edged on penalties to win the Asian crown last November.
“We’ve already met them twice during the continental championship,” he said. “We didn’t know them well at first and they didn’t look so dangerous during the group stage, but they became completely a different side in the final.
“I even remember receiving a yellow card while trying to mark their No11 [Humam Tarek], who is such a creative playmaker. Most of them we faced last year are in the current squad, and I have been impressed by the way they’ve played here, especially against England. They never stop running, and they never give up.”
As for his aims, it is – typically – in his diary that Song is most candid and straightforward:
‘Our next opponents are Iraq. And our goal is the last four. Now that
we’ve come this far, we must beat them and rewrite history.’