Having reached the second round of the FIFA World Cup™ for the first time on foreign soil, Korea Republic fulfilled coach Huh Jung-Moo's prediction that they would leave 'a giant footprint' on South Africa 2010. However, their 2-1 loss at the hands of Uruguay in the Round of 16 left the Taeguk Warriors with ample food for thought.
Despite netting five goals in the group stage to set a new high-scoring record for the team, the South Koreans' defence proved vulnerable throughout the tournament - and those frailties were to return to haunt them in Port Elizabeth. Centre-back Cho Yong-Hyung, the leader of the Korean rearguard, admitted to frustration that two lapses in concentration in their final match had cost the team so dearly.
“We should have played in order to win the game, and the result is disappointing because I think we played better than Uruguay overall,” the Jeju United stalwart told FIFA.com. “As the match went on, we were able to build up our confidence, and personally I thought their forwards were not so difficult to defend against. Although we had trained and prepared a lot for the game, the luck was not on our side in the end.
The young lads played to their potential on this great stage, and I’m surprised and proud of them.
“Nevertheless, we’ve become a stronger side that can compete with the world’s best and the players were able to improve by reaching the round of 16 for the first time on the road. On a personal level, it was a good experience for me because I could learn from my mistakes while playing against some of world-class strikers.”
Meanwhile, left-back Lee Young-Pyo, the most capped player in Huh's starting line-up, was quick to accept responsibility for his role in the defeat. “As for the first goal we conceded, if anyone asks who’s responsible for it, I’d say it was my fault,” said the 33-year-old. “But we played well enough. Nobody could deny that we were good enough to win, because we showed the power of Korean football and we played beautiful football.”
And Lee also believes that a brighter future awaits the current crop of young players, while admitting that it is time for a new generation to emerge. “The young lads played to their potential on this great stage, and I’m surprised and proud of them,” Lee said. “After playing in this tournament, they will improve to an extent you cannot even imagine. I’m not sure what the next World Cup will be like but I can’t wait to see them play in the future.”
Tireless right-back Cha Du-Ri, who burst into tears on the rain-soaked pitch in Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, took some time to return to his usual self and see the bright side of the Taeguk Warriors’ campaign. “I’m sure Korean football will achieve a better result four years from now, although this could be my last World Cup,” said Cha. “I’ve had a good impression on this World Cup, and it has been good to see the people here having high hopes through football. I think we’ve accomplished a great mission in the first-ever World Cup held in Africa.”