- Hosts Korea Republic knocked out in last 16 by Portugal
- Coach Shin Taeyong and midfielder Lee Sangheon reflect on journey
- Lee says, "When one story ends, another always begins"
Korea Republic’s adventure at the FIFA U-20 World Cup on home soil came to an abrupt end on 30 May in Cheonan. The young Taeguk Warriors went down fighting in the Round of 16, beaten by a Portugal team following in the footsteps of its fellow countrymen in becoming an unwanted guest. Over their past four tournaments, UEFA EUROs and FIFA World Cups combined, the Portuguese seniors and youth teams have managed to see off the host nation every time.
"It’s an unfortunate result for us, but my players gave it their all, I’m proud of them," Korea Republic coach Shin Taeyong said after the match. "The two goals that we let in in the first half were a real set-back. Portugal scored with the only two chances that they had. You can’t argue with a strike rate like that.
"After those two goals, my lads were under pressure and they never really managed to shake that off. They fought until the end, though, and they gave it their best shot. But it wasn’t enough, and we want to say sorry to our fans."
Apology accepted, if the never-ending applause at the Cheonan Sports Complex after the 90 minutes is anything to go by. Overall, the Koreans made a reasonable success of their home tournament. They came out of a very tough Group A (featuring England, Argentina and Guinea), and against Portugal, they never stopped chasing the game, pulling a goal back at the end via Lee Sangheon.
Looking to the future
"It wasn’t a consolation goal," the No16 said to FIFA.com of his 81st-minute strike. "I really think that it could have changed the game, and if we had been a bit more efficient with our chances, we could have got back into it. The Portuguese showed us how you put away chances though."
With every defeat comes a raft of regrets, and Korea Republic can certainly have a few, based on the fan fervour that was generated by the team. "We had one heck of an adventure," Lee said. "It’s the first time that we’ve played in front of so many people. And ironically, this might be what cost us – we put ourselves under too much pressure."
Despite the regrets, the midfielder can definitely see hope for the future. "When one story ends, another always begins. There’s no point looking backwards. The future is ahead of us. We’re going to go back to our clubs, work hard… and come back stronger, in the hope that one day, we are lucky enough to experience something like this again."