Before the start of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, the South Korean U-20 team was an underdog without Lee Seung-woo (25-Suwon FC) or Lee Kang-in (22-Real Mallorca). Even U-20 coach Kim Eun-joong (44) admitted after the quarterfinals that he was “heartbroken that the players were not recognized.” But now the nation is behind them as they look to reach their second final since 2019.
The Korea Football Association (KFA) announced on July 7 that “Seoul and the Red Devils will hold a group street cheer at Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul at 6 a.m. on the 9th, the day of the match, to support our youth national team against Italy in the semifinals of the U-20 World Cup.”
The Korea U-20 team, led by head coach Kim Eun-joong, will face Italy in the quarterfinals at 6 a.m. on Sept. 9 at La Plata Stadium in Argentina for a ticket to the final.
The team was not expected to do much before the tournament began. They had Lee Seung-woo at the 2017 tournament in South Korea and a star-studded ace in Lee Kang-in at the 2019 tournament in Poland. Add to that the lack of international matches due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and the national team fell off the radar.
However, they made waves in their first game, beating favorites France 2-1. They went on to defeat Ecuador 3-2 in the Round of 16 and Nigeria 1-0 in extra time in the quarterfinals on a header from Choi Seok-hyun, setting an unprecedented record by becoming the first Asian team to reach the quarterfinals of two consecutive tournaments 스포츠토토.
“There were actually no expectations (around the team) and there was a lot of concern,” said Kim Eun-joong after the game. “I didn’t know the players very well, and the players were upset about that,” he said. “I felt bad that they didn’t recognize their potential. I’m grateful to the manager and coaching staff. I am very proud of the players who brought out their potential with my hands,” he said in an emotional interview.
The KFA organized the street cheer for the first time in about six months after the team’s round of 16 match against Brazil at the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar in December last year to give the young national team a boost.
Kim is hoping to break the record of back-to-back quarterfinals in two tournaments and create a new history in Korean soccer by reaching back-to-back finals. At the 2019 tournament in Poland, the U-20s, led by Lee Kang-in, reached their first final after beating Ecuador 1-0 in the quarterfinals. They fell short in the final, losing 1-3 to Ukraine.