PORT ELIZABETH - South Korea's defeated
team wasted no time in converting their pain into pride after
Saturday's World Cup elimination by Uruguay, vowing to return to
the next tournament a stronger side capable of beating anyone.
The Koreans lost 2-1 in a game in which at times they
dominated, battling to the end for a win that would have put
them in their first World Cup quarter-finals on foreign soil.
"I'm really happy with the boys," said Scotland-based
midfielder Ki Sung-yong. "We showed that Asian football is good
enough to play against the world."
Coach Huh Jung-moo admitted his team had much room for
improvement, especially in defence, but said he was proud of his
talented players' spirit and determination.
"They never give up, whatever the situation. They always
rise up to the challenge, that kind of tenacity comes from
Koreans and I really want to congratulate them," coach Hun
"I do feel quite hopeful because our players are improving
year-on-year and the game is getting better and that is
something that I can complement.
"We are growing, but on the other hand we have areas to
improve on. It's very important for the players to learn more
from international teams by playing in foreign leagues."
Captain Park Ji-sung, who has become the most successful
Asian football export after five years with English giants
Manchester United, echoed his coach's views on the importance of
having South Korean players at European clubs.
Park is one of six members of the squad currently playing in
Europe and has long said that was the reason for the team's
confidence and staggering improvement in the last few years.
"It was a great chance to reach the next stage, but in a
World Cup everyone is strong," Park said. "We know have to have
more players in Asia playing in Europe. That would make the
Asian teams stronger."
South Korea have been heavyweights in the Asian game,
winning the Asian Cup twice, appearing in eight World Cups and
reaching the semi-finals as co-hosts in 2002.
But it was their performances in South Africa that could
serve as a bigger springboard for future success. Although
sloppy in defence, their counter-attacking skill, quick passing
and phenomenal fitness has been a major worry for their
"They surprised us with their style and approach. They also
determined the physical conditions and the way we played the
match," said Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez.
"They imposed their style, they tired us out. Our victory
was hard fought and we had to struggle hard.
"We can see how football in Korea has grown," he said.
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