KOREA REP. Column
Though KOREA REP. started with a 1-0 loss to European champions PORTUGAL in their first match, they beat SOUTH AFRICA 1-0 in their second game, and went on to win against a formidable ARGENTINA with a counteroffensive goal from OH Sehun and CHO Youngwook. The squad finished second in the GROUP STAGE, with 2 wins and 1 loss. In the KNOCKOUT STAGE ROUND OF 16, KOREA REP. faced East Asian rivals Japan, and did a remarkable job in defense by locking out a versatile Japanese offensive with five men on the defensive line. In the second half, the squad placed four men in defense to be attacking. In the 84th minute, a missed pass by Japan allowed CHOI Jun to cross the ball to OH Sehun, who headed the ball into the back of the net for a KOREA REP. victory.
In the quarter finals, KOREA REP. used the momentum it gained from defeating its rivals against Senegal, a match which ended in a penalty shootout after a 3-3 draw. KOREA REP. came out victorious and progressed to the SEMI FINAL against South American champions Ecuador. Despite struggling to hold onto the ball, KOREA REP.’s CHOI Jun managed to score the first goal of the match, which the team held on to for the remainder of the game, making it the very first squad in KOREA REP. history to make it to an official FIFA final. Although the squad lost 3-1 to Ukraine, it displayed a remarkable performance, deserving of second place. LEE Kangin, who headed many of KOREA REP.’s offensives, was awarded MVP of the tournament.
Players chosen for the squad by HEAD COACH, KAGEYAMA Masanaga were quick to satisfy his expectation, exhibiting a stellar performance throughout the tournament.
The team, which basically uses a [4-4-2] formation, made a bumpy start against South American champions Ecuador when it scored an own goal. However, YAMADA Kota scored a goal for JAPAN in the second half of the match, ending its first game in a draw.
The second match against MEXICO saw JAPAN placing pressure on ace footballer Diego LAINEZ, while FUJIMOTO Kanya made a superb pass to MIYASHIRO Taisei, who flew in for a goal. JAPAN scored two more goals, beating MEXICO 3-0.
Its game against ITALY – a rematch since 2017 – concluded with a scoreless draw, meaning that Japan finished in 2nd place in the GROUP STAGE. Its mainstays in attack, TAGAWA Kyosuke and SAITO Koki suffered unfortunate injuries.
A missed pass in the KNOCKOUT STAGE ROUND OF 16 match against KOREA REP. led to goal for the opposition, when CHOI Jun crossed the ball to OH Sehun for a header in the 84th minute. JAPAN lost 1-0.
JAPAN left the tournament at the same juncture as 2017, knocked out of the best of 16 round. However, Captain SAITO Mitsuki, remarked that “this is the best squad that I’ve played in”. Many are waiting to see how this generation of footballers will perform in next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games.