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My players played unimaginable game against Nigeria – Kim

South Korea head coach Kim Eun-jung has said his players surprised him with the victory over Nigeria’s Flying Eagles in Sunday’s quarter finals duel of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Argentina.

Before the match, Kim Eun-jung had told his charges to keep battling until the final whistle.

Kim’s players went out and did exactly that, as they knocked off Nigeria 1-0 in extra time to punch their ticket to the semifinals.

“I’d like to say thank you to them,” Kim said in a televised interview after the match, choking back on tears. “They’ve done an incredible job. It’s great to see them become the future of Korean football.”

Defender Choi Seok-hyun headed in the winning goal five minutes into extra time at Santiago del Estero Stadium in Santiago del Estero, northern Argentina. Choi’s header, set up by Lee Seung-won’s corner, was Korea’s only shot on target in the match.

Nigeria dominated the run of play and had 22 shot attempts, compared to just four by Korea.

But beating opponents while getting outplayed on the statistical board has been the running theme for Korea at this tournament.

Korea have now reached the final four at the second consecutive U-20 World Cup, after finishing as the runners-up in 2019. The 2021 event was not held due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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This year’s squad didn’t draw quite as much attention as the 2019 team, which featured a game-breaking star in midfielder Lee Kang-in, who won the Golden Ball as the tournament MVP despite being just 18.

The lack of star power hasn’t been an issue for Kim’s team, as the coach has been able to push all the right buttons to lead the no-name bunch to within a win of the championship match.

“Honestly, there were no expectations for our team, and there were only concerns,” Kim said. “People didn’t really know much about our players, and they weren’t too happy with that. It’s a shame because these players have so much potential and people just didn’t recognize that.”

Kim refused to take any credit for the team’s success in Argentina, saying, “They’ve brought out the best in themselves with their own hands.”

Korea will face Italy in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Thursday in La Plata, eastern Argentina, or 6 a.m. Friday in Seoul time.



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