The final game was a heartbreaking loss. Still, soccer fans applauded the players for their determination. From the beginning of the tournament, they were met with indifference because they didn’t have a single star, but they came together as a team and created another ‘Top 4 Myth’. Now that the tournament is over, everyone at Kim Eun Joong Ho is a shining star.

The South Korea U-20 soccer team, led by Kim Eun-jung, lost 1-3 to Israel in the third-place match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023 at La Plata Stadium in Argentina on Wednesday. South Korea, which lost 1-2 in the quarterfinals to Italy to drop into the third-place game, finished the tournament in fourth place.

After conceding the first goal in the 19th minute, Korea equalized five minutes later when captain Lee Seung-won (Gangwon-photo) converted a penalty kick earned by Bae Joon-ho (Daejeon). However, the team ran out of steam in the second half and suffered from the Israeli onslaught, eventually conceding the game-winner in the 31st minute through Omer Senior. In the 40th minute, they conceded a late goal to Anan Khalili from a corner kick.

Despite the loss, South Korea made history by reaching the quarterfinals of the U-20 World Cup for the second time in a row, following their triumph in Poland four years ago. They were the only Asian team to advance past the round of 16 at the tournament.

What makes the quarterfinals even more remarkable is that the team came together as a unit in the midst of a tournament where no one was in the spotlight. In Poland, the team had a superstar in Lee Kang-in (Mallorca), who drew attention before the tournament even started. This time, on the other hand, the team was criticized as the “valley generation” because there was no big name star. With the exception of Bae Joon-ho, most of the players did not get much playing time in their respective teams, and their performance and physical fitness dropped significantly.

It was also not easy to adapt to the local conditions as the venue changed from Indonesia to Argentina just over a month before the start of the tournament. The coaching staff and players, including Kim, were determined despite the difficulties. With the knowledge that they would be outplayed, they worked hard on their “forward defense and backward counterattack,” as well as preparing for set pieces that could be fatal to their opponents, which helped them go undefeated from their first group game against France to their quarterfinal match against Nigeria.

Throughout the tournament, the players grew and stepped up their game. With three goals and four assists in the tournament, captain Lee Seung-won surpassed Lee Kang-in’s record of two goals and four assists set four years ago to become the most prolific Korean male player in a FIFA-sanctioned tournament. Kim Ji-soo (Seongnam) proved to be a solid core of the defense and proved to be the ‘next Kim Min-jae’. Lee Young-jun (Gimcheon) was the lone frontline defender amidst a dearth of strikers, and he 메이저놀이터 put up a tough fight against the opposing defenders.

“On the big stage of the World Cup, our players proved to be tough,” said Kim Eun-joong, “These are my first students as a coach. I was proud to see their growth over the past one year and six months,” he said, adding that he was pleased with their progress.

Meanwhile, in the final, Uruguay won their first-ever title with a 1-0 victory over Italy thanks to a 41st-minute header from Luciano Rodriguez.

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