U-20s reach third straight round of 16… Can they shed the ‘stuck-up generation’ stigma and become a runner-up myth?

The South Korea Under-20 men’s national soccer team, led by head coach Kim Eun-joong, has advanced to the round of 16 at the FIFA U-20 World Cup for the third consecutive time.

South Korea booked its place in the round of 16 at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023 on Monday (July 28), after Japan dropped to third place in Group C of the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup with three points (1-2) following a 2-1 come-from-behind loss to Israel at the Mendoza Stadium in Argentina on the same day.

At the FIFA U-20 World Cup, the top 12 teams from each of the six groups and the top four finishers in each group qualify for the Round of 16. South Korea, which is in Group F, has not played its final group game, but has qualified for the Round of 16 by finishing in the top four teams in Group 3, regardless of the outcome of its remaining matches.

South Korea is currently 1-1-1 (4 points), ahead of Group B’s Slovakia and Group C’s Japan, who are tied for third place with three points. The team defeated France 2-1 in its first game on Sept. 23 and drew 2-2 with Honduras on Sept. 26 to earn four points. A draw in their final group game against Gambia on the 29th was enough to advance to the round of 16 on their own.

The players wearing the tricolor at the tournament have been dubbed the “sandwiched generation”. Compared to the 2019 U-20 World Cup in Poland, where they finished as runners-up with Lee Kang-in (Mallorca), it was difficult to raise expectations due to the lack of recognition and quality of the players. Few of the players were regular starters in the K League, and they lacked international experience after the U-17 World Cup was canceled due to COVID-19. That’s why the team set a modest goal of ‘passing the group stage’ even as they campaigned for ‘AGAIN 2019’ to continue the myth of the 2019 runners-up.

To make matters worse, the host country was changed just before the tournament, deepening Kim’s worries. Indonesia was the original host of the U-20 World Cup, but it was revoked due to religious conflicts. As a result, Kim had to completely revise his training plan to adapt to the conditions in Indonesia, and the team left South Korea for training two weeks earlier than the opening day. Kim reportedly urged his players to “show that they are alive on the field” and focused on improving their performance in every practice.

In the end, South Korea overcame the challenges they faced to achieve their primary goal of reaching the round of 16. It was their third consecutive round of 16 appearance, starting with the 2017 tournament on home soil, followed by the 2019 tournament in Poland, where they finished as runners-up, and now Argentina.먹튀검증

With the early qualification, South Korea can now approach the remaining match against Gambia with a light heart. “I don’t think we need to exhaust our physical strength if we have qualified (for the round of 16) early,” Kim said. “The Gambia is the most prepared team in this tournament, both organizationally and individually. They have a full complement of players in all positions,” he said, adding that he remains vigilant.

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