JEONJU -- South Korean football coach Shin Tae-yong said Friday his side will play every match like the final at the FIFA U-20 World Cup to deliver a surprising performance at home.
The U-20 World Cup will be staged in six South Korean cities from Saturday to June 11. The young Taeguk Warriors are in Group A, with Guinea, Argentina and England at the 24-team tournament. The top two from each group and the four best third-placed teams advance to the round of 16.
South Korea will face Guinea in the tournament opener on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, some 240 kilometers south of Seoul. South Korea will then face Argentina three days later at the same venue before taking on England in Suwon, some 45 kilometers south of Seoul, next Friday.
South Korea's under-20 national football team head coach Shin Tae-yong speaks at a press conference at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, on May 19, 2017, one day ahead of their FIFA U-20 World Cup opening match against Guinea. (Yonhap)
"It's not been long since I took the helm of this team, but in such a short period of time, our under-20 players have followed me well," Shin said at a press conference in Jeonju. "Through training in Portugal and a test event in March, I saw the possibility in our players. And through recent friendlies against Uruguay and Senegal, I put my faith in the players."
Shin's side beat Uruguay 2-0 and played Senegal to a 2-2 draw in friendly matches before the U-20 World Cup.
Shin, who took over the team last December, said he only thinks about winning the opening match against Guinea at this moment and South Korea are ready to put all-out efforts to create impressive results. South Korea's best U-20 World Cup finish came in 1983, when they finished fourth in Mexico.
"If we play every match like the final, I think we can pass the group stage and advance to the round of 16, quarterfinals and so on," he said. "For the opening match, we'll have some nerves, but we have to show what we've prepared. If we perform like we did in the friendly matches, I think football fans will be surprised at the U-20 World Cup as well."
Shin, who previously led South Korea at the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympic Games, said his team will display an attacking brand of football against Guinea.
"If Guinea also play attacking football like us, it's going to be an exciting match," he said. "But in football, you can't always attack. You have to prepare for every possible situation during the match."
Shin said Guinea possess power and speed just like any other African team.
"Of course, we may give up the opening goal to Guinea, but I'm ordering the players not to be shaken too much when that situation happens," he said. "There's no reason for us to sit back."
Shin said his only concern for the players is about their psychological state going into the World Cup.
"Our players receive too much spotlight from the media and fans," he said. "I'm worried that they may feel too cocky and want to show off tomorrow."
The local organizers said South Korea's match against Guinea has sold out. Team captain Lee Sang-min said the players will feel some pressure, but he believes they will be energized by the sellout crowd on the pitch.
"This is the World Cup that we've been waiting for for a long time," he said. "Once we acheive the result that we wanted, I believe honors will follow automatically. We will be united as one team under one goal."
Lee, who is a center back, said he is aware that fans are worried about South Korea's defense that has been shaky, especially in set pieces.
"I know we weren't perfect in our defense, but we are tying our best to fix the problem," he said. "From tomorrow, we will have clean-sheet games." (Yonhap)