Korea football coach says last two World Cup qualifiers most difficult moments of his career
Published : Sep 6, 2017 - 16:33
Updated : Sep 6, 2017 - 16:33
South Korea clinched their ninth consecutive World Cup appearance here on Tuesday despite a scoreless draw with Uzbekistan. The result secured South Korea second place in Group A in the final Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. They finished the group with 15 points, two points above Syria and Uzbekistan.
In Asia, the top two teams from Groups A and B directly advance to the World Cup, while third-placed teams need to go through playoffs. Along with South Korea, Iran, Japan and Saudi Arabia secured their World Cup spots, while Syria and Australia will enter the playoff rounds.
Shin, who took over the team in July after Uli Stielike's ouster, didn't exactly lead South Korea to the World Cup in style, as his side collected two scoreless draws with Iran and Uzbekistan to close out the round. And there was some luck because if Syria had beaten Iran in Tehran, South Korea would have fallen to third place.
South Korean national football head coach Shin Tae-yong speaks to reporters at a Korean restaurant in Tashkent on Sept. 6, 2017. (Yonhap)
Shin said he will not forget South Korea's last two World Cup qualifying matches for the rest of his life.
"I felt that the national team head coaching job is just different than any other coaching position," Shin told South Korean reporters in Tashkent. "Looking back at my football career, the last two matches were the most difficult moments."
Shin, who previously managed South Korea's under-23 and under-20 squads, said that the pressure that he felt during the World Cup qualifying campaign was different from that of the Olympics and the U-20 World Cup.
"South Korean football's future was at stake and we knew what was going to happen if we didn't go to the World Cup," he said. "In addition, I felt that my football career would be over if we didn't qualify for World Cup, so I was stressed out a lot."
Shin said he understands that fans are disappointed by South Korea's recent performances because they failed to score goals. He said when he took over the team, he thought only about earning a World Cup ticket.
"I'm not a god," he said. "But I knew we would get an opportunity if we didn't concede a goal."
South Korea now have nine months to prepare for the 2018 World Cup. Shin said he will gradually upgrade the team, although he lamented that the time isn't enough to implement his style of football perfectly. Shin is contracted through the World Cup in Russia.
"No one can change a team in a day," he said. "But now that we're going to the World Cup, I'm sure we can make improvements, and there are some parts where we need to make improvements."
When asked about reinforcing the attack, Shin said the players just need to finish when they get opportunities. The 46-year-old emphasized that South Korea's offense isn't that weak.
"In the final round, you don't see big scores much, and if you look at our records, we did score some goals," he said. "We just need to finish it, and I think the players have to concentrate more when they got the chances."
With nine months left to the World Cup, Shin now has to think about selecting players for the top FIFA competition. He said the door is open to everyone, although there will be no free-passes just because some players were with the national team in the past.
Shin said veterans like Lee Dong-gook, a 38-year-old striker, and Yeom Ki-hun, a 34-year-old midfielder, can go the World Cup if they can maintain their form.
"Now, we're back to the starting point," he said. "If veterans can play well, they'll go. As for young players, I will watch their performances in the leagues, but they won't be selected just because they played with me in the past."
Shin vowed that he will work harder in the next nine months to prepare for the World Cup, but he also urged the players to give more effort and fans to offer more support.
"Our players need to develop more and play better football," he said. "As for fans, they seemed to only support the national team, but they need to know that the foundation of the national team is the players in the K League. I hope fans can show more support." (Yonhap)