South Korean football manager Cho Kwang-rae has described his team’s loss to Japan on Wednesday as an “important lesson” ahead of World Cup qualifying in September.
A lackluster performance saw Cho’s side tumble to a 3-0 defeat at Sapporo stadium, triggering concerns about the team’s future ahead of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
It was the biggest defeat to Japan in 37 years since Korea lost 4-1 to its neighbor in 1974. The teams last met at the Asian Cup in January, when Japan beat Korea in the semifinals in penalty a shootout.
The 57-year-old manager admitted Wednesday that Korea gave away the game through its poor defense. “We lost the balance of our defense after Kim Young-kwon got injured,” Cho said after the game.
The 21-year-old Kim was substituted after 23 minutes after suffering an ankle injury. And substitute defender Park Won-jae also left the field with a concussion after 36 minutes.
Another big blow for Cho was the absence of key midfielder Lee Chung-young of Bolton Wanderers, who broke his leg in July.
“We lost some of our key players, so we couldn’t play our football today,” Cho added.
The Japanese side dominated the game throughout the 90 minutes while the Koreans strugged to clear the ball in their own half. Striker Lee Keun-ho of Gamba Osaka and Wolfsburg’s Koo Ja-cheol had a couple of clear chances, but missed them due to their lack of accuracy at the goalmouth.
Wednesday’s game was Korea’s final warmup match before the start of qualification for the 2014 World Cup. Cho noted that he believes the painful defeat will shake up his players heading into the important qualifier in September.
Korea, which is aiming for its eighth consecutive World Cup finals, is in Group B of the third round Asian qualifying alongside Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. Korea plays its first leg against Lebanon on Sept. 2.
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org)