Head coaches for both South Korea and Russia said they were happy with the hard-fought 1-1 draw in their Group H match at the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Brazil on Tuesday.
Hong Myung-bo (Yonhap)
Lee Keun-ho put South Korea up 1-0 in the 68th before Aleksandr Kerzhakov pulled Russia even six minutes later.
Though his players blew a precious lead, South Korean coach Hong Myung-bo said they played "a smart game, tactically and physically."
"We played a solid game and got a point, and there's no reason to hang our heads," he said at the post-match press conference. "We were in the lead and allowed Russia to tie the score. But in a tournament as big as this, the first game is always the most difficult. Considering the pressure that they were under, our players did an admirable job."
Hong made a daring substitution in the 56th minute, replacing striker Park Chu-young, who had done little up to that point, with Lee, who's been known for his speed and energy off the bench.
The move paid immediate dividends as Lee opened the scoring, though Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev's mishandling of Lee's shot had a lot to do with the goal.
"I told him the Russian defenders would tire and lose a step or two in the second half," Hong revealed. "I ordered him to be aggressive."
Hong's counterpart, Fabio Capello, said he was happy with the way his players overcame a nervy start and responded after going down on a fluke goal.
"At the beginning, our players were so nervous, and I don't think they were as smooth as they normally are," the Italian-born coach said. "After the goal, we spurned right back and played the way we know how."
Capello said South Koreans visibly tired near the end, noting that "three players ended up with cramps 20 minutes before the end of the match," and said Russia could have claimed the match.
"They never got very close to the area," he said. "I know they were very quick and fast and pressing, but their shots were from a distance, never from close-up."
Capello turns 68 on Wednesday, and said his team's comeback was "the greatest birthday gift I could receive."
He also said he could live with Akinfeev's adventurous game because all goalkeepers are bound to make mistakes.
"He is a great goalkeeper," Capello said of the CSKA Moscow custodian. "I think it can happen to goalkeepers. Today, we were able to make up for it in the end." (Yonhap)