The lack of a standout star player has led to the uncomfortable label of the Valley Generation, but coach Kim Eun-joong’s one-man team has reached the quarter-finals of the U-20 World Cup. It’s the second consecutive quarter-final since Lee Kang-in (Mallorca) starred in Poland four years ago. Now, they will look to reach the quarter-finals for the second consecutive tournament.
Kim Eun-jung’s U-20s will face Nigeria in the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023 at the Santiago del Estero Stadium in Argentina on Friday (5 June).
The U-20s have won two and lost two. They have met twice at the U-20 World Cup, with a 1-1 draw. At the 2005 World Youth Championship (now U-20 World Cup), South Korea won 2-1 thanks to goals from Park Joo-young and Baek Ji-hoon, and lost 0-1 in 2013.
South Korea’s football talent reached the quarter-finals with their original teams.
Lee Seung-won (Gangwon FC), Lee Young-joon (Gimcheon Commerce) and Kim Yong-hak (Portimonense) led the attack, while No.10 ace Bae Jun-ho (Daejeon Hana Citizen), who was slowed in the group stage by a sore thigh, bounced back with a goal and an assist in the round of 16 against Ecuador.
He scored seven goals in three games, excluding the final group game against Gambia, where he used a rotation. He was no slouch in firepower matches against European and South American giants.
However, the defence was a little shaky.
Five goals conceded in four games. While the defence was solid, three goals were conceded from penalties. They conceded penalties against France, Honduras, and Ecuador. Part of this is due to poor officiating, but they also need to refrain from making unnecessary moves in the penalty box.
Nigeria’s strength is their African physicality.
The counter-attack based on physicality is a powerful weapon. They were drawn in the Group of Death (Group D) alongside Brazil and Italy, but finished third with two wins, one loss and a draw. In the round of 16, they defeated hosts and heavy favourites Argentina to reach the quarter-finals 안전놀이터.
It’s nice to see that the quarter-final venue is Santiago del Estero, where the round of 16 was held. However, they had one less day to recover than Nigeria, who played the round of 16 a day earlier.
South Korean football hopefuls have been strong against African teams in previous U-20 World Cups. Five wins, three draws and three losses. Four years ago, they defeated South Africa and Senegal (on penalties), and in 2017, they knocked out Guinea. They have won three straight against African teams since losing to Nigeria in 2013.