Saturday, 30th September 2023

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‘Young Taegeuk Warriors’ 2nd consecutive challenge to the semifinals

Korea’s young Taegeuk warriors challenge their 3rd ‘four-legged myth’ in the U-20 World Cup.

The Korean U-20 World Cup team,안전놀이터 led by coach Kim Eun-joong, will play in the quarterfinals of the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup held at Estadio Unico Madre de Ciudades in Santiago del Estero, Argentina on the 5th (hereinafter Korean time). clash with nigeria The Korean U-20 national team, which finished runner-up in the 2019 tournament, aims to advance to the semifinals of the U-20 World Cup for the third time in history, following the 1983 Mexico tournament and the 2019 Poland tournament.

In the round of 16, Nigeria advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating Argentina, the winner of last year’s World Cup in Qatar and the host country of the tournament, 2-0. Nigeria is also a fairly strong team in age-specific competitions, with two U-20 World Cup runner-ups and one third place. However, the runner-up in the last tournament and Korea, who reached the quarterfinals in two consecutive tournaments, are also expected to have a lot of fun with the two teams’ quarterfinals.

Korea and Nigeria met twice in the U-20 World Cup

In fact, Nigeria is not an ‘unknown opponent’ to Korea. In the A match, they faced each other 5 times and had a clear advantage with 3 wins and 2 draws, and the Olympic team recorded a total of 4 wins, giving Nigeria a ‘nightmare’. The U-20 national team faced off 4 times in total, with 2 wins and 2 losses. In particular, the two teams faced each other twice in the U-20 World Cup finals. Therefore, this head-to-head match will be a match to cover the supremacy of the U-20 national teams of the two countries.

Korea and Nigeria were placed in the same group as Brazil and Switzerland in the 2005 Netherlands tournament. At the time, Korea’s expectations for the national team by age group were quite high due to the performance of the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup semifinals. In fact, at that time, Park Seong-hwa was lined with talented youngsters such as Park Joo-young (Ulsan Hyundai playing coach) who was called a “soccer genius,” Baek Ji-hoon of “Blue Bird,” and Shin Young-rok of “Young-rok Bar.” 

After losing 1-2 to Switzerland in the first match of the group stage, Korea Rep. had to beat Nigeria in the second match. South Korea, which gave Nigeria the lead in the 18th minute of the first half, was unable to score a comeback until the 40th minute of the second half, and the defeat was getting darker. However, Korea equalized in the 44th minute with an exquisite right-footed free kick by Park Ju-young, and Baek Ji-hoon scored the winning goal with his left foot in extra time in the second half to complete the come-from-behind drama 2-1.

After putting all their energy into the match against Nigeria, Korea lost to Brazil 0-2 in the third match of the group stage three days later, failing to advance to the round of 16. Nigeria, which had been beaten by Korea, rallied itself and advanced to the round of 16 with second place in Group F. Then, they beat Ukraine, the Netherlands, and Morocco in turn in the tournament to advance to the final. However, in the final, they met Argentina, led by a “monster” named Lionel Messi, and lost 1-2 and had to be satisfied with the runner-up.

Korea and Nigeria were placed in the same group again in 8 years at the 2013 Turkey tournament. After a 2-1 win over Cuba and a 2-2 draw with Portugal, South Korea lost 0-1 to Nigeria in the third group match. Korea, who reached the round of 16 after finishing third in their group, advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating Colombia in the round of 16 via penalty shootout. Frustrated.

Who will emerge as Korea’s hero in the quarterfinals?

Nigeria failed to leave a significant mark in the adult World Cup, with three advances to the round of 16 being the best ever. Even last year’s World Cup in Qatar, in the final qualifying round, Ghana was pushed out of the ‘away goal’ and did not even advance to the final round. But at the U-20 World Cup, the story is different. Starting with third place in the 1985 USSR Championship, Nigeria has been consistently improving by winning the runner-up in the Saudi Arabian competition in 1989 and the runner-up in the Netherlands in 2005.

Nigeria was placed in the same group with traditional football powerhouses such as Brazil and Italy. Nigeria lost 0-2 to Brazil in their last match of the group stage and was relegated to 3rd place in the group. And in the round of 16, they defeated Argentina, the host nation that had beaten Nigeria in the final of the Dutch tournament, 2-0, succeeding in revenge from 18 years ago and advancing to the quarterfinals.

In the round of 16, Korea defeated Ecuador 3-2 at the end of an excellent match. Of course, Korea also scored three goals in the round of 16, but compared to the teams that exploded multiple goals in the round of 16, such as the United States beating New Zealand 4-0, Brazil beating Tunisia 4-1, and Colombia beating Slovakia 5-1. It is true that, along with Israel, it is evaluated as a somewhat underdog among the countries that have advanced to the quarterfinals. Moreover, the opponent in the quarterfinals is Nigeria, a strong player in the tradition of the U-20 World Cup, which is gaining momentum after breaking its tough relationship with Argentina.

As in the previous tournament, where there was an outstanding ace named Lee Kang-in (RCD Mallorca), Korea does not have a clear ace leading the team, but the entire team is active and a new hero is being born in every game. (Daejeon Hana Citizen) emerged as a new hero by recording 1 goal and 1 assist in the round of 16. If a new player plays well in the quarterfinals, we can play well against Nigeria.

However, the players’ stamina is expected to be a factor of concern for Korea in the quarterfinals. In fact, Korea, which made the round of 16 on the 2nd, has one day less rest days than Nigeria, which had the round of 16 on the 1st. However, as they are young players under the age of 20, their spirit and spirit can overcome the inferiority in physical strength. Let’s hope that the young Taegeuk warriors, who are continuing their great challenge in Argentina, on the other side of the world, beat Nigeria and deliver the good news of ‘the myth of winning the top 4 in two consecutive tournaments’ to soccer fans.

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