S. Korea coach Bento apologizes to players for outburst after Ghana loss

November 30, 2022

South Korea head coach Paulo Bento apologized to his players on Tuesday for getting himself suspended for the team’s final group stage match at the FIFA World Cup, following his emotional outburst after a gut-wrenching loss the previous day.

Bento was shown a red card in the immediate aftermath of South Korea’s 3-2 loss to Ghana in Group H action at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, west of Doha. Referee Anthony Taylor blew the final whistle moments after South Korea had won a corner, and Bento and several other players immediately surrounded Taylor to plead their case for one last chance to take the kick. Bento in particular got into a heated exchange with Taylor.

The ejection means Bento will not be allowed to sit on the bench for South Korea’s final group match against Portugal on Friday. His top assistant Sergio Costa will be in charge, with South Korea having to win just to have a shot at advancing to the knockout stage.

“I’d like to tell my players that I am sorry,” Bento said Tuesday through an interpreter before the team’s training session at Al Egla Training Site in Doha. “I didn’t have the best of reactions to the situation. I am human, after all. But for a referee who works in the Premier League, he did not have enough respect for our team. I am still really sorry to my players.”

Bento said he blames no one but himself for being suspended for South Korea’s must-win match, but added he trusted his lieutenants’ ability to handle the task.

“I have competent and capable coaches on the staff,” said Bento, who will not be allowed to communicate with any of his coaches in any way during the match, per FIFA rules. “They’ve been running training sessions with me all along. It will not be exactly the same as having me on the bench, but they’re good enough to do the job.”

Bento said there is enough time until the Portugal match for his staff to make “the best decisions possible,” as far as the lineup and tactics.

“We will prepare for the match in a way that can help us maximize our strengths and cover up our weaknesses,” Bento said. “This is not an ideal situation but everyone on the team knows what we’ve been doing all along.”

Bento said he was heartened by the team’s performance against Ghana, saying South Korea did a lot of things well and just fell short.

“Football is like life. You have to accept a situation like this and move on. Because we did well in many aspects of the game, I think the result was not fair,” Bento said. “For the final match, we have to try to keep up the good work and learn from our mistakes from the past two matches. Against a strong team like Portugal, we have to push ourselves to the limits.”

Depending on South Korea’s result, Friday’s match could be Bento’s last one with South Korea. He is already the longest-serving head coach of the men’s national team, having been at the helm since August 2018.

And as important as results are in this business, Bento also called for more respect for the process.

“We have had some challenges along the way, but I think we have proven here that we can stick to our style and still be competitive against great teams at the World Cup,” Bento said. “We will tackle the challenge head on in the final group match and pour everything we have into it.”