S. Korea coach happy with reaffirming ‘winning mentality’

January 18, 2015

South Korea head coach Uli Stielike said he was pleased with reaffirming the team’s “winning mentality.” (Yonhap)

BRISBANE (Yonhap) — After his side held off Australia 1-0 to win Group A at the AFC Asian Cup on Saturday, South Korea head coach Uli Stielike said he was pleased with reaffirming the team’s “winning mentality.”

Forward Lee Jeong-hyeop scored the winner in the 32nd minute and South Korea fended off a furious Australian charge to enjoy its third straight victory at the continental tournament.

Since South Korea already had a quarterfinals berth in the bags before the match, Stielike said the result itself was less important than the players’ efforts, and praised his players for working hard to the final whistle.

“The key was to show our organization and cohesion, and the players did that with a great deal of energy,” the coach said. “If we keep playing as we did today, we shouldn’t experience problems the rest of the tournament.”

Stielike said he didn’t care whether South Korea finished first or second in the group, as long as the players demonstrated their mental strength.

“I was most satisified with the way everyone kept pushing forward with a winning mentality,” the coach said. “It wasn’t just one or two players that stood out.”

Stielike has had to constantly change his lineups due to injuries. He said he was buoyed by the fact that South Korea has kept improving despite his juggling acts, adding, “No matter who steps in, we’re always ready.”

Stielike, though, lost more players to injuries on Saturday. Midfielder Park Joo-ho took an elbow to the face in the first half and was replaced after trying to play through for a few minutes. In the early moments of the second half, midfielder Koo Ja-cheol landed awkwardly on his right forearm and was stretchered off in obvious pain.

Koo was taken to a nearby hospital for further tests. Stielike said he felt Park should be good to go, but he’s anxiously waiting for the results of new tests on Koo’s arm. National team officials said they fear a possible ligament damage.