Stielike says it’s only fair that S. Korea won against Lebanon

March 24, 2016
South Korean national football team head coach Uli Stielike speaks to players during a second round Asian qualifying match for the 2018 FIFA World Cup against Lebanon at Ansan Wa Stadium in Ansan, south of Seoul, on March 24, 2016. (Yonhap)

South Korean national football team head coach Uli Stielike speaks to players during a second round Asian qualifying match for the 2018 FIFA World Cup against Lebanon at Ansan Wa Stadium in Ansan, south of Seoul, on March 24, 2016. (Yonhap)

ANSAN, South Korea (Yonhap) — South Korea national football team head coach Uli Stielike said his team collected a “fair victory” against Lebanon at the World Cup qualifier on Thursday.

What he meant was that it’s only fair that the team actually attacked and tried to win won, as Lebanon played the entire game for a tie.

At Ansan Wa Stadium in Ansan, south of Seoul, South Korea barely made it seven straight victories at the second round Asian qualifying tournament of the 2018 FIFA World Cup after beating Lebanon 1-0. The Taeguk Warriors struggled to score for most of the regulation despite enjoying a major advantage in ball possession, but striker Lee Jeong-hyeop’s late goal bailed them out.

“Until the 91st minute, I thought an unfair result would happen in football, but a minute later, my thoughts changed,” Stielike said in a post-match press conference. “We really had a win that was collected fairly. We were the only team on the pitch that went for an attack.”

Stielike said after having a scoreless first half, he asked players to be more aggressive. But as the team failed to respond, the German coach put in strikers Lee Jeong-hyeop and Suk Hyun-jun along with attacking midfielder Nam Tae-hee in the late second half and eventually drew a goal.

“I told Lee to play deep inside and never go down to midfield to get the ball,” the coach said.

Stielike said that Suk wasn’t in his plan for this match, but the scoreless deadlock made him change it up.

“Suk had a busy schedule and we had to consider that he could miss the next match for yellow card accumulation because he already had one,” he said. “But we really wanted to win despite those risks on Suk.”

Before the match, Stielike said he would carefully watch Europe-based players who had been failing to become regulars on their clubs. He said that he was satisfied with Crystal Palace winger Lee Chung-yong, but not Hoffenheim left back Kim Jin-su.

“Lee was ready to play because even if he wasn’t playing regularly for his club, he was still included on the roster and kept himself fit,” he said. “But Kim lacked stability throughout the match and I think his performance reflects that he wasn’t on the match roster recently.”

But Stielike praised players’ overall efforts to fight till the end. After this victory, South Korea now have recorded seven straight wins without conceding a goal, tying their own record for most consecutive shutout wins, set in 1978 and matched in 1989.

“I think our players had a big desire to finish the match with a shutout victory,” he said. “That’s why they fought till the end.”

The national team’s next destination is Bangkok, where they will face Thailand for a friendly match on Sunday. The match was scheduled after a World Cup qualifier between South Korea and Kuwait, set for next Tuesday, was postponed indefinitely, with Kuwait still serving FIFA sanctions.

Stielike said midfielder Koo Ja-cheol and goalkeeper Kim Jin-hyeon, who both played against Lebanon, will not travel. The coach added that he doesn’t feel the need to take three goalkeepers to Thailand, while Koo needs rest.

“Koo picked up a muscle ache and was substituted in the second half,” Stielike said. “The player wants to be with the team, but if he travels to Thailand, we could be abusing the player. So we decided to give him a break.”

Stielike got a surprised look on his face when learning from local reporters that the Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff had passed away earlier in the evening. Stielike and Cruyff faced each other as players for Spanish giants Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, respectively.

“I knew he was battling a lung cancer, but that’s shocking news,” he said. “It’s a very sad day for the football community.”

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