The decibel level at Kalinga Stadium rose dramatically. If one were to close their eyes, they would think that India was scoring, on a winning streak. Only that India is already out of contention for the top spot and will play the classification games 320 km away in Rourkela.
Despite the home team being out, fans turned out in large numbers to support the only Asian team left in the World Cup – South Korea. With nearly 12,000 Koreans supporting each forward, the world No. 9 team came back from 3-5 down to not only level the score at 5-5, but eventually beat 2016 Rio Olympic champions Argentina 3-0 on Sunday. Defeated by 2. The margin in the shootout – arguably the biggest upset of the tournament.
The shooting incident was nothing short of dramatic. Every Korean goal was cheered and Kim Jaehyun’s every save was celebrated in the stands. After Kim saved Argentina’s last-ditch effort from Martin Ferrero, the Korean goalkeeper headed to the stands to acknowledge his support with his team, replacing the unavailable champagne with water for a wild celebration. Surrounded.
“India, the Olympic bronze medallists, leaders of Asia, being a top-ranked team, it was very sad to see them go out in the crossover after losing in the shoot-out. Then Malaysia and Japan also failed to make it to the quarter-finals. So, there was pressure on Korea as the only Asian team left,” said South Korean coach Shin Seok-kyu, who won two Asian Games gold medals in 1994 and 2002 in addition to silver at the 2000 Olympics.
Korea’s hockey journey began in the mid-1980s. In preparation for his first Olympics in Seoul in 1988, he assembled a team for the 1986 Asian Games, also held in Seongnam, South Korea. After testing athletes through various athletic disciplines, South Korea made history by winning the gold medal in 1986. Over the next 10 years, a country with no history of hockey became the undisputed king of Asia with skillful players using unique moves, lobs and aerial balls. Back to the game again.
From 1994 to 2006, South Korea reached the finals of all four Asian Games, winning three. They reached the Asia Cup final five out of six times from 1994 to 2013, winning four. They also won the 2022 Asia Cup when India sent a second-string team to Jakarta. In the World Cup, he finished fourth twice in 2002 and 2006. But his biggest achievement was winning the silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
But the East Asian nation’s standards and fortunes have declined over the past decade. He failed to qualify for both Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 and missed the cut for the 2018 World Cup here.
But Odisha 2023 comes in good shape ahead of the Hangzhou Asian Games later this year. A come-from-behind victory in a crucial World Cup knockout game against a team that stood atop the Olympic podium just seven years ago speaks volumes for their ambitions. Crucially, the winner of the 2023 Asian Games will qualify directly for the 2024 Paris Olympics, meaning the South Koreans can also curb India’s chances.
“After a long time we are playing the World Cup. The last one was 2014. Considering that, our entry into the quarter-finals is impressive. Fourteen of our players are playing their first World Cup while six are veterans. We have a young team with a bright future. Our goal is to win the Hangzhou Asian Games,” said Shin, who was part of the 2000 Olympic silver medal winning team.
To beat Argentina, the Koreans were not only all high press but also a strong defensive unit, especially in the final quarter when Argentina stepped up their attacks. After upsetting Los Leones, the Koreans defeated the South Americans in a shootout to reach the last eight of their first World Cup since New Delhi 2010.
“Our boys had confidence. I am very happy that an Asian team has reached the quarter-finals. My boys are young. Some days they play very well, other days they don’t. They will take more time, training and experience. It may take 2-3 years for them to become a strong team,” added the head coach, who also played in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.
Hockey is a minor sport in South Korea with about 10,000 amateur players, of which only 500 take it up professionally. This number is reduced to 150-200 who play at the elite level in five university teams and four clubs – Seongnam, Gimhae, Incheon and Army. The National League starts in March and ends in October.
The outfit had a busy end to 2022 as they played the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in November, the Nations Cup in December after which they traveled to Spain for practice games, returning home for just two days before heading to India.
“We have prepared for a long time which is why we have been successful here. Our players have good individual skills, the team is strong but going to the quarter finals will not be easy. I told the team to focus on the fundamental skills. Do things like ball control, open receiving, how to kick in attack, how to defend. Our opposition has very good skills here. We are preparing for a better future. This competition is a good experience for the young guys. I hope they get the confidence for the quarter finals,” said the coach.
Hero Kim of the Korean team in the shootout feels that the quarterfinals are going to be tough. “Holland is the No. 1 team in this tournament. We watched their group stage matches. They are the only team to win every single group game. They are a very strong team, who scored a lot of goals,” Kim said. said
The Netherlands have scored 22 goals so far – the second most in the tournament behind Australia – and are the only team other than England not to concede a single goal. But they are not taking South Korea lightly either. “We don’t underestimate them. We’re really focused on how to beat them. I didn’t expect them to beat Argentina. On paper, Argentina is a better team. But there’s a lot more to the tournament. “Maybe. Everything is possible. We saw yesterday that South Korea are a really good team with penalty corner specialists,” said Dutch forward Thijs van Dam.
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