Team Korea Receives Hero’s Welcome Even After Asian Cup Final Loss

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han

Fans were pronouncing death for South Korean football only seven months ago when their national team returned home after failing to win a single game at the 2014 FIFA World Cup last summer.

Despite falling short of achieving their goal at the Asian Cup from this past weekend, Team Korea received a warm reception when they returned home from Sydney, Australia after finishing runner-up in the tournament, a stark contrast to last July when soccer fans hurled a barrage of yeot candy at them in response to their poor performance at last year’s World Cup. Hundreds of fans greeted Korea’s national team players at the Incheon International Airport, recognizing the team’s gritty efforts that led them to the Asian Cup final for the first time in 27 years.

South Korea’s German head coach Uli Stielike, who took charge only three months before the Asian Cup, expressed his gratitude for the warm welcome, but insisted that his team will strive to improve after its heartbreaking loss to host Australia in the final match of the Asian Cup.

“I didn’t promise that we would win the Asian Cup, but I did promise that we would give it our best shot for the Korean people,” Stielike said at the press conference held inside the airport. “Our players showed that the Korean people could be proud of their players.”

While the Korean team gained precious experience from the Asian Cup, Stielike added, they will not remain content with the result of the tournament and will continue to strive for better results.

Star forward Son Heung-min, who scored a dramatic game-tying goal in the dying seconds of regulation in the final, also thanked the fans for the reception, but admitted that losing the title decider in extra time is lingering in his mind.

“We went to Australia to win,” Son said. “I feel honored that the fans are happy with our efforts, but I still would’ve preferred winning the title.”

Captain Ki Sung-yueng also admired his teammates and promised that the team will continue to stay focused on achieving its dream of winning the Asian Cup title, which it hasn’t won since 1960.

“We gave it our best shot,” said Ki. “We will try to get even better and win the tournament next time.”

The next Asian Cup is scheduled to be held in Iran or UAE in 2019.


Featured image courtesy of Yonhap News Agency