Kim Joong-ho and Bae Jun-ho (Daejeon Hana Citizen) lived up to their No. 10 shirts. Korea’s ‘Again in 2019’ quest continues.
The South Korean Under-20 team, led by head coach Kim Eun-joong, advanced to the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023 with a 3-2 victory over Ecuador in the round of 16 at the Santiago del Estero Stadium in Argentina on Sunday (June 2).
It was the second consecutive quarterfinal appearance for South Korea at the tournament, following their runner-up finish in Poland in 2019.
South Korea is determined to repeat its previous ‘runner-up’ honor. The 2021 edition of the tournament was canceled due to the novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19).
Against Ecuador, there was one player who caught everyone’s attention. It was Bae Jun-ho, who scored one goal and one assist.
Starting on the left wing in a 4-2-3-1 formation, he assisted Lee Young-joon’s (Gimcheon Sangmu) goal in the 11th minute. He delivered an amazing ‘courier cross’.
In the 19th minute, Bae Jun-ho rattled the net himself. After receiving a pass from Park Chang-woo (Jeonbuk Hyundai), he beat the opponent’s defense in the middle of the box with a personalized move and calmly finished.
Bae Jun-ho’s goal gave South Korea an early two-goal lead and they never relinquished it to secure a 3-2 victory. South Korea’s third goal came from a header by Choi Seok-hyun in the third minute of the second half. Bae played 82 minutes on the day.
Bae Jun-ho has finally lived up to expectations.
Born in 2003, Bae Jun-ho was given a chance by head coach Lee Min-sung in April at his club Daejeon, despite his young age, and played in seven 안전놀이터 K League 1 matches before the tournament. He is the only player in the squad who is a regular starter for a K League 1 team. As such, expectations were high before the tournament.
However, he had to endure a disappointing group stage due to injury. Due to a bad thigh adductor, Bae was limited to the bench in the first group game against France. He started the second game against Honduras, but didn’t have much to show for it and was subbed off early in the second half.
He came on as a late substitute in the third match against The Gambia after the team had qualified for the round of 16. And on this day, he returned to the starting lineup, flying through the air and wiping away the tears.
FIFA also recognized Bae’s performance.
After the match, FIFA said, “Bae Jun-ho’s outstanding performance led South Korea to the quarterfinals.”
“Bae showed two outstanding touches that embarrassed Ecuadorian defender Daniel de la Cruz. He then made it 2-0,” elaborating on his performance.
After the match, Bae said, “I’ve been injured since qualifying. I felt sorry for my teammates. I tried to play hard instead of trying to be good.”
When asked about the ‘Most Valuable Player’, Coach Kim Eun-joong said, “We talked about it after the first game. 21 people play together. 21 people move as a team. The players who played in the first half, the players who played in the second half, the players who couldn’t come on as substitutes, and Park Seung-ho, who returned home due to injury, also fought as a team, and that’s why we were able to win.”
“For our next game, we have to focus on Nigeria. They had one more day off than us. We need to focus on recovery.”
South Korea will look to advance to the semifinals against Nigeria at 2:30 a.m. on May 5. It will be interesting to see if Bae Jun-ho, who has gotten a feel for the game, can fly again.