Having already qualified for the round of 16 at the FIFA U20 World Cup, the Republic of Korea finished the group stage unbeaten after drawing with the Gambia. The team, which finished second in the group, will face Ecuador, a team we beat in the tournament four years ago, in the round of 16.

Ha Sung-ryong is a reporter.안전놀이터


Before the game against Gambia, our players took a group photo with the jersey of Park Seung-ho, who was forced to return home early due to an untimely injury.

Park Seung-ho suffered a fractured ankle after scoring a celestial equaliser in the last match against Honduras and was no longer able to play in the tournament, and the players consoled his pain and strengthened their determination to fight for their teammate.

With a place in the round of 16 already secured, the team made a number of changes to their starting line-up to ensure their fitness.

The Gambia’s individual prowess and quick counter-attacks threatened on several occasions, but Moon Hyun-ho, the 193cm tall goalkeeper who replaced Kim Jun-hong, who was absent due to accumulated cautions, made some brilliant saves.

Coach Kim Eun-joong brought on players who had played a lot in the first and second rounds, such as Kim Yong-hak, in the second half to keep the sense of the game alive, and our team eventually held The Gambia to a goalless draw.

With one win, two draws and no losses, Korea finished second in the group behind the Gambia and will play Ecuador in the round of 16 on Friday.

South America’s Ecuador is a team we met in the semi-finals of the 2019 tournament, when Korea finished as runners-up, and we have fond memories of beating them 1-0 to reach our first ever final.

[Kim Eun-joong/U-20 coach: I think we will have to prepare a little more thoroughly, and we are cautious because it is a one-off match, but we will prepare well to get a result].

As for the Asian nations, we and Uzbekistan made it to the round of 16, while Japan, with just one win and two losses, crashed out of the group stage for the first time in 22 years.

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