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Cho stresses better defense for future

Not satisfied with a third place finish at the recently concluded Asian Cup in Doha, Qatar, South Korean national football head coach Cho Kwang-rae stressed that the team’s defense has to improve in the future.

After arriving home on Sunday, Cho apologized to fans during a press conference for having failed to end South Korea’s 51-year drought at the Asian Cup.

But he said he saw signs of hope for the future.

“With this tournament, South Korean football has entered a transitional period,” Cho said. “We’ve made a lot of changes to the style of our play.”

South Korea beat Uzbekistan 3-2 on Saturday to claim third place. The team fell to the eventual Asian Cup champ Japan in the semifinals.

South Korea committed four penalties in six games. South Korean players and coaches questioned referees in a couple of those calls but all four fouls came when South Korean defenders were trying to be too physical with their opponents.

“We need to change the way we think about playing defense,” Cho said. “We shouldn’t just be physical. We have to play smart defense.”

Looking back on the penalties, Cho said his players might have been too caught up in man-to-man coverage.

“If we chase opposing forwards all the time, we’re bound to commit fouls,” the coach said.

“We have to be a step ahead of the opponents to avoid so many fouls.”

This year’s Asian Cup closed a chapter on South Korean football.

Defensive back Lee Young-pyo, who has played 127 games for the country ― the third-largest number ever ― has announced his retirement from international play. Midfielder Park Ji-sung announced that he, too, will no longer represent South Korea.

Lee and Park have played in each of the past three FIFA World Cups.

“As a coach, it’s sad to see them leave,” Cho said. “(Their absence) could be a problem right away but we have plenty of good players in the K-League (in South Korea).” 

(Yonhap News)
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