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Bento delighted with Korea Republic's Asian Qualifiers fightback, Taha praises Lebanon players


Goyang: Paulo Bento was full of praise for his Korea Republic side after they came from behind to defeat Lebanon 2-1 on Sunday and finish Group H of the Asian Qualifiers with their unbeaten record intact. 

The Taeguk Warriors had all but secured top spot in Group H ahead of their final match against Lebanon at Goyang Stadium but prior to the game Portuguese coach Bento had highlighted the importance of rounding off the second round of Asian Qualifiers on a high.

While the East Asians dominated from the off, they fell behind to Soony Saad's 12th-minute goal before responding after the interval with Song Min-kyu's leveller and a penalty from Son Heung-min to ensure they finished six points ahead of second-placed Lebanon.

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“It’s a great accomplishment [to finish unbeaten]; the final score didn’t seem to fully reflect our performance today and I thought we had a decent first half [despite falling behind]," said Bento.

“Song Min-kyu and Nam Tae-hee showed great synergy with the rest of the group in terms of teamwork and tempo. We used two different formations in the first and second half, and the two players were great at both ends of the pitch.

"Nam was great in all three matches as he was during the training; Song played in two matches in this first international call up. He played on the different sides of the flanks and under different tactics in each match, but he didn’t miss a beat.”

Since Group H of the Asian Qualifiers resumed in Goyang in early June, Korea have picked up nine points from nine as they confirmed their place at the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 and in the final round of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers.

A pair of 5-0 wins over Turkmenistan and Sri Lanka preceded the hard-fought victory against Lebanon in three games that saw 10 different players get on the scoresheet as the Taeguk Warriors continue their quest to qualify for a 10th successive FIFA World Cup.

“I want to evaluate our process through the number of goals we scored and the wins we claimed; we scored 12 goals and conceded one across three matches but regardless of the figure, I believe we are making good progress," added Bento.

"Everything looks rosy when we are winning, but everything is viewed negatively when the team is not doing well. I think the fact that we won by just one goal could give people the impression that this was a tough win.

"There’s a chance that what the players actually did on the pitch may not get as much recognition as it deserved. But getting a difficult win like this is what football is all about.

"We can’t win every game 6-0 or 7-0. That’s why modern football requires us to develop and improve our ability to know how to win. I believe we are on the right path as this type of victory gives us more happiness.”

Lebanon's 3-2 defeat to Turkmenistan on June 9 severely dented their chances of finishing as one of the best runners-up and advancing to the final round of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers, but a surprise victory over the Koreans would have sealed their passage.

Despite taking an early lead it was not to be, however, and they will now have to wait on results elsewhere when Groups A to G play their final round of fixtures on Tuesday.

“Our players had a great match and they showed great concentration and courage; after the previous defeat against Turkmenistan, the players picked themselves up, recovered their energy and their reaction was positive," said head coach Jamal Taha.

“We could have got a draw if it wasn't for some mistakes but we are proud of the fight the players showed for the entire 90 minutes. They worked together and their work paid off as we scored the first away goal against Korea Republic.

“Soony Saad is one of the most important players in the national team and he has great experience after playing abroad, including in Korea Republic. His efforts were good and that was clearly shown with the goal he scored.

“The style of football between the two sides is different as Korea Republic have quick movement and a lot of physical strength. That’s why we played with strong players in the back and tried to take advantage of any mistakes."

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