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Bento: Korea Republic's Asian Qualifiers victory was for Yoo Sang-chul


Goyang: In what has been an emotional week for football fans across Korea Republic after the passing of Yoo Sang-chul, Paulo Bento has dedicated the Taeguk Warriors' 5-0 win over Sri Lanka on Wednesday to the 2002 FIFA World Cup hero. 

After a long battle with cancer Yoo – who was an integral part of the the Korea Republic side that reached the FIFA World Cup semi-finals on home soil, and scored in their opening-day win over Poland – died on Monday.

As the Taeguk Warriors continued their quest to reach the first FIFA World Cup in Asia since those heady days in 2002 by easing past Sri Lanka in the Asian Qualifiers, Portuguese coach Bento was keen to recognise a true legend of Korea football.

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"[His death] was a sad moment, so we wanted to pay tribute to Yoo Sang-chul; we took this game seriously and we now wish he can rest in peace," said Bento of the former Ulsan Hyundai, Yokohama F. Marinos and Kashiwa Reysol player.

"It will be a challenging time for the Korean football community. We want to take this time to send our condolences to his family and pray for him."

On the pitch at Goyang Stadium, Korea Republic all but secured their place in the third round of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifying and at the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 after Kim Shin-wook, Lee Dong-gyeong, Hwang Hee-chan and debutant Jung Sang-bin helped them cruise pass Group H's bottom side.

With Turkmenistan defeating Lebanon earlier on Wednesday to put a huge dent in Korea's nearest rivals' hopes, Bento made 10 changes from the side that defeated the Turkmens on Saturday.

Among those called into the starting line-up were Ulsan youngsters Lee and Won Du-jae, RB Leipzig forward Hwang and veteran Kim, while Suwon Samsung Bluewings starlet Jung impressed after coming off the bench.

“The ‘big and small’ with Kim Shin-wook and Hwang Hee-chan worked pretty well; they took the game seriously and it led to a great result," said Bento.

“We have to look at Jung Sang-bin with a poised attitude as he is new to the international game, so I will keep my eyes on him when he returns to his club. I was curious about the role he could play for the team and I am satisfied with his performance.

“The door to the national team is always open. Age doesn’t matter. We only look for players’ ability, technique, and compatibility with the team. The three new players (Song Min-kyu, Jung Sang-bin, Lee Dong-gyeong) are young but very talented… we will monitor them to see if they can make the team next time.”

The win meant Korea Republic moved three points clear of Lebanon at the top of the standings before their final Group H match against the Lebanese on Sunday. But with goal difference of +16 ahead over the Cedars, the Taeguk Warriors can go into the game with the pressure off.

“We will put out our best line-up against Lebanon and go for all three points because many things that we wish to accomplish are at stake in the match," added Bento.

"We can say that we qualified for the final round in first place; this is the first time I have experienced this since becoming a head coach. But there are other things to be pursued, and I will be looking for the players’ passion in the next game.”

For 19-year-old Jung, meanwhile, it was a dream debut after he came off the bench in the 71st minute and netted his first goal for his country just five minutes later to round off the scoring.

“Son Heung-min told me not to get disappointed after not playing in the first game [against Turkmenistan] because I would get plenty of chances to play and score in the future," admitted Jung.

“It would be lie to say there wasn't any pressure, but the other experienced players have all helped me feel in my comfort zone and have fun with the national team squad.

“When I was waiting on the sidelines to get subbed on, I wasn’t nervous at all. I was excited as I wanted to help the team; I wanted to cover a lot of ground and do the job that other players told me to do.

“I don’t know what really happened [for my goal]. Lee Dong-gyeong’s shot came right at me, and I put my foot on the ball just to deflect it in a different direction. It was a lucky goal.

“My next mission in the national team is making the FIFA World Cup squad. That’s my ultimate goal.”

Photos: Korea Football Association

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