Thu, 28 Oct, 2021
Melbourne: Coach Uli Stielike admits Korea Republic are still battling mental frailties despite securing a place in the semi-finals of the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 after edging out Uzbekistan 2-0 after extra-time in Thursday’s dramatic quarter-final.
Germany-based forward Son Heung-min scored at the end of each half of extra-time at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium following an entertaining opening 90 minutes of normal time as Korea maintained their 100 per cent record without conceding a goal to claim a third consecutive semi-final appearance.
But with the two-time winners set to face either Asia’s number one ranked side Iran or 2007 champions Iraq in Monday’s semi-final at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Korea still have room for improvement as the Taeguk Warriors seek a first final appearance since 1988.
“We saw a lot of different phases of play in the 120 minutes. Our main objective was to bring the mentality and concentration like we played against Australia to this game, but in the first half we saw mental problems when we played with a lot of pressure. We knew whichever team lost would be on the plane home to their country and I think this pressure was our main problem in the first half,” said Stielike, who has also seen his side beat Oman, Kuwait and hosts Australia.
“After half-time we played much calmer with less unforced errors, as in the first half we couldn’t play five passes. After 91 minutes there was only one team on the pitch, and with this strong 30 minutes at the end of the game, the victory went to the right side.
“Uzbekistan did a good job, mainly in defence, but in the first 90 minutes both teams had three good opportunities and why I think the result after 90 minutes was correct, but in extra-time we did much more for the game.”
Stielike, though, was full of praise for the fighting spirit of Korea’s injury-hit squad, who have lost Lee Chung-yong and Koo Ja-cheol for the remainder of the tournament.
“I think we can discuss a lot about our technical quality. In the first half, we missed a lot of passes and chances. About the technical quality we can discuss, no doubt about it,” added Stielike.
“What we cannot enter into discussion about is the mentality, the sacrifice of our boys. I am not sure that a lot of teams after three games and with two of their best players out of the competition like us (could compete). A lot of teams would lose their mentality if you take two leaders out of their group.
“This is what this group is showing us each day on the training pitch and what we saw today in 120 minutes. A big tick for the kind of mentality that these guys are bringing on the pitch.”