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(Yonhap Interview) S. Korea women's football coach wants to prove value of hard work at 2019 World Cup

All Headlines 10:14 April 24, 2018

SEOUL, April 24 (Yonhap) -- When South Korea qualified for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup after beating the Philippines at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women's Asian Cup last week, head coach Yoon Duk-yeo remembered his team's journey that started from Pyongyang.

The AFC Women's Asian Cup served as the final qualifying tournament for the 2019 Women's World Cup and to reach the continental competition, Yoon's side had to go through a tough road in the North Korean capital last April. The Taeguk Ladies were seen as underdogs in their duel with the North Koreans, but South Korea earned an Asian Cup berth at the end after edging their rivals on goal difference.

The positive energy that was created from Pyongyang apparently led South Korea to grab a ticket to the World Cup in France.

"I still remember that our players didn't step back and fought hard in an atmosphere where some 50,000 supporters rooted for North Korea," Yoon said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Monday. "The yearlong journey was tough, but I feel proud of my players who overcame the difficult process."

For Yoon, what people call "the miracle in Pyongyang" wasn't a miracle. It was proof of their hard work.

South Korea women's national football team head coach Yoon Duk-yeo poses for a photo before his interview with Yonhap News Agency in Seoul on April 23, 2018. (Yonhap)

"Nothing in life is free and accidentally earned," he said. "I don't like the word 'miracle,' but with our hard work and sweat, we've had a miraculous experience, and I hope we can prove it again in France."

Yoon has been leading the South Korean women footballers since December 2012. He is the second-longest serving national football coach for South Korea following Lee Yi-woo, who coached the women's team from 1991 to 1998.

In his national team coaching career, Yoon had some disappointing moments, such as failing to qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and suffering three straight defeats at the 2017 East Asian Football Federation E-1 Championship. The 57-year-old coach, however, said it was the players who allowed him to keep his job for such a long time.

"It would be a lie to say that I had no crisis," he said. "I had difficult times, but my players worked together and overcame those difficult times wisely. That's why I'm still here."

Under Yoon's guidance, South Korea will make their third Women's World Cup appearance next year after competing in 2003 and 2015. Yoon's side made history by reaching the round of 16 for the first time at the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada.

In this file photo taken April 18, 2018, South Korea women's national football team head coach Yoon Duk-yeo (L) is congratulated by Korea Football Association officials at Incheon International Airport in Incheon after his team returned home with a ticket to the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup. (Yonhap)

"The players and I feel responsibility because since the 2015 Women's World Cup, fans have been watching us carefully," he said. "I also noticed that fans and the Korea Football Association have bigger expectations than 2015 for next year's World Cup."

Yoon worked for various K League clubs as an assistant coach before he joined the women's national football team. He admitted that it took some time for him to adjust to women's football that usually has slower tempo than men's football, but Yoon said women footballers' passion and fighting spirit are not inferior to male players.

"As a coach, I feel great about our players, especially when I see them bravely taking on opponents to win the match," he said. "Going one-on-one against the opponents isn't easy for our players, but when they join hands together, I believe we can beat teams that are stronger than us."

Yoon said his short-term goal is to reach the round of 16 at the 2019 World Cup and collect at least a bronze medal at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. But the coach said his ultimate goal is to make a firm environment for women's football in South Korea.

"It's a real problem that children don't want to become football players because they worry about their life after retirement," he said. "There are many things to be solved, but I think if the national team performs well, we'll see many people playing football. I hope we can make the World Cup a good opportunity for that."

In this file photo taken Dec. 15, 2017, South Korea women's national football team head coach Yoon Duk-yeo gives direction to his players during a match between South Korea and China at the EAFF E-1 Championship at Soga Sports Park in Chiba, Japan. (Yonhap)


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