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By Joo Kyung-don
NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia, June 18 (Yonhap) -- Following his team's 1-0 loss to Sweden in Group F action Monday, South Korea head coach Shin Tae-yong said he had his doubts about the penalty call that proved costly for his side.
Swedish captain Andreas Granqvist converted a 65th-minute penalty for the match's lone goal at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. Sweden were awarded the penalty after a video review of defender Kim Min-woo's tackle on Viktor Claesson.
Referee Joel Aguilar didn't think there was a foul on the play in the box, and play went on for a few moments before Aguilar signaled for a review. The video assistant referees (VARs), in use for the first time in World Cup history here, ruled that Kim had committed a foul after all, as he appeared to have made contact with Claesson without ever touching the ball.
But from his vantage point, Shin thought otherwise.
"I thought Kim Min-woo touched the ball first and then took (Claesson) down," Shin told a televised interview after the match. "But I think we still have to respect the referee's decision."
When pressed about the call again during his post-match press conference, Shin said, "I accept the decision. I think our players should have responded better."
Kim's foul wasn't the only problem for South Korea, who didn't put one shot on target despite a solid start.
South Korea put some early pressure on the Swedes, who started taking over the match from about 20 minutes in. Shin made a surprise starter out of forward Kim Shin-wook, the tallest South Korean player at 197 centimeters. He was flanked by the fleet-footed Son Heung-min and Hwang Hee-chan up front in a 4-3-3 formation, with Shin hoping Kim would win enough aerial battles to create chances for his sidekicks.
But Kim was mostly ineffective and was lifted in the 66th minute.
"Because we were going up against a tall team, we wanted to negate some of the disadvantage in set pieces (by starting Kim)," Shin said. "And once we got used to playing against taller defenders in the second half, we were hoping to penetrate behind their defense using our speed. But it didn't work out as well as we'd hoped."
Shin said his players were unable to build on the early momentum because they were too worried about the Swedes' physique and got away from their game.
"I think we sat back too much and made life easy for the Swedish goalkeeper (Robin Olsen)," Shin added. "The Swedes were so tough to beat in the box. I think other teams will also have trouble scoring against Sweden. They could be dangerous against any team in the tournament."
Shin said the lethargic performance against Sweden wasn't for any lack of trying, but the task doesn't get any easier. On Saturday, South Korea will face world No. 15 Mexico, who shocked defending champions Germany 1-0 on Sunday.
"We lost even though we prepared so much for this match, and we played really hard," Shin added. "We have to regroup and focus on our next match in a few days."
Asked about his thoughts on how his team will fare against Mexico, Shin said, "The ball is round."
"Against Germany, Mexico showed great speed and skills, and they had excellent counterattacks," Shin said. "I think they will be tough to play, but I also think they'll play a different style than they did against Germany. We'll prepare hard for that match."
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