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S. Korea coach praises captain for leadership at U-20 World Cup

Sports 14:21 June 20, 2019

SEOUL, June 20 (Yonhap) -- After South Korea finished runners-up at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland last week, their midfielder Lee Kang-in earned the Golden Ball as the best player of the tournament.

There's no denying Lee's offensive contribution, which included two goals, four assists and a slew of jaw-dropping turns and passes. But if South Korea head coach Chung Jung-yong had a vote, he would have thrown his support behind his captain, defensive back Hwang Tae-hyeon.

Chung Jung-yong, head coach of the South Korean men's under-20 football team, speaks at a press conference discussing the team's runner-up finish at the FIFA U-20 World Cup at the Korea Football Association House in Seoul on June 20, 2019. (Yonhap)

"He's overcome so much adversity, and he did a great job as the captain," Chung said at the post-tournament press conference at the Korea Football Association (KFA) House in Seoul on Thursday. "I think he did everything you can ask for from a captain."

Chung said he'd coached Hwang for almost two and a half years, dating back to the under-18 days. Hwang started each of South Korea's seven matches at the U-20 World Cup and provided much stability on the back end. And Chung said the defender had to really work his way onto the team.

"He's a quality player now but in the past, there were moments when I thought he wouldn't be good enough to play," the coach said. "But he's beaten those odds. We needed a captain who could fit into our system, and I want to thank him for all he's done."

The members of the coaching staff for South Korea at the FIFA U-20 World Cup pose for photos before their press conference at the Korea Football Association House in Seoul on June 20, 2019. From left: goalkeeper coach Kim Dae-hwan, assistant coach Gong Oh-kyun, head coach Chung Jung-yong and physical trainer Oh Sung-hwan. (Yonhap)

Assistant coach Gong Oh-kyun said little-used defender Lee Kyu-hyuk gets his Golden Ball vote.

Lee was a last-minute replacement for forward Jeong Woo-yeong, who was initially named to Chung's team but was unable to play due to his commitment to his then-Bundesliga club, Bayern Munich.

Lee warmed the bench for the first six matches and then entered the final against Ukraine as a substitute in the 80th minute.

Gong said Lee, even though he wasn't getting any playing time, kept his spirits high and it rubbed off on the rest of the team.

"He was a great cheerleader on the bench," Gong said. "He helped his teammates stay positive and kept our morale high."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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