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Nat'l football chief apologizes for friendly loss to Japan

All News 16:14 March 26, 2021

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, March 26 (Yonhap) -- The top South Korean football official on Friday issued an apology to fans for a friendly loss to Japan from the previous evening, a rare move designed to deflect mounting criticism directed at the national team players and coaching staff.

South Korea suffered a 3-0 loss to their archrivals in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, on Thursday. The score actually flattered South Korea, who barely put up a fight while managing only one shot on target.

Head coach Paulo Bento worked with an undermanned roster, as several key players, including Tottenham Hotspur star Son Heung-min, were sidelined with injuries or weren't released by their clubs due to quarantine regulations in place during the global coronavirus pandemic.

South Korean players (in red) react to their 3-0 loss to Japan in a men's football friendly match at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, Japan, on March 25, 2021. (Yonhap)

While South Korea may have been underdogs, it was the lethargic way they lost that particularly irked the famously passionate fanbase in the country. Many have been calling for Bento's head, too.

And less than 24 hours after the defeat, the Korea Football Association (KFA) President Chung Mong-gyu said he was "extremely sorry" to football fans.

The KFA had already dealt with some flak for agreeing to Japan's proposal for a friendly match in the first place. Detractors said the national team players shouldn't have to jeopardize their health by playing a friendly match in a country still struggling to contain the virus. Some also noted that the football players were being used as pawns to help Japan justify their plan to forge ahead with the Tokyo Olympics in July despite the raging pandemic.

South Korean players acknowledge their supporters at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, Japan, following a 3-0 loss to Japan in a football friendly match on March 25, 2021. (Yonhap)

Chung explained he felt this would be the only match South Korea would get to play before the Asian World Cup qualifying tournament resumes in June.

"Thanks to our stringent quarantine measures, we were able to play the match without infections, but we didn't perform as well as we should have," Chung said. "For that, we offer our deepest apology."

Chung also came to Bento's defense.

"I think it's inappropriate to send criticisms only in coach Bento's direction," the KFA honcho said. "We at the KFA must shoulder more blame for not being able to provide proper support and ensure the team would play in optimal conditions."

Chung vowed to learn from mistakes from this debacle.

"We'll identify causes of these problems, and starting at the World Cup qualifying tournament, we'll bring you a brand new national team," Chung said. "We'll make sure the team will give you joy and hope."

Lee Dong-jun of South Korea (L) falls to the pitch after colliding with Hidemasa Morita of Japan during their friendly football match at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, Japan, on March 25, 2021. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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