Hangzhou, then Paris…Director Hwang Sun-hong: “Lee Kang-in, I’ll take you again”
After winning his third consecutive Asian Games men’s soccer title, Hwang Sun-hong has set his sights on next year’s Paris Olympics.
Hwang Sun-hong, who coached South Korea to a gold medal at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games, gave credit to his players during an interview at Incheon International Airport on Monday.
After being greeted by more than 300 fans at the arrival gate, Hwang said, “I’m not adjusting well. It’s a little strange to be welcomed after being criticized every day, but I don’t think it’s bad. I will do my best to receive more welcomes in the future.”
Hwang Sun-hong’s South Korea defeated Japan 2-1 in the Asian Games soccer final to win gold, their third straight title at the tournament after winning in Incheon in 2014 and Jakarta-Palembang in 2018.
After going undefeated through the group stage, South Korea defeated Kyrgyzstan (5-1) in the round of 16, China (2-0) in the quarterfinals, and Uzbekistan (2-1) in the semifinals before knocking off Japan in the final.
“I expected it to be very difficult, but the players did their best. The players, coaches, and support staff were a holy trinity, and everything worked out well,” Hwang said, adding, “A combination of factors contributed to our success and helped us win the gold medal.”
“The fans who supported us so passionately in Korea gave us great strength,” Hwang said, adding, “Please give a lot of praise to the players who did a good job.”
Hwang sees the quarterfinal match against Uzbekistan as the biggest challenge of the tournament.
“We took the lead in the preliminary round, but the Uzbek style is straight and powerful, so we were a little bit stuck, and it was a very tough game,” he said. “We overcame that hurdle well and gained confidence in winning the championship.”
The final against Japan was no easier. They conceded the first goal less than two minutes into the game. “I was dizzy,” Hwang recalls, “but I still thought we had a chance if the players didn’t get psychologically shaken. Fortunately, Baek Seung-ho, Park Jin-seop (Jeonbuk), and others were able to hold the center of the pitch well, so we were able to find our pace and turn the game around.”
Hwang, who was a striker for South Korea during his playing days, said he was surprised by the decisiveness of Jung Woo-young, who is the tournament’s top scorer with eight goals.
“I didn’t expect (to score so many goals). At first I thought he had amazing decision-making skills,” he said with a laugh, adding, “I hope he will continue to show that in the future.”
With the Asian Games a success, Hwang now has to get his U-23 team ready for the U-23 Asian Cup in 2024 and the Olympic Games in Paris next year.
“We have to prepare really well. I need the help of the football association or federation. Japan and Uzbekistan have been preparing for almost three years, and we’ve been unable to convene a few times. I think it makes a difference,” he said.
“But we have to work hard to prepare even now. “We need help from the people around us,” he added, “and we need to have a chance to work together in winter training next year, not to mention during the A-match. Otherwise, it’s very difficult. I would like to ask for help from the associations, clubs and federations.”
Lee Kang-in, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in the French Ligue 1, won the gold medal and will enjoy the benefits of military service.
Born in 2001, Lee was old enough to compete in next year’s Paris Olympics, but his military commitments have left him with no reason to compete. It’s not a Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) event, and it’s hard to get a spot on a team.스포츠토토
Nevertheless, Hwang expressed his desire to keep Lee around.
“I want to take all the players of Olympic age,” he said. “I didn’t get a stamp from Kang In, but I told him I had to do it. I want to put together the best team, including the six or seven people who were with us this time.”
He continued, “His answer is still a question mark. He didn’t give me a definite answer. He said it was a secret.”