The quicksilver Koreans, who have been as soon as the Asian staff to beat and likewise the runners-up on the 2000 Sydney Olympics, are attempting to regain misplaced floor, which solely augurs nicely for the game within the continent. By beating 2016 Olympic champions Argentina within the style that they did within the crossover match of the continuing 2023 World Cup, South Korea have taken a serious step within the route of revival.
Behind by two objectives till the ultimate quarter started, the Koreans by no means misplaced their construction and perception led by their fixed of twenty years — Jang Jonghyun, who drag-flicked his second aim within the fiftieth minute and was the central determine in a set-piece that was scored off with a variation.
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The Argentines, main 5-4 till 4 and a bit minutes on the clock, have been caught napping in opposition to the nippy boys in crimson, who gained 3-2 within the shootout. Whereas the three different Asian groups within the event — hosts India, Malaysia and Japan — have been left to lick their wounds within the placement video games in Rourkela, the Koreans have been celebrating their quarterfinal entry in Bhubaneswar.
They face the 2018 runners up Netherlands of their last-eight match on Wednesday.
“Who’s it? Holland? Oooh, such a robust staff,” mentioned coach Shin Seok-kyo, with the enjoyment of constructing it to the quarterfinals writ giant on his face in addition to within the lighter tone of his comment.
Shin has lived via what South Korea is attempting to regain in world hockey, main the staff’s gold-medal run within the 1994 and 2002 Asian Video games together with his deadly penalty-corner pictures, which additionally performed a serious position within the 1994 and 1999 Asia Cup triumphs.
Jonghun took over penalty-corner duties and has been ruling on the prime of the D since Shin put his stick down in 2002. After the 2002 Asian Video games gold in Busan, the consistency in South Korea’s sport began waning, to the extent that they missed the bus for Rio 2016.
(Pic credit score: FIH)
The drop in assist for the sport again dwelling was one of many main causes behind that.
“Korea will not be concerned with hockey. The game will not be well-known,” coach Shin dwelled upon the explanations for Korean hockey’s fall.
The nation by no means had sufficient provide of hockey gamers. The construction of the sport has by no means been robust, however coaches like Shin have tried to make do with no matter is at their disposal.
“There are solely 4 golf equipment in South Korea and 5 college groups,” mentioned Shin. “About 150-200 gamers,” he added. That small quantity contains the cream of hockey gamers in the whole nation. The staff for the World Cup in India has been picked from amongst these gamers.
“In our staff, 14 gamers are enjoying their first World Cup. 5 or 6 are skilled gamers,” mentioned Shin. “So we’ve got a younger staff for the longer term. Our goal is the Asian Video games in Hangzhou (China) and the (Paris 2024) Olympic Video games.”
Issues have regarded up for the staff since 2021. They reclaimed the Asia Cup in 2022 after 9 lengthy years and within the yr earlier to that gained the Asian Champions Trophy.
But it surely’s by no means simple again dwelling for the Koreans.
“There isn’t any skilled league. 4 golf equipment contribute cash – Seongnam Metropolis Corridor, Incheon Metropolis Sports activities Affiliation, Gimhae Metropolis Corridor and Military,” the coach added.
Center college is when children typically begin enjoying hockey in South Korea after which graduate to highschool the place they proceed with the game
“There are 15 groups every (in center and highschool). Then they go to college the place there are 5 groups. Some gamers then serve within the Military for 2 years. After that, some go for golf equipment and a few retire. Maintaining the gamers collectively may be very troublesome,” Shin mentioned.
At these ranges, Shin mentioned engaged on the essential expertise is his focus as a coach.
“Ball management, open receiving, find out how to assault, find out how to defend.”
Shin wasn’t completely satisfied to see three Asian groups failing to make it to the quarterfinals.
“Very unhappy,” he mentioned. “India is Asia’s chief, (Tokyo) Olympic bronze medallist, high-ranked staff. Malaysia and Japan have additionally not made it to the quarterfinals. There was stress (on S Korea in opposition to Argentina) as the one Asian staff left.”
That stress will mount to a different stage on Wednesday within the quarterfinal in opposition to the Dutch.
But it surely was troublesome to identify any nerves in Shin’s phrases, for whom reaching the quarterfinals was his staff’s first goal earlier than they began their journey on this World Cup after a niche of eight years.
“My boys are younger. Some days they play very nicely and a few days not so good. It’s going to take a while…Possibly two or three years later, they are going to be skilled gamers,” mentioned Shin.
Slowly getting their mojo again, a win over Holland and a spot within the semifinals in opposition to defending champions Belgium will likely be one other big step in South Korea’s comeback story.