South Korea has reached the quarterfinals of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Under-20 World Cup for the second straight tournament.
The U-20 national soccer team defeated Ecuador 3-2 in the Round of 16 on Sunday at the Santiago del Estero Stadium in Argentina to reach the quarterfinals. This marks the second consecutive quarterfinal appearance for South Korea, following their best-ever runner-up finish at the 2019 tournament. South Korea also met Ecuador in the quarterfinals of the 2019 tournament, where they won 1-0 to advance to the final.
This is the sixth time South Korea has reached the quarterfinals of the U-20 World Cup. The tournament featured four Asian nations, but Korea is the only one to reach the quarterfinals. Japan and Iraq were eliminated in the group stage, while Uzbekistan lost 0-1 to Israel in the Round of 16. South Korea will play Nigeria on Friday at 2:30 a.m. for a spot in the quarterfinals. Nigeria defeated hosts and the tournament’s most decorated team (six), Argentina, 2-0, in the Round of 16. South Korea and Nigeria have met twice before at the U-20 World Cup (2005, 2013), with each team holding a 1-1 record.
Against Ecuador, South Korea jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first half with goals from Lee Young-joon in the 11th minute and Bae Joon-ho in the 19th minute before conceding a goal on a penalty kick in the 36th minute. South Korea made it 3-1 three minutes into the second half when defender Choi Seok-hyun rattled the net with a header. South Korea conceded one more goal in the 39th minute but held on for the win. Bae Jun-ho, who was named a “player to watch” by FIFA ahead of the tournament, had a one-goal, one-assist performance on the day, assisting on Lee Young-joon’s opening goal. “Bae Jun-ho’s brilliance helped South Korea reach the quarterfinals,” FIFA said. He baffled the Ecuadorian defense with two special touches before scoring a goal.” “I felt sorry for my teammates because I didn’t play well in the group stage due to injury,” Bae said after the game. “I went out with the idea of playing hard rather than trying to do well, and I think it worked out well.”
Captain Lee Seung-won, who assisted Choi Seok-hyun on South Korea’s third goal of the day, increased his tournament tally to four offensive points (one goal, three assists). Lee sent the ball into the box from a corner kick, where 안전놀이터 Choi headed it into the back of the net. Lee had a goal and an assist in South Korea’s 2-1 win over France in their first group game. In South Korea’s second group game against Honduras, which ended in a 2-2 draw, he also scored an assist from a corner kick to help South Korea avoid defeat. South Korea has scored seven goals in four matches at the tournament, with four of those goals coming from Lee’s toe.
“I told the players that today could be their last day at the tournament because if we lose, there will be no next game, but they did a good job of following through,” said Kim Eun-joong, head coach of the Korea U-20 National Team. “The Ecuadorians had the advantage of being in South America, so they were very confident and our players struggled, but they stayed focused and finished well.”