South Korea head coach Uli Stielike said Tuesday his side produced a deserving victory against Uzbekistan in a World Cup qualifier at home.
South Korea beat Uzbekistan 2-1 in their fifth match in the final Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. South Korea were down 1-0 after the first half, but goals by Nam Tae-hee and Koo Ja-cheol helped the hosts collect three points at Seoul World Cup Stadium.
This was South Korea's last match of 2016. They will wrap up this year with a record of eight wins, one draw and two losses.
"I knew today's match was not going to be easy because Uzbekistan had allowed only one goal (in the final qualifying round) before this match," Stielike said at a post-match press conference. "We had a difficult game because we conceded the first goal, but I'm satisfied that we overturned the result."
Stielike said that the players did their jobs well to keep high ball possession in the game.
"Our players didn't lose their cool and showed their usual plays to produce a deserving victory," he said. "We outran the opponents and had high ball possession. Although we lacked delicate plays near the box, overall, I'm satisfied."
South Korea climbed past Uzbekistan to second place in Group A, where they're also competing with Iran, Qatar, Syria and China.
With three wins, one draw and one loss, South Korea, looking for their ninth straight World Cup appearance, have 10 points, one ahead of Uzbekistan.
|Nam Tae-hee (Yonhap)|
Iran remained at the top of the group with 11 points, following a scoreless draw with Syria Tuesday.
South Korea were looking to finish at least in second place at the halfway point of the Asian qualification which will end September 2017. Only the top two teams in the six-nation group will earn automatic berths in the World Cup in Russia, while the third seed needs to go through the playoffs.
"It's very important that we have retained second place at this point," he said. "We can now have some breathing room to prepare for the next match. There is a big difference between second place and third place."
Stielike said he entered the match with a lineup that could boost their ball possession. The German deployed attacking midfielders Nam Tae-hee and Koo Jae-cheol, who played on the flanks in a friendly against Canada last week, in the central midfield, while using Ki Sung-yueng as anchorman behind them.
|Koo Jae-cheol (Yonhap)|
"We wanted to have high ball possession, so I put in the players who have good ball control skills," he said. "We also used Ki behind, so that he could help us in quick transition from one side of the field to the other."
South Korea saw their second-half substitute Kim Shin-wook playing a pivotal role in their attack. The striker, at 196 centimeters, headed down Hong Chul's cross for Koo's winner in the 85th.
"We didn't use Kim Shin-wook from the start because he is the kind of a player who needs to enter the pitch after our opponents feel tired," he said. "I also thought if Kim started, it would be difficult for us to a possession game."
|Kim Shin-wook (Yonhap)|
The German, who celebrated his 62nd birthday with a win, said there are some things to improve.
"We made some pass mistakes after Uzbekistan scored their first goal and didn't give ourselves open space," he said. "But what we need to do is keep high possession and improve our finish and subtle plays within 30 meters of the goal. We need to have the ball to control the game."
Uzbekistan head coach Samvel Babayan lamented their defeat, although he believed the team still has a chance to make it into the World Cup in Russia.
"We started well, but it's a pity that we failed to get a good result here," Babayan said. "South Korea showed they're a strong team, but I think we do have our chances to qualify for the World Cup."
Bababyan admitted that his players had a hard time defending against South Korea's towering striker Kim Shin-wook.
"Our strongest player in the air failed to stop Kim and that's why we conceded (the winner)," he said. "We also failed to concentrate on the second ball. Uzbekistan showed what they can do, but unfortunately, this is the result." (Yonhap)