South Korean football legend Hong Myung-bo said Wednesday he believes the national team's victory over Honduras in a friendly football match is meaningful for his side's preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
South Korea, ranked No. 61 in the latest FIFA rankings, blanked No. 59 Honduras 2-0 in the friendly match at Daegu Stadium in Daegu on Monday. It was South Korea's first match since they unveiled their provisional roster for the World Cup in Russia, where they will face Sweden, Mexico and Germany in Group F.
Although there were criticisms that Honduras weren't strong enough to give stern tests to South Korea, Hong, who currently serves as general secretary for the Korea Football Association, said the result is still meaningful.
Hong Myung-bo, general secretary of the Korea Football Association (KFA), at a youth football clinic at Seoul Plaza in Seoul on May 30, 2018. (Yonhap)
"Some people underestimate our victory because of Honduras' poor performance, but I think differently," Hong said after a football clinic event for youth players. "Our players earned confidence through the friendly, and that's meaningful."
Hong, the former World Cup Bronze Ball-winning defender, earned 136 caps with South Korea, tied for the most appearances with Cha Bum-kun. He also played in four consecutive World Cups from 1990 to 2002, and was the captain of the national team that reached the 2002 World Cup semifinals.
"Ahead of the 2002 World Cup, we played tight against teams like England and France, and that boosted the players' confidence level," he said. "For the World Cup, you need this kind of turning point."
However, Hong, who also coached South Korea at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, said South Korean players need to stay focused.
South Korea will play three more tuneups before they open their World Cup campaign with Sweden on June 18. The Taeguk Warriors will host Bosnia and Herzegovina on Friday and then will fly to Austria to face Bolivia and Senegal.
"For the remaining three friendlies, the national team has to play with a clear goal," he said. "I hope all the players can compete with a mindset that they can achieve something."
Hong, 49, said the KFA is ready to give its utmost support to the national team at the World Cup.
"We will support our national team to compete at the World Cup in a comfortable environment," he said. "It's true that South Korean football is going through a hard time, but I hope the national team can play a good game at the World Cup and earn trust from fans."
Lee Woon-jae, who was the goalkeeper for the 2002 national football team, also urged the players to stay confident even if they face defending World Cup champions Germany.
"I still remember the semifinal match (at the 2002 World Cup), which we lost 1-0 after surrendering a goal to Michael Ballack,"
said Lee, who had won 133 caps with South Korea. "We're going to meet Germany after 16 years, and I hope our players can play with confidence."
Lee, 45, said South Korean goalkeepers need to be stay unfazed even if they make mistakes. South Korea will bring Kim Seung-gyu, Jo Hyeon-woo and Kim Jin-hyeon as their goalkeepers for the 2018 World Cup.
"Even if they commit mistakes, I hope they don't get frustrated, because once a goalkeeper fails to control his mind, that match is over," he said. "I want to see our goalkeepers readying to sacrifice all to stop their opponents' shots."(Yonhap)