SEOUL (Reuters) – Asian football chief Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said on Wednesday that South Korea’s run to the final of the Under 20 World Cup was “remarkable” and reflects the rising standards across the continent.
South Korea reached their first men’s final of any FIFA competition after Choi Jun’s first-half goal saw them beat Ecuador in Lublin, Poland.
The Koreans have had an incredible ride to the final, beating six-times champions Argentina in the group stage before going on to eliminate Japan, Senegal and Ecuador.
South Korea will face Ukraine for the title on Saturday in Lodz.
“Their achievements so far have been remarkable, and I hope they carry on this form and go on to win the competition,” said the Bahraini in an AFC statement.
“It is satisfying to witness Korea Republic’s impact in the competition which clearly reflects the growing standard of the sport in Asia.”
The Koreans were not even expected to make it out of the group stage and a 1-0 defeat to Portugal in their opener suggested they would be heading for an early exit.
But a 1-0 win over South Africa and a stunning 2-1 victory over Argentina saw them advance.
Coach Chung Jung-yong said South Korean youth football was on the right track.
“I’ve been coaching youth football for more than 10 years, and I feel like some sort of a system is finally taking shape,” he was quoted as saying by Yonhap News.
“These players will reach even greater heights. After this tournament, you’ll see these players take an extra step or two forward in their growth.”
(Reporting by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)