Teamwork and Passion… The Valley Generation Becomes the Golden Generation

The South Korean under-20 soccer team finished fourth at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina. Without a star player, the team received less attention than its senior counterparts. But under the guidance of head coach Kim Eun-joong, the team came together as a unit and eventually returned home with the distinction of reaching the semifinals of two consecutive tournaments.

Kim’s team fell 1-3 to Israel in the third-place match at La Plata Stadium in Argentina on Wednesday. The team conceded an early goal to Israel’s Lan Binyamin in the 19th minute, but Lee Seung-won (Gangwon) converted a penalty kick opportunity earned by Bae Joon-ho (Daejeon) in the 24th minute to tie the game at 1-1. However, the national team conceded a goal to Omer Senior in the 31st minute of the second half, and then conceded a second goal to Anan Carlisle from a corner kick in the 30th minute of the second half, ending the tournament with a two-goal deficit.메이저놀이터

Still, the team stunned the world by reaching the final four for the second time in a row, following the final in Poland in 2019.

Players give it their all until the end South Korea’s under-20 soccer team players celebrate after Lee Seung-won (2nd R) scored a penalty kick to tie the match against Israel in the third-place playoff at the U-20 World Cup at the La Plata Stadium in Argentina on Wednesday. LA PLATA, Argentina
◆The youth dubbed the Valley Generation

The tournament had its ups and downs, from the organization of the players to the competition itself. In the aftermath of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the country’s age-group national teams were effectively suspended for two years. With the exception of Bae Joon-ho, none of the players were still playing for their respective teams. That’s why Kim, who took over the reins in 2021, said before the tournament that he was “worried about the players’ practical skills.” It was only when Lee Seung-jun, the son of Gangwon FC ambassador Lee Eul-yong, joined the national team that the trio, along with his older brother Lee Tae-seok, became the first Korean trio to compete in a FIFA-organized tournament. Without a standout player, the national team received less attention than in previous tournaments, and the world called them the “valley generation.

The valley generation united

There was also bad news. The host of the U-20 World Cup suddenly changed from Indonesia to Argentina. While the time difference between Indonesia and South Korea is not significant, Argentina is 12 hours away on the other side of the world. There were also injuries. Bayern Munich midfielder Lee Hyun-joo and forward Sung Jin-young (Korea University), who played at the U-20 Asian Cup, were unable to participate.

“I was happy because of the national team” Korean-Americans in Argentina cheer for South Korean players as they hold up slips of paper with the players’ names during the third-place match against Israel at the 2023 U-20 World Cup in La Plata on Wednesday. La Plata=AP
Still, the team pulled off an upset in their first group game, knocking off France. It was the first time South Korea had ever beaten France in a FIFA-organized tournament. The momentum carried them through the group stage undefeated, and they went on to beat some of the world’s top teams on their way to fourth place. The teamwork was at an all-time high. Six of their 10 goals in seven games came from set pieces.

The valley’s future generation

The team will return home on Thursday with the valuable experience of reaching the U-20 World Cup quarterfinals. Their progression to the next World Cup and beyond will depend on their performance. Like Baek Seung-ho, who rattled the Brazilian goal in the round of 16 at the last World Cup in Qatar, and Lee Kang-in, who played a key role, they need to be nurtured to become the centerpiece of the next World Cup.

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