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Hidink’s Memoir #5 – I couldn’t believe it, either.

Hidink’s Memoir #5 – I couldn’t believe it, either.

Posted July. 06, 2002 00:16,   


I was not afraid. Although I couldn’t assure the result, the Korean team was full of vitality.

We faced Poland next day. It was an incredible match. The Korean players played a wonderful game technically and mentally. Like I did, the Korean players faced game with huge mental burden. Since they were playing in the home turf, they got tremendous pressure to got the first World Cup victory in history. As people’s expectation was high, the players’ tension could not be expressed in words.

The Korean team finally won the game against Poland. The players got big feeling of accomplishment I was so happy that I screamed in my sleeve. I called my friend in Seoul at late night. He explained in excited voice the joy of Korean people, “they are not leaving the street, yet.” I finally understood how much the victory of that day meant to Korean people.

However, it was just the first victory ant the first button. It was neither more than that nor less than that to me. That was because I had a desire to go to the second round. The victory over Poland was not the end. It was the beginning. I told my players after the game. “Hey guys! You played well today. But it’s not over yet. It’s just the beginning. We have a long way to go.”

The second match against the US was not so disappointing. The players were in a tense condition when they enter the ground. I felt that the American team was underestimated although it was a very good team. Even Portugal lost to the American team after a difficult match.

The Korean team was unlucky and couldn’t capitalize chances. However, the Korean team as well as the Korean people did not give up. I say this again but that is the thing that I like most about the Korean players and people. The Korean players never backed up in difficult situations. They overcame crisis and stand up again.

The players were shrunk mentally after the match against the American team. I interpreted that as a good sign. That means they players were not satisfied they drew with the US. In other words, the players knew their abilities and what went wrong. Sure enough, I might not be satisfied if our players played a conservative game. Our players did their best to make perfect chances and I valued that highly.

After the US match, the D group that Korea belonged became ‘the group of death.’ It got complicated after Portugal lost to the US. Portugal underestimated the US and played a horrible game, which was not up to their reputation. Since Portugal lost to the US, Korea faced more difficult situation. The initial anticipation was that Korea and Portugal entered the second round easily if we beat Poland and Portugal beat the US.

As we all knew, Portugal was not an easy opponent. Although they lost the first game against the US, Portugal was one of the strong football nations in the world. The players were in tense mood before the match against Portugal. However, they played their game and showed their tactics even in that situation. I would like to give them a big round of applause.

I already knew the Poland was winning against the US during the Portugal game. The players did not know that in the first half. I assume that some players know the situation in the Poland – The US game during the halftime.

It was the situation that we could make the round of sixteen although we lost to Portugal if Poland defeated the US. But I do not like negotiation. It is not a sport. The players should do their best in any circumstances. The Korean players were just like that. Portugal might have a thought to draw with Korea because they could make the round of sixteen even though they drew with Korea. However, the Korean players did their best and won the game stately. Korea finally got a spotlight from the world after defeating a favorite Portugal.

I know that if became news that Park, Ji-Sung rushed me after scoring a goal during the match. I do not usually meet players individually. That is my know-how to manage a team. If I meet players individually, people would say that I like particular players only and that could ruin the teamwork. However, I had to hold Park, Ji-Sung really tight that night. The goal he made was a rare, even in the European pro leagues, top class goal in the world.

I thought that I could not believe after Korea made to the round of sixteen. What the Korean team achieved was a surprising thing. It was the first time in the history of the World Cup that Korea made to the round of sixteen. The dream finally came true. How overflowing joy is this.

I like to be alone after a big game. I celebrated that night by myself with a glass of wine. However, I was still hungry. As the opponents were strong, a desire to win gushed out like a spring. The next opponent was Italy.

Keuk-In Bae Chi-Young Shin bae2150@donga.com higgledy@donga.com