Goalie Lee Young-jun chokes back tears and grits his teeth…”I won’t give up, I’ll win”

“We won’t give up.”

After suffering a heartbreaking defeat on the threshold of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) Under-20 (U-20) World Cup final, South Korea U-20 striker Lee Young-jun (20, Kimcheon Commerce) choked back hot tears.

South Korea, led by head coach Kim Eun-joong, lost 1-2 against Italy in the quarterfinals of the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup at the La Plata Stadium in Argentina on Monday (June 9). South Korea, who were looking to make their second consecutive final after finishing runners-up at the 2019 tournament in Poland, were brought to their knees by a 41st-minute free-kick winner from Italy after the score was 1-1. It was the first loss of the tournament for South Korea, which was unbeaten with three wins and two draws through the quarterfinals.

But it’s not the end of the story. South Korea advances to the third-place game and will play the final match at the same venue on Nov. 12. Their opponent will be European favorite Israel, who lost 0-1 in the quarterfinals to Uruguay. “We didn’t bring home the win, but the players fought as hard as they could,” Lee said in the post-match mix zone. I have no regrets, neither do my teammates,” he said, adding, “The players struggled so much to get to this point, but there is still one game left.” “We will prepare well as usual and do our best until the last game,” he vowed.

Lee Young-joon is Kim Eun-jung-ho’s 안전놀이터 signature striker. With his ability to score and link up well, he scored two goals and played a key role in South Korea’s run to the quarterfinals. From his first game of the tournament, a 2-1 group stage win over powerhouse France, he led South Korea’s surge with a brilliant header. In the round of 16 match against Ecuador (3-2), he made a strong impression on the fans with a spectacular right-footed non-stop goal followed by his signature ‘Colossus Salute’.

On this day, however, he struggled. The Italian defense was the most physical he had faced so far. He struggled to win aerial balls, his main weapon. He ran out of gas early on and didn’t have enough chances to score. In the end, I couldn’t score any offensive points and had to watch my team lose.

A red-faced Lee said, “I felt that all the players on the other team were good. I felt so sorry for my teammates that I couldn’t score a goal as a striker,” he said. He added, “The third-place match is my last game with my teammates. I will play with no regrets,” he said.

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