Nat’l football coach blocking out noise ahead of World Cup qualifiers

SEOUL– South Korean men’s football coach Paulo Bento doesn’t have rabbit ears, per se, but he is aware of criticism he has faced in recent weeks.

South Korea looked rather uninspiring against two lesser foes in their first two matches of the final Asian qualification round for the 2022 FIFA World Cup earlier this month. After South Korea got a scoreless draw against Iraq and squeezed past Lebanon 1-0, a few players came up hobbling. Most notably, captain Son Heung-min missed the second match with a strained calf, and a few others suffered various injuries that were later attributed to fatigue.
Lethargic performances aside, Bento took the brunt of the blame for mishandling his overseas-based stars and failing to provide the proper balance between rest and game action.

Bento announced his new iteration of the team Monday ahead of two upcoming World Cup qualifiers: Oct. 7 against Syria and Oct. 12 against Iran. Asked how he will manage players coming in from Europe this time, Bento said he’ll stick to the same principles.

“As far as I know, it’s impossible to postpone the games. So we need to play on the days the games are scheduled and we’ll manage the players in the way that we think will be the best way for the team and for the players,” Bento said in an online news conference. “We should play every time with the best players, because we have goals to achieve. I’ll keep selecting and choosing the best ones for each game.”

As for outside criticism, Bento said, “I think it’s too easy to talk and too difficult to decide. That’s why I am more concerned with my decisions than with conversations. Maybe other people are more concerned with conversations than decisions.”

With four points, South Korea sit two points back of Iran. And South Korea have long had trouble against Iran, currently the top-ranked team out of Asia at No. 22, 14 spots above the Taeguk Warriors, with nine wins, nine draws and 13 losses. South Korea haven’t beaten Iran in Tehran in seven previous meetings, with two draws and five losses.

“What we should do is to focus on our way of playing and respect the opponents, and try to improve certain aspects that we didn’t do so well in some moments of earlier games,” Bento said. “We’ll try to improve our way of attacking the opponents, create more chances to score than in the first two games, and keep within the same behavior in the defensive process.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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