South Korea’s captain has upset his team’s fans by blaming them for disrupting on-field communications during a home draw with Iran that left their World Cup hopes in the balance.
The 0-0 against 10-man Iran leaves the Taeguk Warriors having to defeat Uzbekistan on Tuesday to be certain of a place at a ninth successive World Cup qualifying finals.
Any other result would leave their Russia fate in the hands of third-placed Syria, who will be facing Iran in Tehran.
On Thursday, Iran played most of the second half at the Seoul World Cup Stadium a man down after Saeid Ezatolahi’s red card, but South Korea could not find a way through, despite being roared on by a noisy crowd of 63,000.
The kick-off had been delayed by half-an-hour to give more supporters a chance to get to the game in a nation notorious for long working hours.
However, South Korean captain Kim Young-gwon said the raucous support had made the team’s job harder.
“It was quite difficult to communicate with the guys because it was noisy out there,” Kim said when asked where South Korea had to improve.
“We could yell all we wanted and still couldn’t hear each other well. We prepared ourselves for a situation like this, but it was still frustrating that I couldn’t hear the guys,” he added.
South Korea have had a bumpy qualifying campaign, losing coach Uli Stielike after a run of poor results including defeats to China, Iran and Qatar, and Kim’s comments infuriated fans.
“Do you really think you would have performed better if we remained quiet? I don’t think so,” a fan wrote on the Naver portal.
As anger mounted, Kim yesterday issued an apology through a team official over what he called a “slip of the tongue.”
“I apologize to all the fans who came out to cheer us on,” Kim said. “I didn’t mean to say those things. There were so many things going through my head and I made a mistake. I deeply regret that.”
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