KAZAN, Russia (Reuters) - South Korea’s players were unaware they had been eliminated from the World Cup when the final whistle went after their remarkable 2-0 win over Germany which also sent the champions crashing out of the tournament, goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo said.
The Asian side needed to beat Germany by more than two goals to stand a chance of qualifying from Group F as runners up and hope Mexico beat Sweden but their already slim hopes ended when the Scandinavians raced into a 3-0 lead in the second half.
The stoppage time goals from Kim Young-gwon and Son Heung-min which gave Korea their first win in this World Cup after two defeats sparked jubilant scenes among Korea’s players and Cho said he and his team mates thought they were going through until they learned of the result from Yekaterinburg.
“We did not know (the Sweden score), it was only after the game was over that we knew,” Cho told a news conference.
“All the Korean players and the head coach here, we were playing for the Korean people. It was only after the match was over that we knew the score, that was why a lot of us cried.”
Korea coach Shin Tae-yong said he had mixed feelings after the win over Germany as it was not enough to take them through.
“I feel great but at the same time I feel a little bit empty, I feel a little ambivalent,” he said.
“Yesterday we said there was only one per cent chance, so I told my players it was a last-ditch effort for them. I told them to fight until the very end.”
“They (Germany) are the defending champions, number one on the FIFA rankings and they probably felt they would be able to beat us, so I felt we could use that as a reverse strategy and we hit the nail on the head.”
Shin, heavily criticised back home for the 1-0 defeat to Sweden and the 2-1 loss to Mexico in their previous outings in Russia, said the win over Germany was all due to his meticulous preparation.
“As we won we can say everything went as planned. For two days we looked at their strategy, worked out that they would probably play 4-4-2 and then 5-4-1 when crossing the halfway line,” Shin explained.
“We knew ball possession would definitely be in favour of Germany but I told my players we would have chances.
“The press usually just looks at the result, they criticise us a lot without knowing all the internal aspects of it, they don’t know how we prepare in detail. We’re not going through but we did beat Germany so we see a bit of hope.”
Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Neil Robinson