NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia (Reuters) - Shin Tae-yong said his players were intimidated by the height of the Swedish players during Monday’s 1-0 defeat that left in tatters South Korean dreams of getting out of the group stage at the World Cup for the third time.
With Germany and Mexico, who stunned the world champions in Sunday’s Group F opener, coming up in their remaining two games in the first round, Shin’s side will now do well to match the single point they managed in Brazil four years ago.
The South Koreans can have few complaints after they managed just three shots on target over the 90 minutes and but for the heroics of goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo, the margin of victory would have been greater.
Cho’s selection was a surprise and Shin, who replaced Uli Stielike a year ago, thought he had got the team’s preparations for the game right as well.
“We really wanted to win this game. That was the attitude from the players coming into the match,” Shin told a news conference.
“Following the first half we knew that could adjust to their height so we had prepared well in that way, players did as we had planned but I think psychologically they were a little concerned by the height of the Swedes.
“Other teams will have difficulties with the Swedes who will be threatening ... at this World Cup because of their height.”
South Korea started off brightly with Hwang Hee-chan causing problems down the right but Son Heung-min was largely anonymous and it was not until seven minutes after the break that the Red Devils created a chance worth the name.
“I think ... we became too subdued,” Shin added. “That was probably why the Swedish keeper became bored.”
The match was decided in the 63rd minute when Kim Min-woo, an early substitute, brought down Swedish Viktor Claesson and the penalty was awarded after a VAR review.
“We could say it was regrettable but he was tackled between his legs,” Shin said. “We do agree that it was a good call.”
The result means South Korea have won only two of 11 World Cup matches over four campaigns since they sensationally reached the semi-finals on home soil in 2002.
They move on to face Mexico in Rostov-on-Don on Saturday before taking on a German side looking to get their campaign back on track in their final Group F match in Kazan.
“Mexico against Germany were very fast and skilled,” said Shin.
“A very good, tough team. They will be a formidable opponent. We’ll analyse the game against Germany and try and find a way to deal with Mexico team.”
Reporting by Mark Glesson, writing by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Pritha Sarkar