SEOUL: South Korea’s national football coach Uli Stielike pronounced himself satisfied on Tuesday with his first full year in the job, crediting his players with arresting a long slide in the team’s fortunes.
South Korea reached the finals of the Asian Cup in 2015 and have won all six of their second-round World Cup qualifiers, scoring 23 goals and conceding none.
“If I had to sum up the year in one word, it’d be satisfaction,” the former German international told a year-end press conference in Seoul.
“Looking back on the year, I think we met our expectations. And I am also grateful for the players’ efforts. I tip my hat to them for everything they did this year,” he said.
Stielike — who played 42 times for West Germany — has a contract taking him through to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
He was appointed in September last year following the resignation of Hong Myung-Bo, who stepped down after South Korea’s disappointing group-stage exit at the World Cup in Brazil.
Hong had been captain of the team that sent the entire nation into raptures with its unlikely journey to the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup, which included victories over Portugal, Italy and Spain.
Since then, however, the national side’s fortunes have been in steady decline. Hong and his squad were jeered on their return from Brazil last year.
A banner unfurled by disgruntled fans at the airport read: “Korean Soccer is Dead.”
Things have improved under Stielike and the squad’s 2015 match record reads 20 played and 16 wins, with three draws and just a single loss.
“Our fans’ expectations will continue to rise and we will come under increasing pressure not to lose,” he said Tuesday.
He also acknowledged that his team would face tougher opponents after their likely advance to the third round of Asian regional qualifying for the World Cup.
“But no matter who the opponents will be, we must not change our philosophy,” he said.
“We accomplished more than just a great win-loss record. We were able to play an aggressive brand of football. I don’t think we should give up on all that just because we play a strong team.”