South Korea failed to become the first Asian side to win the U20 World Cup, losing 3-1 to Ukraine in an intense final in Lodz, Poland.
Korea started brightly, and were awarded a penalty just two minutes into the game after a review from the Video Assistant Referee, as Kim Se-Yun was brought down in the box. Lee Kang-In stepped up for his country once again, and made no mistake from 12 yards, calmly slotting the ball home having sent the keeper diving in the wrong direction.
On course to become the first Asian side to win the competition, things began to unravel in the 34th minute, when unorganized defending from a set-piece allowed Ukraine to bring the ball under control in the box, with it eventually sliding to the feet of Vladyslav Supriaha. Despite being surrounded by Korean defenders, the striker managed to control the ball on the turn and poke the ball into the net to level the scoring for the Eastern European side.
Supriaha then bagged his brace shortly after half-time, as the striker found space between two Korean defenders while latching on the end of a through-ball and driving into the penalty box, before sliding the ball into the far corner of the net.
Now trailing, Korea was forced to come out of their shell and attack to salvage their position. The Taeguk Warriors came close to leveling from a well-worked corner kick routine in the 70th minute, but goalkeeper Andriy Lunin managed to deny Lee Jae-Ik’s header and Jeon Se-Jin wasn’t able to convert the chance on the rebound.
Pushing forward to find a late equalizer, Korea left themselves exposed at the back and opened up opportunities for Ukraine to hit them on the counter. The European side finally sealed the win just a minute from time, stealing the ball in the midfield and pulling off another quick transition to send Heorhiy Tsitaishvili through, who found the net after an excellent driving run.
Ultimately, Korea failed to overcome the last hurdle. However, their inspiring run through the tournament gives the side hope of future success and has unearthed a number of talents for the future. Lee Kang-In was handed the tournament’s Golden Ball for leading his side through to the final. This run, along with Korea’s recent Gold Medal at the 2018 Asian Games, indicates that the Taeguk Warriors could be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.