“I told Heungmin I wanted to wear it.”
The South Korean national soccer team, led by head coach Jürgen Klinsmann, succeeded in advancing to the semifinals by winning 2-1 after an extended battle in the quarterfinals of the 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Qatar Asian Cup at Alwakra Al-Zanub Stadium in Qatar at 0:30 p.m. on the 3rd (Korea time).
It was a miraculous victory again this time. Korea was dragged down by Hwang In-beom’s mistake on pass in the 42nd minute of the first half, giving up the first goal. In the second half, Korea kept trying hard but failed to earn any profit.
The drama began to unfold in 4 minutes of extra time in the second half, when he was about to be eliminated. Son Heung-min tripped over the opponent’s tackle and won a penalty kick, and Hwang Hee-chan kicked it hard to tie the game 1-1.
Hwang Hee-chan and Son Heung-min made the difference in extra time as well. Hwang Hee-chan got a free kick just outside the box in the 12th minute of extra time, and Son Heung-min hit a fantastic right-footed shot into the net. South Korea won their ticket to the semifinals without losing any more points.
There was also a scene that was worrisome. In the extra time of the first half of extra time, Hwang Hee-chan collapsed after being hit in the ankle by Aidan O’Neill’s rough tackle. He lay down for a long time and ran again, but as soon as the whistle blew at the end of the first half of extra time, he fell on the ground. Holding onto his waist and limping, he was eventually replaced by Oh Hyun-kyu.
After the match, Hwang Hee-chan said, “I was so surprised that I lost a little weight. I haven’t checked it properly yet. I have to go in and check it later. At that time, it hurt so much. I just cursed. But after a while, it was okay. As the opponent was sent off, we became much more advantageous.”
Hwang Hee-chan also shook the net in the 32nd minute of the first half. Seol Young-woo, who received Lee Kang-in’s accurate diagonal penetration pass, handed over the cutback pass concisely, and Hwang Hee-chan finished it as it was. However, he swallowed his regret as the offside was declared by a narrow margin.
Hwang Hee-chan said, “It was a really good scene. Kangin had a good pass, and Young-woo gave it well. I also went in well and finished well. It’s so unfortunate, but I gained faith and confidence that we can continue to make better scenes. I thought I could score more goals today. I kept creating such scenes from the last game, and I did so in the second half. I think it was a game that we deserved to win.” 꽁머니
He also revealed the reason why he kicked the penalty in person. Hwang Hee-chan said, “I told Heung-min I wanted to kick it. He also said okay. So I was able to finish it with confidence. As a national team player, I always feel a lot of responsibility for every move. I thought penalty kicks were not my only shot. All the people were cheering for me, and it was a moment where all the efforts of our team members were put into it. I thought I would focus more and finish it unconditionally. I was so happy that I finished it well.”
If he missed the game, he could have turned into a rival at one point. However, Hwang Hee-chan said, “If you feel such pressure, you can’t take a penalty kick in the second place. Of course, I was confident. And I was able to confidently step up and kick because I put a lot of effort and preparation into taking such a penalty kick.”
Hwang Hee-chan, who had been suffering from a hip injury, said, “This was my first start of the tournament. Of course, I want to play every game. I couldn’t play because I was sick, but I was sorry that I couldn’t get the result we wanted. Personally, I felt sorry for my teammates. So I have prepared better. Anyway, I scored a goal and I am very happy that I think I have helped the team a little bit. As I always say, this is not all. There are two big games left. I really want to run harder toward my goal and create more good scenes.”
How is Hwang Hee-chan’s physical condition? “Honestly, I’m not 100 percent. But I just keep running thinking that I’m 100 percent. I don’t have time to think about anything else. If you have to sprint unconditionally, you have to sprint, and if you have to go down, you have to go down. I’m just running right now,” Hwang said.
Now, the next opponent for Klinsmann is Jordan. Korea will play against Jordan in the semifinal match at the Alayyan Ahmad bin Ali Stadium at midnight on July 7. This is a chance to dispel regret from the 2-2 draw in the group league.
When asked about his commitment to the semifinals, Hwang Hee-chan said, “First of all, I was so happy today that I did not think about the next game yet. We have to do well from what we have to do today, including recovery. In order to achieve the big goal we wanted, we have to win. We are ready and deserve that. I will prepare well for the rest of the year and try my best to get better scenes, more fun soccer, and better results. I ask for more support in the remaining two games.”