PAJU, South Korea, Oct. 12 (Yonhap) — South Korean men’s football head coach Uli Stielike said Monday he’s eyeing a perfect finish to the season with three matches remaining.
South Korea will host Jamaica in a friendly Tuesday at Seoul World Cup Stadium, and will play two Asian qualifying matches for the 2018 FIFA World Cup next month, hosting Myanmar on Nov. 12 and visiting Laos on Nov. 17.
Stielike, who took over South Korea last October, has led the team to 13 wins, three draws and one loss in 2015. They are undefeated in four games in the second round of the regional World Cup qualification.
On the sidelines of a practice session at the National Football Center (NFC) in Paju, north of Seoul, Stielike said he’d told his players to try to stay hot the rest of 2015.
“We’ve posted a great record this year, and I’d like to close out the year on a positive note,” he said. “I told the players we should try to win our three remaining matches this year.”
Stielike has righted the ship that once appeared to be sinking fast. South Korea bowed out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil with one draw and two losses, leading to coach Hong Myung-bo’s resignation.
Under the former German international, South Korea finished second to Australia at the AFC Asian Cup in January this year and won the East Asian Cup over China, Japan and North Korea in August.
“We’ve had 14 clean sheets, and it shows you we’re moving in the right direction,” Stielike said. “South Korea struggled last year at the World Cup, but I am satisfied with the way we’ve been playing this year.”
Stielike said Jamaica, the surprise runner-up at the 2015 Gold Cup, will provide a whole new challenge to his players compared to Asian opponents that South Korea have faced recently.
“We currently have 19 players (missing players due to injuries and club commitments), and we can use up to 17 of them because it’s a friendly match,” Stielike said. “I will use as many players as possible, and will make some tweaks to the starting 11 from our World Cup qualifiers.”
Stielike bristled at the notion that those who take the field in friendlies are often backups, saying, “We have players who can step into any role at any moment and contribute to the team.”
“We’re missing Son Heung-min (of Tottenham Hotspur) and Lee Chung-yong (of Crystal Palace), but I am not concerned because I believe other players will fill the void,” Stielike said of the injured mainstays. “I will create an environment where every member of the national team will be properly respected and will want to make the team again and again.”
Yonhap News Agency