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The Semifinals Legend Began from an "Unconventional" Hong Myung-bo
By Kim Se-hun
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Forward pressure in the defense against Mexican players took the strong Mexican team by surprise.

Hong Myung-bo replaced the striker, Park Chu-young in the game against Gabon, and boldly expressed his intention to take the Korean team into the quarterfinals as the leader of the group. Furthermore, there was his shocking statement, which included some not so proper words.

Hong Myung-bo, the head coach of Korea's Olympic football team, has changed. Until recently, Hong's image as a player and as a coach has been one of balance, stability, gentleness, and moderation. However, at the London Olympics, Hong is showing a side of himself that completely departs from his past.

On July 5, before the men's quarterfinal football match at the London Olympics against Team Great Britain (The Millennium Stadium, Cardiff), Hong strongly encouraged his players. It has been revealed that Hong said, "You saw how the English players played. They're not even X."
Usually, Hong never uses vulgar language, even when he is extremely agitated.

Head coach, Hong Myung-bo cheers after successfully securing a spot in the Olympic semifinals for the first time in Korea's football history. The Korean team defeated Team Great Britain after a penalty shootout at the quarterfinal match at The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales on July 5 (top). Hong runs with a spectacular smile after he kicked the final goal in a penalty shootout against Spain in the quarterfinals at the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup (bottom). Hong kicked the decisive goal that led Korea to the semifinals. Cardiff | Yonhap News



Yet, this Hong excited his players by swearing in front of them right before the match against Team GB--a match that would decide who advances to the semifinals. If the players were nervous and intimidated by Team GB, Hong's words drove all those feelings out.

And confidence and a competitive spirit stepped in to fill the vacant lot. If a commander does not waver with a war ahead, the soldiers are also bound to be strong. This is where self-assurance is born--the self-assurance that knocked down the pride of the home of football and the overwhelming cheering of the 75,000 spectators, which filled the dome stadium.

There was no hesitation in Hong's actions during the Olympics. In the first match against Mexico, a strong team expected to lead the group, Hong chose forward pressure defensive tactics in the first half and middle stage of the game, leading to a scoreless draw.

This was a surprising bid, which was in contrast to the previous day's training where he prepared a looser defense in which he placed midfielders closer to the defensive players.

In addition, his decision to replace Park Chu-young (Arsenal), who scored the first goal against Switzerland, also hit the mark. Park is actually the center of the Olympic football team. Hong knows that if Park falters, the whole teamwork can falter. Yet Hong did not shy away from unconventional decisions for the sake of a victory.

Before the match against Gabon, Hong declared, "We will beat Gabon 3-0 and advance to the quarterfinals at the top of our group." Since even a draw with Gabon would send Korea to the quarterfinals, Hong in the past might have said something like, "My players will play it safe, without overdoing ourselves, since a tie is enough."

At the time of his declaration, football-related figures who had known Hong agreed that Hong had become a fiercely competitive person. This side of Hong sparked a flame challenging his players to play the game without hesitation and without regrets.

Hong is now looking forward to a match against the world's best, Brazil, on July 8. General reviews say that objectively Korea falls behind in its playing skills. However, the Olympic team has no fear.

Hong Myung-bo probably knows that advancing to the Olympic semifinals, which was possible by changes in Hong himself, has already transformed his players, and that this change will reveal itself by leading the Korean team to the finals. That may be why Hong can say, "There is no reason to fear Brazil, either."

Copyright The Kyunghyang Shinmun. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution without permission absolutely prohibited.

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