The future of Korean soccer is headed to the world stage.
Led by Byun Sung-hwan, the South Korean Under-17 National Team defeated hosts Thailand 4-1 in the quarterfinals of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-17 Asian Cup 2023 at Pathum Thani Stadium in Thailand on Friday (July 25).
With the victory, Byun Sung-hwan, who reached the quarterfinals, qualified for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, which kicks off in Indonesia in November. It will be the second consecutive time South Korea has qualified for the U-17 World Cup since the last edition in Brazil in 2019. The tournament has been held every two years since its inaugural edition in 1985, with only the 2021 edition canceled due to COVID-19.
Notably, this is the first time South Korea has qualified for the U-17 World Cup two years in a row. The last time they qualified for the tournament was in 2007-2009, but the 2007 edition was an automatic qualifier as the host nation. Excluding the 2007 tournament, this is the sixth time South Korea has qualified for the U-17 World Cup out of a total of 18 tournaments, but this year they made history.
The youngest players also got a chance to showcase their skills on the World Cup stage, following their elder siblings’ round of 16 appearance at the Qatar World Cup last year and the recent FIFA U-20 World Cup quarterfinal. FIFA organizes three World Cup competitions: the adult World Cup, which features the national team, and the U-20 and U-17 World Cups.
Head coach Byun Sung-hwan, who took over in January last year, has spent the past year and a half grooming the future of Korean soccer. “Our team slogan is ‘reckless challenge,'” he said ahead of the tournament. We will dominate the game with aggressive soccer and challenge the opposition.”
The firepower of Byun Sung-Hwan-ho was frightening at the tournament. They started with a 6-1 thrashing of Qatar, followed by a 4-0 demolition of Afghanistan to advance to the quarterfinals. They went down 0-2 in their final group game against a much-changed Iran, but roared back with four goals in the quarterfinals against World Cup qualifying hosts Thailand. She scored 14 goals in four games en route to the quarterfinals. 안전놀이터
“I wanted to take this opportunity to say, ‘Thank you to the players. “We have never changed our style of play, our principles, or the direction we want to go since we started the tournament. We tried to keep our own football, even if there were external changes. The players have been playing consistently. There have been difficulties, but I think we have handled them well.”
The next goal is to regain the top spot in Asia. It’s a goal they’ve had since the inception of Byun Sung-hwan. The last time South Korea won the U-17 Asian Cup was in 2002. They are now just two steps away from standing on top of Asia for the first time in 21 years.
South Korea will play the winner of the Saudi Arabia-Uzbekistan game on Sept. 30 for a spot in the final. If they win, they will play in the highly anticipated final on March 2. They will face either Iran or the winner of Japan-Australia in the final.