Dubai: Coach Paulo Bento has insisted South Korea is evolving as a team as the 2015 runners-up next prepare to take on 2022 Fifa World Cup hosts Qatar in the quarter-finals of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, on Friday.
Bento — who played alongside Abel Xavier and Nuno Gomes for Portugal — took over as coach after South Korea’s exit from the 2018 Fifa World Cup Russia. Since then, the Taegeuk Warriors have been a team in transition as the 49-year-old Bento regroups his players around Tottenham striker Son Heung-min.
Bento’s boys needed extra time to pack off a lower-ranked Bahrain 2-1 in their Round of 16 encounter at the Rashid Stadium to set up a quarter-final meeting with impressive Qatar in Abu Dhabi next Friday.
Goals by Hwang Hee-chan and an extra time header from substitute Kim Jin-su secured the East Asians their passage to the last eight, but they were not at their fluid best against Bahrain and Bento insisted his team would stick to their style of play.
“Each team and each coach have the right to choose their style of play. We choose to play in the way we have done so far as one team together. Perhaps the lone exception was when we played Australia in Brisbane. We are not going to change anything now. We will respect strategies of other teams and try to take the game in a manner that is convenient to us,” Bento said.
“Honestly, we have been having a lot of problems due to injuries to key players, and it is difficult to find substitutes in these positions so that we can refresh play a bit in terms of attack. But for the moment, we need to enjoy this win [against Bahrain], rest and then find solutions to find a way into the semi-finals,” he added.
Bento admitted that his team was yet to find its rhythm. “I don’t think we were at our best in this game [against Bahrain]. Maybe the performance wasn’t so good as in the previous games as well. But more than the rhythm, we made a lot of easy mistakes and gave the ball away too often even without any pressure from the opponents,” the coach admitted.
“I think that more than the rhythm, we should be more effective in the way we start creating our build-up and construction of moves during the game. It is true that we have had a lot of problems. Not all the players are in the same condition, and Son [Heung-min] has been tired,” he added.
South Korea will take on Qatar in their quarter-final at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Friday, and Bento said the target will be to impose their style against the 2022 World Cup hosts, who are yet to concede a goal in their four matches so far.
“We should play the way we have played since I arrived. I think in almost all the matches till now, we’ve played in the same way. This is what we have done before and what we will do in the next game as well. There must be a balance between defending a lead and scoring,” he insisted.