South Koreans weren’t the only ones left disappointed.
Byun Sung-hwan’s South Korea U-17 soccer team lost 0-3 to Japan in the final of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-17 Asian Cup 2023 at Pathum Thani Stadium in Thailand at 9 p.m. ET on Sunday. South Korea had to settle for runners-up honors, their first title in 21 years since 2002. Japan, on the other hand, won the tournament for the second consecutive time, taking their tally to four titles.
Losing in soccer always hurts. Losing in the final is something that will stay with you until the end of your career. Especially when it’s not because you played badly, but because a third party played well 꽁머니.
There’s no denying that Japan played a better game than Korea overall, but the refereeing was questionable right from the start. Ko Jong-hyun, who was cautioned in the 14th minute, was sent off in the 44th minute for accumulated cautions. When Japan attacked with a long pass from the back, Ko Jong-hyun was cautioned for contesting with a Japanese player.
It was a very unfortunate call for Korea. The Japanese player did not receive the pass correctly and it was not a promising scoring opportunity. Ko Jong-hyun was not happy with the call either. The referee’s decision was upheld as there was no VAR review.
The situation was even more bizarre after the dismissal. The spot where Ko Jong-heon committed the foul was more than 10 meters away from the penalty box. However, the Japanese players brought the ball well in front of the foul spot. This is not uncommon in soccer. The closer you are to the goal, the more likely you are to score. However, if it’s too much, the referee will order the ball to go backwards.
The position where the foul occurred was an unlikely spot for a direct goal from a free kick, but it allowed the Japanese players to put the ball in front of them and take a direct shot at goal. In the end, Nawata took a direct shot and scored Japan’s first goal.
It wasn’t the only bad call. In the 38th minute of the second half, Kim Myung-joon touched the ball inside the penalty box and went down after making contact with the goalkeeper while dribbling. However, the referee did not blow the whistle. Coach Byun Sung-hwan was furious and protested strongly. Instead, the referee gave Byun a warning, and the incident went unnoticed.
After the final, the AFC posted the results on their official channels. While the AFC congratulated Japan on their victory, stating that “Japan has won its fourth title in a row,” public opinion was different, with anger directed at the referees.
One fan wrote, “We don’t know why the Korean player was sent off, and we don’t know why we didn’t get a penalty kick in the second half. It was a clear blown call,” one fan wrote in anger. The general mood of the crowd also pointed to the referee’s incompetence.
Another fan wrote, “Korea was robbed. It was a disgusting referee.” Fans felt that the poor officiating in this game had a huge impact on the outcome of the game.
After the game, Byun Sung-hwan, who was disappointed with the referees’ decision, said, “I was very moved by the way the players fought on the field until the end. However, after the game, I saw tears in the eyes of our players, and as a coach, I felt quite sad. I would definitely like to play a revenge match again,” he said, indirectly expressing his disappointment with the officiating.
“Personally, I think it’s a bit disappointing. Actually, it may be a little different depending on how you look at it, but from my point of view, I think there were some things that were a little bit disappointing in the operational part of the game today,” he added.
The attitude of accepting defeat is important, but the referees’ decisions made it even harder to accept defeat.