SEOUL, Sept. 3 (Korea Bizwire) — After the Korean national football team passed up a golden chance to clinch a berth in the 2018 World Cup by registering a 0-0 draw with Iran, one of the hot topics of conversation was the condition of the pitch at Seoul World Cup Stadium.
Son Heung-min, the ace of the team, pointed out the terrible condition of the grass with some harsh words expressing his frustration.
“If the condition of the grass had not been so terrible, our team would have performed better,” said Korean head coach Shin Tae-yong.
There was little to be excited about in the Korean team’s performance in Shin’s debut as a head coach compared to their play under his predecessor, Uli Stielike. However, the condition of the pitch was not good enough for the team to take advantage of playing at home.
The Seoul Metropolitan Facilities Management Corporation, which is in charge of maintaining Seoul World Cup Stadium, invested 70 million won into replacing 25 percent of the grass on the field to improve its condition before the game against Iran.
In addition, eight large fans were placed in the stadium and run non-stop in an effort to lower the temperature of the grass.
However, the grass was not settled in place and caved in wherever the players ran on the field. After the first half, maintenance workers rushed to the field and fixed the holes.
The players often tumbled over the holes on the field and passes were disturbed by grass divots.
“Whereas the Iranian players were big enough to run forward even on the pitted field, our players tripped on the holes. We couldn’t play as we planned,” said Shin.
Hwang Hee-chan, the top striker on the Korean national team, said that even dribbling the ball was not easy because the grass itself slipped along on the field.
It is conventional for the national football team to practice on the field of the match the day before. However, Shin arranged the last practice at the National Football Center (NFC) in Paju and a practice at Seoul World Cup Stadium was held two days before the match.
The arrangement was a choice by the Korean coaching staff to prevent accumulated fatigue from repeatedly moving from Paju to Seoul, and to safeguard the security of the team’s strategies, but it turned out to be of no help to the outcome because the team adapted more to the grass conditions in Paju instead of at World Cup Stadium.
The national football team will fly to Uzbekistan for its last qualifying match on September 5, which will determine its World Cup fate. To ascribe the failure of the game against Iran to the poor condition of the pitch, it is imperative that the team demonstrate its improved performance on the field in Tashkent.
Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)