Goyang: Hwang Ui-jo was full of praise for Korea Republic after the Taeguk Warriors produced a dominant display to breeze past Turkmenistan 5-0 on Saturday in the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023.
With Lebanon defeating Sri Lanka earlier in the day, the pressure was on Korea Republic to produce at Goyang Stadium but the result never seemed in doubt from the moment Hwang – who arrived in his homeland on the back of a strong season with Bordeaux – headed the hosts in front in the ninth minute.
Despite their dominance it took until the stroke of half-time for Nam Tae-hee to add a second before goals from Kim Young-gwon, Kwon Chang-hoon and a cheeky second from Hwang rounded off a win that took the Koreans back to the Group H summit.
“Everyone in the squad knew the importance of the three remaining games in this second round of Qualifiers, and we were better technically and mentally than in our previous games,” said Hwang, who netted 12 times for his club in the recently concluded Ligue 1 season.
“On a personal level, I’d give myself seven out of 10 for today’s performance. I scored twice but I had more chances, and the game is easier when a striker is more clinical, so I will do my best to be even better against Sri Lanka and Lebanon.
“I have spent a lot of time working out in the weight room since playing in Europe. You need extra work to go up against players there. By playing against them, I have picked up some know-hows and learned a lot of stuff.”
The game was played out in front of just under 4,000 socially distanced fans at Goyang Stadium, where Korea Republic will return to face Sri Lanka on Wednesday and Lebanon on June 13.
Paulo Bento’s side currently lead the way in Group H, but are ahead of Lebanon on goal difference alone, meaning next Sunday’s match-up will likely see the victors advancing to the third round of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifying as group winners.
And Hwang, whose team would also seal a place at the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Finals should they win the group, is under no illusions as to the importance of the Taeguk Warrior fanbase.
“It was the first international match played in front of our fans in Korea in a while; they started supporting us as soon as we entered the pitch, so it feels great to deliver the result for them,” said the striker.
“We had a Q&A session with fans through the KFA YouTube channel on June 3, and Lee Jae-sung and I chose one of the goal celebrations they wanted us to do, so I’m glad we could perform this one so early in the match.”
For head coach Bento, meanwhile, the victory was a result of the hard work in preparation as the East Asians continue their quest to reach a 10th successive FIFA World Cup.
“I am quite satisfied with today’s performance as things we worked on in training were shown and reflected during the match,” noted the Portuguese.
“Our team did a great job overall. I am satisfied with the scoreline because, regardless of what team you are facing, scoring five goals isn’t easy. I congratulate my players and am happy with their performances.”