The only ‘ifs’ left are a big win against Burkina Faso and a prayer. South Korea’s U-17 national soccer team, led by Byun Sung-hwan, lost 0-1 in their second Group E match of the 2023 U-17 World Cup on Friday at the Jakarta International Stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia, against ‘favorites’ France. Byun Sung-hwan made it two losses in the match. South Korea is in third place behind France and the United States, who both have two wins. They are ahead of Burkina Faso on goal difference.

It was a must-win game. South Korea lost its first game against the United States 1-0 on Dec. 12. With quarterfinal finishes in 1987, 2009, and 2019 being their best results in the tournament, South Korean soccer was aiming for more than a top-four finish. The first mission was to reach the round of 16. But the plan went awry. Byun Sung-hwan didn’t play badly but couldn’t get results. In the previous Asian Cup, which was a qualifier, Byun had been praised for his beautiful attacking soccer. He was unlucky to only hit the post twice, and his defense collapsed and he lost to the United States.

They needed at least a point from their second game against France to advance to the round of 16. South Korea had lost all three previous meetings with the French U-17 team. France’s performance in the first match against Burkina Faso was, as expected, the strongest in Group E. France defeated Burkina Faso 3-0. Compared to the game against the United States, Byun changed his team’s game plan to emphasize defense and balance.

They conceded early. In the second minute of the first half, France sent in a low cross from a corner kick. Mathieu Amagu scored the first goal with a powerful shot. Despite conceding the lead, South Korea did not falter. They responded with a quick counterattack. Kim Myung-joon and others pushed France hard. They were unable to capitalize. In the 13th minute of the second half, Baek In-woo made a great run down the right flank. He sent in a cross and Jin Tae-ho, who was on the run, attempted a powerful left-footed volley. It hit the post. It was the third time in the tournament that he missed the target. South Korea pounded the French goal with all their might in the final minutes, but the equalizer never came. 무지개토토

It was their second straight defeat and a red light for the round of 16. But it’s not all doom and gloom. The tournament’s 24 teams are divided into six groups of four. The first, second, and third-place finishers from each group will qualify for the round of 16. The odds are stacked against us. After the second round of group play, only South Korea is in third place with two losses. The other three teams in the group have at least one point. For now, South Korea needs a big win in their third match against Burkina Faso on the 18th. With a goal difference of -3, they need at least four goals. After that, we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the other groups.

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