Suspended S. Korea coach has trust in staff

AL RAYYAN, Qatar– South Korea head coach Paulo Bento, suspended for the team’s final group stage match of the FIFA World Cup, said Thursday he doesn’t believe his absence on the bench will have any bearing on the team’s performance, such is the level of his confidence in his lieutenants.

South Korea will close out Group H play against Portugal at 6 p.m. Friday at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, west of Doha. Bento will not be on the sidelines, after getting a red card in the aftermath of South Korea’s loss to Ghana on Monday. Bento had a heated exchange with referee Anthony Taylor, who blew the final whistle moments after South Korea had won a corner.
At a prematch presser for the Portugal match, Bento said his “competent staff” will more than make up for his absence.

“I am confident the staff will do whatever is needed and if they need to make decisions, I am confident they will be able to do so. They will be independent,” Bento said at the Main Media Centre in Al Rayyan. “Many decisions that are made during a match are quite often made by them. They suggest replacements and decisions. So they will do it by themselves this time. The players are also in line with the technical staff. I trust in them. I don’t think this will be a problem.”

Per FIFA rules, Bento will not be permitted to communicate with his staff in any way, though he will still be watching the match in the stands. Bento’s top assistant, Sergio Costa, will be in charge.

Bento has since apologized to his players for his outburst but claimed that Taylor, who works in the Premier League, did not show enough respect for South Korea. He also reserved a few pointed words at Taylor on Thursday, saying, “I think it was an unfair decision. It was an incoherent decision, and also one that revealed a deep lack of common sense. That’s my opinion.”

With or without Bento, South Korea must defeat Portugal and then have either a Uruguay win or a Uruguay-Ghana draw just to have a chance to reach the knockouts.

Bento noted that his players must push themselves to the limits and stick to the same style of play that has taken them to this point.

“Portugal are capable and organized, and they rely on a host of high-quality players,” Bento said. “This is a huge challenge we have ahead. We will be put to the test. I am confident that our players will do their very best.”

Bento said the last opportunity he will have to be with the players will come before they leave for the stadium, but insisted that the situation “will have no impact on what we will accomplish and how we play and compete.”

“The focus will not be on me but on the players,” he said. “People go to games to see the players, not to see the coach.”

With the red card from Monday, Bento cost himself an opportunity to face his native country in a World Cup match for the first time. At the 2002 World Cup, Bento played for Portugal when South Korea beat them 1-0 in the final group match to advance to the knockouts for the first time.

Bento said anthems for both countries will bring out a different set of emotions in him Friday and added, “I am very proud of my nationality. I am also very proud of having coached these players for more than four years now.”

Bento may have coached his final match for South Korea, depending on the outcome of Friday’s match and South Korea’s knockout fate. He looked back fondly on his four-plus years that made him the longest-serving coach in South Korean national football history.

“I have a great feeling. During these four years, we had some issues that didn’t allow us to have as fluid a process as we could have, but we’re present in the World Cup,” Bento said. “We’ve created an identity, and I am very satisfied with that. No matter what happens tomorrow, I will be proud of having taken part in this journey.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency