Paulo Bento announced that he is standing down as coach of South Korea following their 4-1 World Cup last 16 defeat by Brazil on Monday but said the decision had been made months ago and was not impacted by anything that happened in Qatar.
“From now on we just have to think about the future and it will not be with the national team of the Korean Republic," he said at the post-match press conference.
“I’ve just announced it to the players and president, it was a decision set in stone in September and I thanked them for everything they’ve done. I’m proud to have been their manager for more than four years. Now I’m going to rest and see what happens next."
Bento said he was immensely pleased to have worked with a Korean side who reached the knockout stage for only the third time and particularly pleased with how they did it.
“Brazil deserved to win and of course I’m sad for the result but it has been extraordinary what has happened with Korean football over the last four years," said the former Portugal midfielder whose last international appearance as a player came in a defeat by Korea at the 2002 World Cup.
“We were very bold in how we approached the game today – even though we were low on energy (from the team’s short turnaround) we were loyal to our style to the end and I was very proud of that."
Bento was right to be proud of a team who created more good chances against Brazil in 90 minutes than the World Cup favourites faced in their previous three games combined.
They may have sneaked into the last 16 on goals scored but Korea showed admirable tenacity and spirit to keep chasing, trying and creating despite being on the end of a whirlwind Brazilian performance that brought four superbly-created goals inside the first 40 minutes.
Bento’s side had only one stinging shot by Hwang Hee-chan, brilliantly saved by Alisson, to show for their limited attacking efforts in the first half as Brazil ran riot.
The favourites took their foot off the pedal in the second half but that is not a concept their rivals are familiar with. As they have in every game in Qatar they worked relentlessly, chasing every Brazilian attacker then pouring bodies forward themselves despite the apparent hopelessness of their cause.
They were rewarded when Paik Seung-ho smashed in a spectacular consolation goal from 25 yards and left the pitch with their heads held high.
“What we did during the group stage was very good," Bento said. “We could and should have beaten Ghana (in a game they lost 3-2) but I make no apology for repeating myself about how satisfied and proud I am."
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