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South Korea say football coach’s job safe despite loss to China

Seoul (AFP) – South Korea’s top football official promised on Friday that coach Uli Stielike’s job was safe despite the national team’s shock 1-0 loss to China in World Cup qualifying.

Chung Mong-Gyu, head of the Korea Football Association, said South Korea “didn’t play such a bad match” and that talks of any coaching changes were unwarranted. 

“We had a few chances in the second half but just couldn’t convert them. The players did the best they could under the circumstances,” said Chung, according to the Yonhap news agency, after the team returned home.  

“We haven’t lost hopes of qualifying for the World Cup and talks of a coaching change (are premature).”

Thursday’s loss marked only South Korean’s second defeat by the Chinese in 32 games. But they remain second in Group A and in line to qualify for next year’s World Cup.

The match was played against the backdrop of high political tensions following Chinese anger over South Korea’s deployment of a controversial missile defence system.

Stielike — who played 42 times for West Germany — has a contract taking him through to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

He was appointed in September 2014 following the resignation of Hong Myung-Bo, who stepped down after South Korea’s disappointing group-stage exit at the World Cup in Brazil.

South Korea’s next game is at home on Tuesday against war-torn Syria, who are currently fourth in Group A.

Only the top two teams in Group A and B gain automatic entry to Russia 2018, but the two sides that finish third will go into a playoff series.

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