SEOUL (Reuters) - Uli Stielike’s future as the South Korea head coach is safe despite the stunning 1-0 defeat to China in Thursday’s World Cup qualifier, Korean FA chief Chung Mong-gyu said on Friday.
Beijing Guoan striker Yu Dabao scored the only goal of the game in the 34th minute to secure China’s first victory in the third qualifying stage and only their second ever win over their East Asian rivals.
With South Korea still occupy one of the two an automatic qualification spots for next year’s World Cup finals, Chung backed Stielike to carry on as the national team coach ahead of Tuesday’s home Group A clash with Syria.
“We didn’t play such a bad match,” Chung told Yonhap news agency at Incheon International Airport.
”The players did the best they could under the circumstances. We haven’t lost hopes of qualifying for the World Cup and talks of a coaching change (are premature).
“We just have to watch and let these players have a strong game (Tuesday).”
German Stielike, who was hired in 2014, apologised to South Korea fans for the defeat and promised improvements from his side, who failed to convert superior ball possession into goals in Changsha.
“We lacked a delicate finish,” said the 62-year-old German coach. “I will try to find solutions to the problem in the remaining four matches by making changes.”
South Korea trail group leaders Iran by four points with four games to play and Stielike said his side could not afford any more slip ups if they were to secure a 10th appearance at the World Cup finals.
“We can still go to the World Cup in Russia with our own abilities,” he added. “We’re now in a situation that doesn’t allow for any mistakes, but we will go to the World Cup.”
South Korea face fourth-placed Syria in Seoul on Tuesday.
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru, editing by Nick Mulvenney