Can Hwang Sun-hong’s best happy ending be made by winning the away match in Thailand

Hwang Sun-hong, under the “interim coach” system, is already only one day away from his short journey. The South Korean national soccer team, led by Hwang Sun-hong, will play an away match against Thailand at 9:30 p.m. on the 26th at Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok in the 4th round of Group C of the second Asian qualifying round for the 2026 North American World Cup.

Coach Hwang Sun-hong was appointed as interim coach of the Korean national team, which was vacated after Jurgen Klinsmann was replaced last month. He was in charge of coaching the Taegeuk Warriors until the two consecutive matches of the second Asian qualifiers for the 2026 North-Central America World Cup against Thailand, which will be held during the A-match period from March 18 to March 26.

Hwang came to take charge of the national team at a very difficult and sensitive time. As Hwang is serving as the head coach of the Olympic team, he had to be away for a while to take charge of the A team, as he had to focus on advancing to the finals of the 2024 Asian Football Confederation U-23 Cup and Paris Olympics. The Olympic team had to play in the WAFF U-23 Championship, a prelude to the Asian Cup, without Hwang Sun-hong as the head coach.

Moreover, the A team was in the midst of chaos due to poor performance at the last Asian Cup in Qatar and internal strife within the team. Despite his limited role as interim coach, Hwang had to take care of both team atmosphere and achievements. There were also strong voices of criticism that the KFA has passed heavy responsibility on Hwang.

Despite controversies and concerns, Hwang accepted the offer after much consideration for the sake of Korean soccer. Hwang then boldly selected Joo Min-gyu, Lee Myung-jae, Baek Seung-ho, and Kim Moon-hwan, who had been shunned by the Klinsman regime, to revitalize the stagnant national team competition system. He also called Lee Kang-in, who was at the center of the Asian Cup infighting, back to the national team and chose to break through head-to-head despite some opposition.

Players also responded to coach Hwang’s efforts for change. Son, who once considered retiring from the national team after the Asian Cup, was reappointed as captain and vowed to renew his commitment. “I will play hard and play hard,” Kim Min-jae, the flagship defender, expressed his commitment in a straightforward manner.

Lee Kang-in, who was at the center of the controversy over his personality, held an official apology conference and bowed his head, saying, “I will try hard not only to be a good soccer player, but also to be a better person and a more helpful and exemplary person for the team.” Soccer fans also once filled the stadium with 65,000 spectators in the match against Thailand, overshadowing public opinion to boycott the A-match support.

However, it was regrettable that the team’s commitment to change did not lead to a result in the A match. In a match against Thailand held at its home turf on Sunday, Hwang failed to keep Son’s first goal, and tied the match 1-1. Based on its overwhelming possession rate 78.5 percent, Korea attempted 25 shots eight shots on target but ended up with just one goal.

No matter how short the preparation period was and how many twists and turns there were, it was an unsatisfactory result not to win against Thailand, ranked 101st in FIFA rankings, which is evaluated one step down on the home turf despite mobilizing the best members.

Korea must now secure three points in away matches. Korea, which belongs to Group C of the second qualifying round for the North-China-US World Cup, maintained its No. 1 ranking by garnering seven points two wins and one draw, but is now trailing only second-ranked Thailand four points, goal difference +1 and third-ranked China four points, goal difference -2. In the second qualifying round for the World Cup, the top two teams will advance to the third and final qualifying round. In addition, Korea must win all of its remaining matches in order to receive favorable match scores in the final qualifying round.

Korea has the upper hand in objective performance, but there is no obvious result in soccer as seen in the draw at the last home game. Notably, away games in Thailand are a place where strong teams feel burdened by the local heat wave and the enthusiastic cheering of their home fans.

South Korea is leading Thailand by a large margin with 30 wins, eight draws and eight losses, all of which have been lost on the road. The most recent defeat was 26 years ago in the quarterfinals of the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok, where the best members participated in the A-match rather than the age-group competition at the time, Huh Jung-moo experienced a shocking elimination against Thailand, where as many as two people were sent off, by getting an extended golden goal and kneeling 1-2.

The match could be an important turning point for Hwang Sun-hong, who has to return to the Olympic team after a short tenure in Thailand after an away match, or for the Korean national soccer team afterward. To put it bluntly, the Korean team is still reeling from the aftereffects of its Asian Cup slump.

Up until early this year, the Korean soccer team, which was considered the “best ever” in terms of players’ names, failed to win the Asian Cup against Jordan, ranked 87th in the FIFA rankings, twice, and ended up with one draw and one loss. The team continued its humiliating scene, as it drew 3-3 after a hard-fought match against Malaysia, ranking 130th. It was shameful that the team was held back by Thailand at its home turf even after the team was replaced.

Also, although the conflict within the squad has subsided to some extent on the surface, the public opinion of fans who are actually watching the KFA remains chilly. Lee Kang-in’s apology speech at the training ground, which did not take into account the player’s position, was criticized a lot by soccer fans.

On top of that, the official supporters of the national soccer team, the “Red Devil,” shouted “Jung Mong-gyu out” in the last match against Thailand and put up a banner demanding the resignation of Chairman Chung Mong-gyu and the head of the Korea Football Association, but clashed with security personnel. Since the end of Hwang Sun-hong’s interim coach system, the issue of appointing an official coach and the direction of future national team management are still in the fog.

In such a chaotic atmosphere, what if Hwang produced disappointing results again in an away match in Thailand? The aftermath is unlikely to be light by any means. No matter how hard Hwang tried his best, if he failed to produce the most important result anyway, he would be judged as a “failure” by the interim coach system. The KFA, which forced Hwang to join the national team, will face mounting criticism.

While Hwang’s leadership is divided, at least one undeniably important role he has played in the national team is the fact that he laid the groundwork for restoring the national team, which has been hurt by division and controversy, back to the “one team.”

Hwang Sun-hong cleared up sensitive issues including Lee Kang-in’s selection and apology, Son Heung-min’s reappointment as captain, and appointment of K-League players who had been shunned, including Joo Min-kyu, to the national team. This eased unnecessary burdens on the official coach who will take charge of the national team in the future.

The best gift for players to repay Hwang Sun-hong and his fans would be a clean victory in an away match in Thailand. Can the national team present Hwang Sun-hong with a victory that commemorates the “best happy ending” and the “new beginning” of the national soccer team in an away match in Thailand. 토토사이트

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