Players of South Korea's U-20 football squad toss head coach Chung Jung-yong into the air during a welcome ceremony in Seoul on Monday. South Korea finished second at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland after losing to Ukraine 3-1 in the final two days ago. Photo by Yonhap
SEOUL, June 17 (UPI) -- Players and coaches of the South Korean men's under-20 football team were feted in front of fans in the nation's capital Monday for their unexpected run to second place at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland.
Coached by Chung Jung-yong, South Korea reached the championship final of the biennial youth tournament for the first time. They lost to Ukraine 3-1 on Saturday, but they were still greeted warmly by hundreds of fans at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, earlier Monday.
Later in the day, the Korea Football Association organized a welcome reception at Seoul Plaza, in front of Seoul City Hall, with fans gathered to get a closer look at the future faces of South Korean football.
Chung thanked the fans for their unwavering support.
"We didn't reach the final just because we played well; it's all thanks to your support," Chung told a cheering audience. "You've been with us all along. I can't thank you enough."
KFA President Chung Mong-gyu said the U-20 team captivated the nation with more than just their heroics on the field.
"These players went after the championship with a lot of confidence, and it was truly a team effort," he said. "Under the great leadership of Coach Chung Jung-yong, the players embodied values that make sports so great. I am sure they will be our key players at the 2022 and 2026 FIFA World Cups. I look forward to seeing them on future national teams."
Near the end of the reception, captain Hwang Tae-hyeon led the rest of the team to toss their coach into the air in celebration of their accomplishment.
Hwang said the players would have done the same thing if they had won the title in Poland, and they wanted to use Monday's reception to pay respect to their bench boss.