Choi Kang-hee, who traveled to South Korea to lead China’s Shandong Taishan to an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL) match against K League 1 side Incheon United, said he was happy to be back but focused on winning.
“I was happy and emotional to come to a K League stadium after a long time, but we had to play to win, so I was only focused on preparing for that,” Choi said at a press conference after the ACL Group G third-leg match against Incheon at the Incheon Football Stadium on Friday.
Shandong defeated Incheon 2-0 on the same day to leapfrog to the top of Group G.
Choi, who arrived in China after managing K League One side Jeonbuk Hyundai during its heyday, has been in charge of Shandong since May of this year, when they were in the bottom half of the Chinese Super League. Shandong are currently in second place in the league, and with a win today, they have a chance to advance to the round of 16 in the ACL.
“I thought it would be a tough game today,” Choi said. I thought both teams would be physically challenged, and the players were a little shaky at the beginning, but they did what we prepared them to do,” Choi said, explaining, “We asked them to maintain balance in the midfield and pressing, and it worked out well.
“Incheon is in a very good mood and they were very tricky for us in today’s game, but the fact that we managed to hold on without conceding a goal in the first half was a winning factor,” he said, adding, “I think today’s game will give the team a lot of confidence.”
He was quiet about standing on a K League pitch for the first time in about four years, but he was full of praise for “monster defender” Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich), who made his professional debut with Jeonbuk.
“I forgot about him,” Choi joked when asked about Kim Min-jae, “Even when I was at Jeonbuk, I said that Kim Min-jae would be competitive enough in Europe. It’s good for Korean soccer that he can go to such a prestigious team,” he added.
Meanwhile, Brazilian striker Crijang, who was selected as a substitute by Choi in the second half and scored the game-winning goal, also recognized that Incheon was a tough opponent.
“They are a great team. I think they played more and were stronger than us physically,” he said. “We were a bit stuttering in the beginning, but it was good that we passed the time and created chances with our passes. I’m happy to go home with three points.”
“Coach Choi Kang-hee has made a lot of changes since he came to our team. “He treats us the same regardless of our nationality and we have a good relationship with him. I feel honored to work with her,” he added. 토토사이트