“I was more motivated.”

The U-23 national team won 4-3 in the shootout after drawing 2-2 with Australia in the final of the 2024 Western Asian Football Confederation (WAFF) U-23 Championship in Saudi Arabia on the 27th.

This was a prelude to the Asian Football Confederation U-23 Asian Cup that will take place next month. The U-23 team beat Thailand, Saudi Arabia, and Australia in turn to win the title.

The U-23 national team played without a head coach. Hwang was away for a while when he took the helm of the A-match team during the A-match period in March. Hwang led the A-match team but prepared for the match remotely with the coaches of the U-23 national team.

Hwang was proud of his students who won the title even without him but also felt sorry. He encouraged and apologized to the players, saying, “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it, and you did a great job.”

Um Ji-sung (Gwangju FC), who scored the winning goal in the semifinals against Saudi Arabia, said, “The players thought a lot about how to fill the part where the coach was not there,” adding, “That motivated me and I think I have produced such a good result.”

Now, Hwang’s next goal is the AFC U-23 Asian Cup to be held in Qatar on May 15. This year’s event is all the more important because it will also serve as a preliminary match for the 2024 Paris Olympics. If Hwang ranks fourth, he will play against a team that ranks fourth in the qualifying round for the Olympics.

The U-23 team received tough matches from the beginning of the group league. The team will play the matches of the United Arab Emirates, China and Japan in turn. They have no time to rest even one match.

Kang Sung-jin (FC Seoul) said, “I know it’s not easy to organize the Asian Cup group,” but expressed his strong will, saying, “On the contrary, I think I’m making up my mind more confidently and preparing well.” In addition, he said, “It’s important to be strong defensively,” adding, “We need to prepare to create more opportunities offensively.”

Meanwhile, Hwang will reconvene his players on the 1st of next month and hold a three-day training session at Icheon Sports Complex until the 3rd.

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