Mainz professional Lee: "In Korea, people are enthusiastic about the World Cup"

South Korea’s start against Uruguay was successful. While Freiburg’s Woo-Yeong Jeong remained on the bench for 90 minutes, Mainz’s Jae-Sung Lee was a Bundesliga professional in the starting XI. Lee gave kicker an insight into his emotional life during his second World Cup participation.

South Korea international Jae-Sung Lee.

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Thiemo Müller reports from Qatar

Despite the experience of three World Cup appearances in 2018, including the 2-0 win against Germany, Jae-Sung Lee felt like the first time this Thursday. “Yes, it’s my dream to play in the World Cup,” explained the 30-year-old, “that’s why I was a bit nervous before the game. But that was over after the kick-off.”

In South Korea’s 0-0 opener against Uruguay, Lee did his job in the same way as Mainz 05 does. Team-friendly, reliable, without attitudes. So solid in the best sense. Against the ball, coach Paulo Bento ordered him to the front pressing line, when Lee had possession of the ball he acted as a diligent tug and distributor in the half-left midfield until he was substituted after 74 minutes. So he played his part against favored South Americans to a result that leaves the door open to the second round of 16 (apart from the home tournament in 2002).

“A point against Uruguay is good. Ghana are the team we have to beat.”

“Of course I was hoping for three points,” said Lee, “but a point against Uruguay is a good result – and not too little. We feel happy with that and I’m proud of our team. Because it was a very difficult but also a very important game.” What applies even more to the next game next Monday: “Ghana is the team we have to beat,” says the man who switched from Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors to Holstein Kiel in 2018 and has since established himself in German professional football.

The focus was on Lee twice against Uruguay, just before the break. Only after a ball relay worth seeing with an intelligent cross pass into the opposing penalty area, where the ball found no buyer. And then after a corner kick in front of their own goal: In a header duel with Uru captain and record national player Diego Godin, Lee lost out, but South Korea was lucky that the ball hit the post. Lee (1.81 meters) against Godin (1.86 meters) – at least it felt like an unequal duel for the loser: “He’s a lot bigger. It wasn’t the plan for me to guard him either, but we defend him Space.”

“Our fans support us always and everywhere. That also makes us proud.”

In the meantime, the Koreans were able to follow their own path, at least in parts, which Lee describes as follows: “We always want to play with possession, hit crosses and create chances. We want to do that even better against Ghana.” Lee and Co. can once again rely on the support of an estimated 15,000 local supporters. “Our fans support us always and everywhere, which also makes us proud.”

Lee has heard about the extremely critical discussions about the Qatar World Cup in his adopted home of Germany. In his country, however, there is a completely different perspective and atmosphere: “In Korea, people are enthusiastic about the World Cup.” What is also transferred to the players: “Our fans support us, so I always want to fight and still learn.” After all, even at the age of 30, not all dreams are over.

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