Was it because he didn’t want to see the moment of defeat in person? Saudi Arabian soccer team coach Roberto Mancini, who is paid 25 million euros per year, left the stadium during the penalty shootout for the round of 16 teams at the 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup, sparking controversy. “I thought the penalty shootout was over,” he apologized, but his explanation is hard to understand.
The situation was like this. The round of 16 match between South Korea and Saudi Arabia took place at 1 a.m. on Saturday (Korea time) at Education City Stadium in Alayyan, Qatar. After tying the regular time 1-1 and failing to decide the winner in overtime, the two teams ultimately decided on a penalty shootout to determine the advance to the quarterfinals.
The penalty shootout, which started with Saudi Arabia’s advance, was out of balance from the third kicker, who was 2-2 against each other. Cho Hyun-woo (Ulsan HD) saved Sami Al-Naji’s kick, and Cho Kyu-sung (Mit Whelan) blocked another kick by Abdullaham Garib in a 3-2 lead. If South Korea’s fourth kicker Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton) succeeds, the penalty shootout will end as it is.
However, Saudi Arabia’s head coach Mancini turned and left the stadium as Hwang Hee-chan was preparing for the kick. The head coach headed to the locker room first before the game was over. The local broadcast screen was also controversial enough to catch Mancini’s back heading to the locker room for quite some time.
There was no reversal. Hwang Hee-chan succeeded in the fourth kick and ended with a 4-2 penalty shootout score and Korea’s victory. The two teams had mixed feelings. Korean players ran around the stadium and couldn’t hide their joy of advancing to the quarterfinals. Saudi Arabian players shed tears with their heads bowed.꽁머니환전
Since Mancini had already left the stadium, neither team’s head coaches were able to greet each other after the match. Jurgen Klinsmann seemed to be saying his last greeting with the opposing team’s coaches, not Mancini.
The world-renowned master’s actions were conveyed intactly by foreign media. The Associated Press reported that Mancini made an apology in a press conference after turning to the locker room ahead of Hwang Hee-chan’s kick when his team failed to keep a 1-0 lead and two players missed the penalty shootout. The British Daily Mail also reported that Mancini left the stadium through a tunnel even before the penalty shootout. It was probably because he couldn’t bear to see the moment when Hwang Hee-chan led Korea to the quarterfinals.
“I apologize. I thought the game was over. I didn’t want to be rude to anyone,” Mancini said in a press conference after the game. “I left the stadium first because I thought the penalty shootout had already been decided.” However, it was an explanation that was hard to understand given that the veteran coach was not only aware of the atmosphere in the stadium when the game was decided through a penalty shootout, but also that he did not even greet Clinton.
After allowing the first run in the first minute of the second half, South Korea was on the edge of the cliff because it rarely scored an equalizer, but Cho Kyu-sung’s dramatic goal at the end of the 10th minute of extra time led the match to extra time. South Korea, which failed to decide the match even in extra time, eventually entered the penalty shootout, with two saves by Cho Hyun-woo and a clean success by Son Heung-min (Tottenham), Kim Young-kwon (Ulsan), Cho Kyu-sung and Hwang Hee-chan, winning 4-2 to advance to the quarterfinals.
It is the eighth time in a row that Korea has advanced to the quarterfinals at the Asian Cup. The next match will be against Australia at the Al-Zanub Stadium in Al-Wakra, Qatar, at 12:30 a.m. on March 3.