Koreans dejected after early exit

South Korea have grown used to the taste of the World Cup knockout rounds since savouring it for the first time on their run to the 2002 semi-finals, so to fall at the first hurdle in Brazil will be hard to swallow.

For those who have watched the side over the past couple of years, however, their failure in Brazil, where they finished bottom of Group H, comes as no surprise.The warning signs flashed brightly during a woeful qualifying campaign which saw them suffer an embarrassing loss to lowly Lebanon, as well as a home defeat to Iran that almost cost them one of Asia's four automatic berths.

Hong Myung-bo, South Korea's most capped player and skipper in 2002, took over from Choi Kang-hee after qualifying in the hopes that he could emulate his success with the Olympic side, who he led to a bronze medal in London.

However, Hong did not have the time, nor the personnel, to work his magic.

After a creditable 1-1 draw with Russia in their opener, Korea's defensive fragility was ruthlessly exposed by Algeria, who romped to a 4-2 win in Porto Alegre. A 1-0 loss to 10-man Belgium on Thursday confirmed Korea's exit.

"The players did their best but it was my shortcomings as a coach that caused this result," Hong said at a news conference, adding that he was still determined to take Korea forward.

"More than anything I think it was important for our players to be on such a big stage and to gain World Cup experience.

"We started with this team and we have to stick together to the end. I want to be responsible for this team until the very end, that hasn't changed."

South Korea have faced unrealistic expectations since their magical run to the semifinals 12 years ago but coach Hong should look to that side as a blueprint for the future.

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