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South Korean players swapped shirt numbers to try to confuse opposition scouts

“It’s very difficult for Westerners to distinguish between Asians,” Shin Tae-yong said.

Claims: South Korean coach Shin Tae-yong.
Claims: South Korean coach Shin Tae-yong.
Image: AP/PA Images

SOUTH KOREA’S COACH claimed he deliberately made his team wear different numbered shirts in recent friendlies to confuse World Cup opponents who cannot tell his players apart.

Shin Tae-yong said everyone bar star player Son Heung-min and captain Ki Sung-yueng were given different shirts in games against Bolivia and Senegal in Austria earlier this month to outwit anyone checking up on his team.

The astonishing claim came just 24 hours before his side open their World Cup campaign against Sweden, a seemingly tame encounter which has been spiced up by claims of spying as well as the Korean coach’s shirt subterfuge.

In his press conference, Swedish coach Janne Andersson was forced to apologise after it was claimed one of his scouts had been caught spying on Monday’s opponents at a closed training session in Austria.

But the claim by his Korean opposite number added an extra layer of intrigue to the Group F clash.

“All of the others played in numbers [that were] a little bit confusing, that’s why we switched the numbers,” Shin Tae-yong told reporters.

“It’s very difficult for Westerners to distinguish between Asians. That’s why we did that.”

The plan may have backfired on the Koreans though as they lost to Senegal 2-0, and drew with Bolivia 0-0 in their final warm-up games for Russia.

Asked about claims that Sweden had spied on his team, Shin Tae-yong was calm, saying: “I don’t think that’s bad”, adding that all teams needed to know about their opponents.

There have been counter-claims that the Koreans also spied on the Swedes in the run-up to Russia.

The row centres on Swedish scout Lasse Jacobsson who reportedly covertly watching the Koreans prepare for the World Cup.

Jacobsson had apparently rented a house in the town of Leogang, near Salzburg to ‘spy’ on Sweden’s first opponents.

“He heard about a practice session, he didn’t understand that it was a closed session, he didn’t understand and he watched from a distance,” said Andersson, attempting to downplay the incident.

“It’s very important we show respect to all our opponents in all circumstances… if someone could interpret it in another way we regret it.”

He added: “It’s been made a mountain out of a molehill.”

© – AFP 2018

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