South Korea returned home from the 2018 World Cup on Friday to a largely warm welcome at Incheon International Airport -- though two or three eggs were thrown at the surprised squad.
Just two days after the Taeguk Warriors shocked the world by defeating Germany 2-0 in Kazan to eliminate the defending champions, around 500 fans gathered to greet the players as they appeared on the arrival concourse. The atmosphere was happier than four years ago when, after a dismal campaign in Brazil, the team was pelted with traditional sweets -- an insult in Korean culture -- at the same airport.
This time, despite the eggs and a few cushions thrown from what seemed to be a handful of people, there were mostly flowers, scarves and pictures taken on smart phones. The stunning win over Germany has changed the mood among the football public that had been dismayed by defeats against Sweden and Mexico in the first two games of Group F.
Coach Shin Tae-Yong, whose future is up in the air with a contract soon to expire, told the crowd that he would have preferred to stay in Russia longer.
Son Heung-Min was, along with goalkeeper Cho Hyun-Woo, the team's best performer at the tournament. The Tottenham Hotspur star scored twice, including the second against Germany.
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"I didn't want to come home until July and it's disappointing to be back home in June," Shin said. "I'd like to thank our fans for their love and support. Without our fans, we wouldn't have been able to create the miracle that we did."
"Thank you to all of you who came today," Son, who was almost hit by a flying egg, said. "I am sorry to our fans that we didn't live up to our promise of reaching the knockout stage but I think we all saw some hope from the win over Germany. But we won't get carried away with that bit of success, and we'll continue to work hard."
The team will return to competitive action at the 2019 Asian Cup in January.
Captain Ki Sung-Yueng was not with the squad as the Swansea City midfielder returned to England to, according to reports in Korea, look for a new club following Swansea's relegation from the Premier League.