"We know the physical coach always tries to give us good things, so even though it tastes a little bitter sometimes, we tried to not care about the taste so much."
This was what one of the South Korean U-20 World Cup players said when he was asked about the taste of the carbohydrate-based drink the team had during the games.
Fans at the welcoming ceremony wondered what the drink was, and why the players had to drink it.
"Why do you become tired? The main reason is the exhaustion of energy in your body, and one of the main sources of energy are carbohydrates. So the key is how fast and how efficiently you can refill the energy during games."
At half time in each match, the players drank the specially-made carbohydrate-based drink, while listening to what the coach had to say.
The carbohydrates in the drink quickly enter the bloodstream and increase the glycemic index level back to where it was in the first half,… ready for the next 45-minutes of combat.
And this extra energy gave the team a timely boost.
In fact, before the match against Senegal,… people were worried about Korea's fitness as their opponents had an extra day of rest.
But despite such concerns, the players' energy didn't drop in the second half,… and they lasted all the way through to the penalty shootout.
Since then, some experts started to notice the drink, and the cherry juice that physical coach Oh Sung-hwan handed out to the players after the matches.
"So basically, cherry juice helps muscle recovery. If you drink it, an antioxidant effect will kick-in inside the body and reduce oxidative stress, eventually helping those damaged muscles after the game."
Behind the U-20 squad's dazzling performances in Poland, were the marginal gains generated by sports science, which helped the team go further than any other men's team in Korean football history.
Won Jung-hwan, Arirang News.