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South Korea coach had his players switch jerseys in World Cup training to trick a Swedish spy

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“They might know a few of our players but it is very difficult for Westerners to distinguish between Asians.”

South Korean World Cup Squad Announcement Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

South Korea head coach Shin Tae-Yong admitted to using some devious counter-tactics to deal with a representative of Swedish soccer trying to watch their training — he had his players switch jersey numbers because he figured that the Swedes couldn’t tell his players’ faces apart.

This is real.

In a news conference before the match, Shin Tae-Yong spoke out about the reports that a Swedish scout had rented a home near the South Korea training ground, something Sweden’s coach Janne Andersson later apologized for.

From Reuters:

In any case, [Shin Tae-Yong] had a ruse of his own to outfox the Swedes, making his players use different jersey numbers.

“We switched them around because we didn’t want to show our opponents everything and to try and confuse them.

“They might know a few of our players but it is very difficult for Westerners to distinguish between Asians and that’s why we did that,” Shin said.

According to the ITV broadcast of the match on Monday, the concern over spies was what caused South Korea to play a pre-World Cup friendly against Senegal behind closed doors in a small, remote stadium in Austria. (We were wondering before the World Cup why we couldn’t find any footage of the game ... now we know.)

The best part is that Sweden’s scout still watched the game and training ... using a telescope atop a nearby mountain.

Again, from Reuters:

A Swedish scout used a house near Korea’s training base in Austria this month to watch training sessions using a high performance telescope and video camera.

“It took a long car journey up the mountains to reach the house, but it was a perfect spot to observe the Korean team’s training,” Lars Jacobsson, a member of the Swedish coaching staff, said on Sunday.

Let no one say the World Cup isn’t the best tournament in the world. Let no one say that.