- Spirited performance marred by late winner
South Korea’s men’s football team traveled to Belfast over the weekend for an international friendly against Northern Ireland played at Windsor Park. It was the team’s first match in preparation for the upcoming World Cup, which is to be held in Russia, beginning on June 14th, when the host nation is slated to take on Saudi Arabia in the opening match.
South Korea entered the match on the heels of a successful winter camp, where they recorded victories over Moldova and Latvia, as well as a draw against Jamaica.
Shin Tae-yong’s side started the match brightly and was ahead after only seven minutes when Kwon Chang-hoon was able to convert a chance from in close following a nice through pass from Park Joo-ho.
The lead would not hold for long, however, as the Koreans were caught flat-footed in their own end, with defender Kim Min-jae putting the ball into his own net on twenty minutes, leveling the score.
He was visibly dissatisfied with his performance after the match but vowed to do better next time out, when the team faces Poland on Tuesday night.
“I learned that I still need to improve and have to concentrate more,” said the 21-year-old center back, who plays in the K League for defending champion Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
“I think our attackers did well, but defenders weren’t good. I have to play with a do-or-die mindset against Poland. It feels sad that I’ve disappointed many fans in the friendly against Northern Ireland, but I’ll show a better performance next time,” said Kim, who despite his young age, has already been capped six times for his country.
Things got worse when Kim Jin-su had to be substituted just after the half-hour mark due to injury. It is not yet known how long he will be out, but there is a good chance he will not be available for the Poland match. It is hoped that the injury is not going to be a long-term concern.
He missed the last World Cup because of an ankle injury.
The rest of the first half did not see much in terms of chances either way. Although Korea did look a bit shaky at the back at times, the sides went to the break with the score unchanged.
The second half
In the early stages of the second half, the teams traded possession with both having chances to take the lead. However, both defenses stood firm and both goalkeepers were up to the task when called into action. Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis was denied by Kim Seung-gyu early in the half, while Park Joo-ho was unable to give Korea the lead for the second time, as his effort from outside the box was denied by Trevor Carson just before the hour mark.
Jeju United’s Lee Chang-min entered the match in the 68th minute for Park Joo-ho, and had a solid performance overall. He combined well with his teammates in attack and showed skill to distribute the ball well around the pitch, but a resolute back line for the home side refused to allow Korea passage to goal.
Paul Smyth entered the match for Northern Ireland in the 82nd minute, which proved to be a good move four minutes later, as the 20 year old Queens Park Rangers striker was the man to put the Northern Ireland ahead, capping what was for him a memorable debut in his national colors.
Korea had one final chance to draw level one minute before the end of regular time through Kim Shin-wook, whose header from close range was just over the bar.
Despite a spirited performance, Korea had to settle for the loss. They will now look to Poland to make amends for Saturday night’s defeat, knowing that there were a lot of positives to take from the match.
Korea is in Group F in this year’s World Cup, along with defending champions Germany, Mexico, and Sweden, against whom they play their opening match on June 18th.
Branko Belan email@example.com