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South Korea End June Friendlies On a High

South Korea rounded out their slate of June international friendlies with a comprehensive 4-1 victory over Egypt at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on Tuesday night.  Goals from Hwang Ui-jo, Kim Young-gwon, Cho Gue-sung, and Kwon Chang-hoon ensured that South Korea finished their four match stint with a pair of wins, one draw, and one loss, but more importantly, ended the stretch on a three match unbeaten run.  KLU's Branko Belan reviews the encounter.


Quick Out of the Gates

The first quarter of an hour did not produce much from either side, although Mostafa Mohamed missed a chance to put the visitors in front on fourteen minutes following a mistake by Kim Seung-gyu but couldn't capitalize.  Egypt would rue the miss just minutes later as Hwang Ui-jo was on hand to head home Kim Jin-su's cross from the left, almost completely unmarked.  Kim Young-gwon made it two on twenty-one minutes, also with an unchallenged header at the far post, following a Son Heung-min corner kick.  Paulo Bento's men looked well in control heading into the latter stages of the first half.

Egypt could not muster any considerable presence in front of goal in the absence of Mohamed Salah, who is out for his national team because of a muscle strain that kept him out of an AFCON qualifying match against Ethiopia at the end of last week.  Meanwhile, South Korea continued to move the ball around well and troubled the Egyptian defenders with their set-piece routines.  But, just when it looked as though the hosts had everything under control, Mohamed popped up in a good scoring position following a scramble in the box and found the back of the net to halve the deficit.  A VAR review for handball proved inconclusive and the goal was allowed to stand.  The teams eventually went to the break with South Korea maintaining a one goal edge.

Game Laid to Rest Late

The second half got off to a bit of a slow start, but there was soon to be bad news for South Korea as Ko Seung-beom, who was making his first career start for the national team on the night, had to exit the match due to injury and was replaced by Kim Jin-kyu.  Egypt began to play more defensively, limiting Korea's capability in the final third, while trying to hit back on the counter-attack, without much success, as their final execution let them down.

Paulo Bento would roll the dice late on with substitutions, bringing on Cho Gue-sung as one of his changes in the 79th minute.  Only five minutes later, he added his name to the scoresheet, sending a curling shot into the corner of the net following a poor defensive clearance, and that ensured that the home side would walk away winners at the final whistle.  Kwon Chang-hoon would add a fourth in the first minute of injury time, rising well to score the team's third headed goal of the night, once again unmarked.  It was a just result, considering the fact that they had dominated most of the match, commandeering more than seventy percent of possession, with nine total shots, with three of four on target finding their mark.

With the result, South Korea won two of their international matches in June, with one draw and one loss as well.  While the first match against Brazil will eventually be forgotten, there were signs in the other three matches that some progress has been made, and the defensive effort against Egypt was the best overall.  Now the side will set their sites on the EAFF Championship to be held in Japan next month, as they look to defend their crown from 2019 but will do so without their European-based stars who will return to their clubs to get ready for their respective seasons.
 

Bento: "A Good Performance"

Paulo Bento commented on his team's play following the match.

"I think, in general, it was a good game, with a good performance.  Defensively, we conceded few chances to the opponent.  The game, except the first 8-10 minutes, was dominated by our team.  We controlled the game with good ball possession," he said.

"I think we should be happy because of the result, and also due to the performance and the attitude of the players," he added.

Hwang Ui-jo, who was selected Man of the Match, also shared his thoughts after the final whistle.

"We were able to execute our game plan, and things worked out the way we wanted them to.  We scored a bunch of goals, and it was a good match overall," he concluded.

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