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South Korea Snatch a Late Draw Against Paraguay

South Korea needed some late match heroics to salvage a draw against Paraguay, as Jeong Woo-young found the back of the net to erase a two goal deficit after Miguel Almirón completed his brace just four minutes into the second half.  With the draw, it leaves Paulo Bento's men with an even record with one match left to play in the June window against Egypt next week.  KLU's Branko Belan reviews the key points from the match.
(Photo Credit: The Korea Times)


A Frustrating First Half

The opening stages of the first half did not present much by way of concrete scoring chances, but South Korea had some success in carrying the play, having considerably more possession, although it did not translate into an attacking threat in the final third.  A defensive error from Jung Seung-hyun led to Almirón's first goal in the 23rd minute.  As the half progressed, Paulo Bento's side started to take control of the match once again, but still could not find a way past the Paraguayan back line.  It looked as though that might change just before the teams headed to the break, but Kwon Chang-hoon's headed effort clanged off the left post and stayed out, giving the South Americans a slim advantage as the teams were off to the dressing rooms.

What was most worrying about the first half for the home side is that they had close to sixty percent of possession and five shots to their opponents' two, but none of those shots found the target.  This has seemed to be a feature with Korean teams - they do well to keep the opponent out of possession, but lack the skill to cut chances in the final third.  It will have to be a feature in training in the months leading up to the World Cup in November.

Back From the Depths

When Almirón scored his second goal of the match just four minutes into the second half, it was easy to feel as though it might be difficult for Korea to find a way back into the match.  The center of defense had been turned inside-out, allowing the attacking midfielder the time and space to hit the ball from outside the box, into the top corner past the outstretched hands of Jo Hyeon-woo.  

It wasn't until the 66th minute that something positive finally came Korea's way since the opening whistle.  Son Heung-min stepped up to take a free kick on the edge of the area, and hit a sumptuous curler over the Paraguayan wall into Antony Silva's top right corner.  The home side would continue to press for an equalizer, and their prayers were answered in the third minute of injury time when Jeong Woo-young found himself on the doorstep with an empty cage in front of him and merely tapped it home with his right foot, converting Eom Won-sang's deft touch straight into his path.  While it wasn't a convincing performance overall, to see the team fight back in the latter stages of the second half as they did, is the enduring positive to take from the match.

Defensive Concerns Still Need To Be Addressed

The absence of Kim Min-jae continued to be felt as South Korea fell behind just minutes into the second half.  Defensive positioning, but also lineup selection choices have fallen short during this cycle of friendlies.  Bento continued to experiment against Paraguay and needs to find the right combination as the World Cup draws nearer.  Chemistry is currently lacking, partly due to injuries in the side, but also due to the fact that there doesn't seem to be a "next man up" mentality when lesser-used players are called into duty.  This is of particular concern in the back, where the lack of a leadership figure will continue to be a concern until the team finally gels.  If and when that is going to happen, sooner rather than later will have to be the case if Bento's men are going to have any chance of being competitive when Qatar comes around.

Bento addressed the issue of mistakes following the match.

"We made too many mistakes.  Sometimes, unforced mistakes.  The opponent didn't create too many problems in their offensive organization. But of course, we made two mistakes that allowed the two goals," he said.

"In these kinds of games, against teams that put a lot of aggressiveness and intensity in the game, (some players) feel a little bit more difficulty.  For us, it's important that they learn from these kinds of games in order to have more capacity in the future to take other kinds of decisions," he finished.

South Korea plays its final friendly match in the June window against Egypt on Tuesday night at the World Cup Stadium in Seoul, with kickoff to start at 8 p.m.

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