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Two Wins From Two as South Korea Ousts Hong Kong

South Korea made it two wins from two matches after defeating Hong Kong at the EAFF-E1 Championship on Sunday afternoon by a final count of 3-0.  Kang Seong-jin was the standout performer with a pair of goals, while Kim Jin-kyu registered two assists.  Hong Chul added a goal and an assist, his first ever goal for his country.  Hong Kong didn't really pose a threat, but South Korea's overall performance could have been better.  Nonetheless, they are now in position to win their sixth title when they face Japan on Wednesday night.  KLU's Branko Belan examines the talking points from the match.
(Photo Credit: KFA)


A Heavily Rotated Lineup

Three players were handed their international debuts against Hong Kong, as Lee Ki-hyuk, Lee Jae-ik, and Song Bum-keun all represented their country at senior level for the first time.  Paulo Bento has used the first two matches to assess the amount of depth he could potentially have at his disposal when preparations for the World Cup head into the final stages later this year.  Cho Young-wook started up top, but was replaced just after the hour mark by Cho Gue-sung, who is proving to be the future number one option for South Korea in attack.  Song Min-kyu started on the left side of midfield after coming on as a substitute in the match versus China.

With Kim Dong-jun and Song Bum-keun having started the first two matches of the competition, it would be expected that Jo Hyeon-woo will start the final match against Japan, as he is the best option between the sticks in this squad.  With Lee Yong left out of the side, it looks as though Kim Moon-hwan, may be the option Bento would like to use at right back moving forward, although he has only played limited minutes, coming on for the final seventeen minutes in the win over China and being substituted at halftime against Hong Kong.  He should see match action against Japan, though, as he is still fresh.

A Fantastic Afternoon for Kang Seong-jin

Kang Seong-jin made the most of his opportunity to play for the national team, scoring the first of his two goals after just seventeen minutes on the clock, when his shooting effort from just outside the box took a deflection off a defender and kissed the underside of the crossbar on its way past Ka-ho Chan in the Hong Kong goal.

He would add to his exploits in the second half when he doubled his tally on the day in the 74th minute, getting low to head home Hong Chul's searching ball in the box at the far post.  At just nineteen years of age, he looks to be another future prospect for the national team.  It will still be some time before he will be a regular but he's definitely on the radar for the U-23 side after his performances in the first two matches of this competition.  Paulo Bento has another horse to add to his stable.

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A Special Moment for Hong Chul

Hong Chul has appeared for South Korea now a total of 45 times in his international career, but his goal against Hong Kong was his first ever for the national team.  He was sent free thanks to a crisp through ball from Kim Jin-kyu.  His first touch was a bit heavy, but he had the time to pick his spot, shooting across the 'keeper and placing the ball just inside the post, in what was a striker's finish.

For someone who has contributed much to the national team in recent years, it's a just reward for the faith put in him by his coaches both at club and international level.  After struggling with the coronavirus and injuries early in the year, which forced him to miss the last three qualifying matches for the World Cup, he is back fit and ready to contribute to the team as they hope to make it out of a very tough group in Qatar, where they go up against Uruguay, Ghana, and Portugal. 

An All-Too Familiar Foe

Yesterday's results mean that South Korea head into the final match against Japan on Wednesday night with their noses in front in the round-robin table as the Samurai Blue only mustered a draw against a stingy Chinese side.  When the same sides met in the final match in 2019 when the event was held in Korea, Hwang In-beom scored the only goal of the match in the 28th minute.

All they would need this time around is a draw to secure their sixth title in this tournament and fourth in a row but they know it will not be an easy test, and, of course, the Japanese are at home, so they should be considered favorites for the match.  If Korea's realization in front of goal improves, they could well be hoisting the trophy at the final whistle, but as this fixture has taught us in the past, nothing should ever be taken for granted.
 

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