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South Korea Aims For Three Points Against Ghana

South Korea put on a spirited display in their opening match at this year's World Cup in Qatar, earning a hard-fought draw against Uruguay.  They now look towards an all-important encounter with Ghana, who fell to Portugal by a 3-2 scoreline.  Both teams have had this match penciled in as their best chance for maximum points since the draw was held in April.  A win would give either side a good chance of moving on to the knockout stage of the competition.  KLU's Branko Belan looks ahead to the match.

Taeguk Warriors Start Brightly

It was apparent from the beginning of the match that Korea was out to chase the proceedings from the first whistle, as they held their own for the opening twenty minutes before Uruguay finally started playing their way into the match.  Na Sang-ho was brought into the starting eleven to replace Hwang Hee-Chan, who continues to be out because of a hamstring injury and he provided a spark down the right side.  Son Heung-min was mostly his usual self on the left, but tried to put the match in his own hands on a few occasions without success.

Things started to unravel a bit once Uruguay started exploiting the wings with aerial balls that Kim Moon-hwan and Kim Jin-su did not always handle cleanly, but over the course of the match, the back four held strong thanks to a solid performance from Kim Min-jae, who was making his World Cup debut, after missing out on the tournament four years ago.  A Diego Godin header caromed off the post late in the first half and the teams went to the break level.

The second half continued to be a battle and both teams had their chances to win it late, with Federico Valverde firing a cannon off the frame of the goal in second half injury time, which was quickly followed by a chance at the other end for Son Heung-min, whose effort finished aimlessly past the post.  In the end, both teams seemed content to share the spoils and will see where the cards fall in the coming matches.

Kim Seung-gyu Cements Number One Status

One of the standout players for Korea on Thursday night was goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu.  While he didn't have a lot of work to do, he delivered when called on in some critical segments of the match.  Uruguay could have gone into the lead just before the half hour mark when Mathías Olivera attempted to put Darwin Núñez through on goal, but his touch was a bit too heavy.  Kim timed his approach to the ball to perfection and managed to scuff out the chance.  Had he been even a split second late, there was the danger that match referee Clement Turpin may have had reason to point to the spot.

He was on hand to deny Núñez again on 63 minutes after the forward had made a razing run down the left hand side, but had no support after managing his way past Kim Min-jae, and his cutback fell safely into the goalkeeper's waiting arms.  While he didn't have much more to do of note between the sticks, it should be noted that his distribution on the night was a contributing factor to both building out of the back and transitioning into the attacking phase.  Keeping a clean sheet in only his second World Cup appearance will do a spate of good for his confidence as well.

Changes Necessary Against Ghana

Cho Gue-sung played the final quarter of an hour against Uruguay.
While Korea fared well in several areas of the match,  there are still things to improve on if they have the intention of getting all three points against Ghana.  Finishing is at the top of the list, as Hwang Ui-jo missed a near perfect scoring opportunity in the 34th minute, angling his effort up and over the crossbar from close range.  He never really had a chance to leave his mark on the match after that and was eventually substituted for Cho Gue-sung with a quarter of an hour left.  

The Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors striker was involved during his time on the pitch and could be a viable option for the starting eleven on Monday night, but he picked up a yellow card with two minutes left in regulation, something Bento will have to take into consideration when considering his lineup combinations for the weekend.

Lee Kang-in could see more playing time after a strong cameo in the opening match.
Lee Kang-in also featured, coming on for Na Sang-ho, who played well as a replacement on the right side of attack, but it was the RCD Mallorca player who turned some heads even more so, as he added a more dynamic approach once introduced to the proceedings.  Will Bento give him his first full World Cup start?  Time will tell, but one thing is for certain - there is no way he should not be involved in the next two matches.

Lee commented on his first opportunity to appear for his country at senior level.

"I was always prepared.  Whether I got to play or not, I was ready to help the team in any way I could," Lee began.  "I think I played well.  It was great to be out there.  I wanted to help the team win, though."

He showed some promise in attacking situations and relayed some of the things he was told before entering the pitch, and his hopes to help the team more when he gets another opportunity to play.

"The coach told me not to drop too far back on defense, and to show what I have when I secure the ball.  At the end of the day, you've got to score to win in football. I hope we can get the job done next time," he finished.

Ghana Spotlight: André Ayew

Ayew has been Ghana's captain since 2019.
André Ayew scored the first of Ghana's two goals in the match against Portugal, his third at the World Cup, after netting against the United States and Germany back in 2014.  He became Ghana's most capped player with 111 against Portugal, surpassing previous record holder Asamoah Gyan.

Currently plying his trade in the Qatar Stars League with Al Sadd, he has scored twice in six matches this campaign after scoring fifteen goals in twenty-one games last year.  He spent the first six seasons of his career with Olympique de Marseille in Ligue 1, hitting double digits in goals on two occasions.  He then spent another six years in England, playing in both the Premier League and the Championship for Swansea City and West Ham United, and spent one season on loan at Fenerbahçe.

At 32 years of age, he may have lost a step, but certainly not his scoring touch, and will be a player the back line will look to contain and, ultimately keep off the scoresheet.  If given the opportunity, he will make his presence felt.

The match between the two sides will be played on Monday, November 28th at 3 PM local time and 10 PM in Korea.


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