Avoiding disaster, but with a lot to lose. South Korea drew 2-2 with Honduras in their second Group F match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023 in Mendoza, Argentina, on 26 June. They are second in the group with one win and one draw (four points). In first place is The Gambia (6 points), who beat France 2-1.
Before kick-off, South Korea were on a roll. They had beaten favourites France 2-1 in their first match on the 23rd. Honduras, on the other hand, was still reeling from a 2-1 loss to the Gambia. Honduras would have to pack their bags if they lost to South Korea, so South Korea tried to take advantage of Honduras’ nerves by holding the ball for long periods of time. At first, it seemed to work, but in the 20th minute, Choi Seok-hyun (Dankook University) stopped a Honduran player in the penalty box and tripped him on his leg. Initially, the incident went unnoticed, but after a video assistant referee (VAR) review, a penalty kick was awarded. Honduran David Ochoa converted the spot kick. The score was 0-1, but the tables were turned shortly afterwards. In the 27th minute, Ochoa, who converted the penalty kick, was sent off for hitting Bae Seo-Joon (Daejeon) in the head during a ball contest. He was initially shown a yellow card, which was later changed to a red card after VAR. With their numerical advantage, Korea pushed Honduras back.
However, in the sixth minute of the second half, on a counterattack, Honduran Isaac Castillo’s mid-range shot went through the armpit of Kim Jun-hong (Gimcheon Sangmu). 0-2. The players were devastated. Just as despair was about to set in, coach Kim Eun-joong (44) brought on striker Park Seung-ho (Incheon) to try and keep the spark of hope alive 메이저놀이터. Fortunately, it worked. In the 13th minute of the second half, Kim Yong-hak (Portimonense) sent a low left-footed shot into the corner of the net. Four minutes later, Park Seung-ho headed home a corner kick to make it 2-2. With plenty of time left on the clock and a man advantage, it looked like the upset was within reach. However, it was not to be. The team suffered a blow when Park Seung-ho, who scored the equaliser, was substituted midway through the game due to injury, and defender Choi Seok-hyun was sent off late in the game for two cautions. Goalkeeper Kim Jun-hong was also cautioned for stalling and will miss the next game due to accumulated cautions.
“We conceded an early goal from an unexpected penalty kick, so we didn’t play the game we had prepared for,” said Kim Eun-joong, a stern-faced coach, “and we couldn’t capitalise on our numerical advantage.” Kim Yong-hak, who spearheaded the Korean attack, lamented, “We made it difficult for ourselves by conceding two goals when we were clearly in an advantageous situation.”
The South Korean players looked a little heavy on the day. When the final whistle blew, some players were lying on the ground, unable to get up. “The players were more physically tired than we thought, so we will focus on recovery first,” Kim said.
Group F is a toss-up. While the FIFA rankings are not a direct reflection of the quality of the U-20s, I didn’t expect 27th-ranked South Korea to struggle against 62nd-ranked Honduras. The Gambia, ranked 157th, booked their place in the round of 16 early with two straight wins. South Korea will play the Gambia in the third round at the same venue on the 29th. “We want to win unconditionally against South Korea and finish first in the group,” said Gambia captain Mamin Hunt (Bayern Munich).
South Korea will qualify for the round of 16 with a draw (second in the group) or a win (first in the group) against the Gambia. If they lose to the Gambia, it’s a bit more complicated. If Honduras (P1) defeats France (P0), they will finish second in the group based on goal difference and goal difference, and if France wins, they will finish second in the group and advance to the round of 16. Even if Honduras finishes second, they will still have to fight for points with the third-placed team in the other group, which seems relatively easy since the third-placed team in four of the six groups qualifies for the round of 16, but it’s not a sure thing. “The Gambia is a much better team than we thought,” Kim said. We will prepare well strategically.”
In the other groups, Argentina (Group A), the United States (Group B), Colombia (Group C), Nigeria (Group D) and England (Group E) qualified for the round of 16 with two wins each.