Korea wins friendly in Jordan

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Korea wins friendly in Jordan

The Korean national football team managed to win its first friendly match away from home under new manager Uli Stikelike on Saturday, but the team looks it has a long way ahead to be prepared for the Asian Cup next year.

It was Han Kyo-won’s header in the 34th minute that nabbed the team its 1-0 win against Jordan.

The match was the first of two friendlies against countries in the Middle East - Jordan and Iran - to prepare the team for the Asian Cup group matches. Korea is in Group A with Oman and Kuwait.

But the 66th-ranked team failed to overwhelm Jordan, which is 74th, this time. Korea possessed the ball nearly twice as much as its opponent, but the defense made some mistakes.

Defender Kim Young-gwon of Guangzhou Evergrande tried to steal a long pass, but midfielder Khalil Bani Attiah took the ball suddenly and made a cross. It was headed by Ahmad Hayel but hit the goal post.

Although Jordan’s attempt at a goal was unsuccessful, Kim could have stopped Attiah if he had tried to block him. The scene reminded fans of another error by the player in June 2013, when Iran’s Reza Ghoochannejhad stole the ball from him, scored a goal and won the match, 1-0, in the Asian preliminary for the Brazil World Cup.

Two K-leaguers contributed to the first and only goal of the day. Right fullback Cha Du-ri of FC Seoul centered the ball and Han Kyo-won of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors netted it into the goal as a header in the 34th minute.

“It is a great pleasure that I was selected for the national team, and it is even better that I scored a goal as a member,” Han said after the match. “Cha also helped me out of the field, by giving advices.”

His goal also impressed his club manager, Choi Kang-hee, who served as the national team’s manager from December 2011 to June 2013.

“I’m really happy with his goal because the once-nameless player joined the national team and even netted a goal,” said Choi.

In the match, striker Park Chu-young returned to the national team four months after he disappointed fans in the Brazil World Cup, but he made little impact, with just one goal attempt in the first half.

Stielike commented after the game that he had not played badly, but fans will see if the manager meant it or not in upcoming matches when Lee Dong-gook and Kim Shin-wook return after their injuries.

The South Korean national team has another friendly against old foe Iran ahead at Azadi Stadium in Teheran tomorrow. Korea is led 9-11-7 by the 51st-ranked country and record gets even worse when counting matches held in Iran, 0-3-2.

The stadium has a capacity of 100,000 and is located at an altitude of 1,200 meters, or nearly 4,000 feet, so players get tired easily due to lack of oxygen.

It is vital for the Koreans to come up with effective tactics against Iran given that it’s the team it may face off against in the semifinal or final of the upcoming Asian Cup, which will be held in January in Australia.

BY Kim Bong-moon [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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