Korea cruise past Iceland with big 5-1 win
Korea took a comfortable 5-1 victory in a friendly against Iceland in Turkey on Saturday, showing off good teamwork ahead of the two upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
Though the Taeguk Warriors were missing international stars like Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur, Hwang Hee-chan of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Hwang Ui-jo of Bordeaux, Lee Jae-sung of Mainz, Kim Min-jae of Fenerbahce and Hwang In-beom of Rubin Kazan, the K League and J League footballers took it upon themselves to pull off a decisive win.
The Korean squad for the friendly was made up exclusively of players from the Korean and Japanese leagues, where the new season hasn't started yet. The Europe-based players that normally make up the backbone of the national squad were not called up as the international break is not scheduled to begin until Jan. 24.
But their absence offered a chance for younger, often overlooked players to impress head coach Paulo Bento, especially with two World Cup qualifiers to play in the next few weeks.
On Saturday, it was Cho Gue-sung of Gimcheon Sangmu who opened the scoring in the 15th minute, bagging his first international goal in his fifth appearance for the national team. National team regular and recent K League returnee Kwon Chang-hoon of Gimcheon Sangmu scored Korea's second goal in the 27th minute, and just two minutes later, Paik Seung-ho of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors added a third.
Despite conceding one goal to Iceland just nine minutes into the second half, Korea were still able to find two more chances to score in the 73rd minute, when Kim Jin-gyu of Busan IPark scored the fourth goal, and the 86th minute, when Eom Ji-seong of Gwangju FC slotted in Korea's fifth goal.
Four of the five Koreans to score — Cho, Park, Kim and Eom — had marked their first goal with the national team on Saturday and two of them — Eom and Kim — did so on their very first outing with the Taeguk Warriors.
Korea dominated most of the match with 19 shots, 11 of which were on target, as opposed to Iceland's three shots with one on target.
Korea's two friendlies against Iceland and Moldova — to be played on Jan. 21 — were always going to be more about trying out relatively unseasoned players and focusing on teamwork rather than trying to avoid a loss, with Iceland ranked at No. 62 on the official FIFA world ranking and Moldova trailing at No. 181.
Korea currently stands at 33rd in the FIFA rankings, the third highest-ranked Asian country. Korea earned the position by winning both of its FIFA World Cup qualifiers against the United Arab Emirates and Iraq. On Nov. 11, Korea took a 1-0 victory against the United Arab Emirates at Goyang Stadium in Goyang, Gyeonggi, then went on to beat Iraq 3-0 at Thani bin Jassim Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Nov. 16.
The match against Moldova is Korea's last tune-up opportunity ahead of the next two World Cup qualifiers, against Lebanon on Jan. 27 and Syria on Feb. 1. Korea will then face the top team of the group, Iran, for the last time on March 24. Korea will play its last qualifier against the United Arab Emirates on March 29.
The match against Moldova is scheduled on Jan. 20 at 2 p.m. in Turkey and at 8 p.m. in Korea.
BY YUN SO-HYANG [email@example.com]