Korea beat Hong Kong to set up tournament decider against Japan on Wednesday
The Taeguk Warriors are now one step closer to defending their regional championship title having beaten Hong Kong 3-0 in their second match of the 2022 EAFF E-1 Football Championship on Sunday afternoon at Toyota Stadium in Toyota, Japan.
After beating China 3-0 on Wednesday night, this is Korea's second clean sheet win in a row.
Against Hong Kong, it was 19-year-old striker Kang Sung-jin who showed off some real prowess, scoring his first and second international goals on his first start with the Taeguk Warriors.
Kang's first-ever outing with the national team came just five days ago during the game against China, when he was substituted on in the game in the 73rd minute.
On Sunday, Kang found his first chance just 16 minutes into the match. Connecting with a pass from Kim Jin-kyu, Kang tried a long shot from outside the box. The ball flew rebounded off the post and into the back of the net.
Just 14 minutes later, Kang had another go, picking up a pass from Song Min-kyu then dribbling the ball past two defenders and shot with his right foot, but it veered slightly left of the post.
Hong Kong got a real chance in the 38th minute, with Vas Nuñez trying a shot past defender Lee Jae-ik, but failing to make it past Korean goalkeeper Song Bum-keun. The first half ended with Korea up 1-0.
Head coach Paulo Bento made two changes in the defense for the second half, with Paik Seung-ho taking Kim Moon-hwan's place on the right wing and Cho Yu-min taking Park Ji-su's place at center back.
Making two substitutions during half time is an unusual move as Bento rarely makes more than two substitutions, especially without inevitable reasons like injury. This is the first time that Bento has two substitutions during half time in 11 matches, the last time being the national team friendly against Iceland on Jan. 22. Excluding friendlies, the last time he has done so was last June when Korea faced Sri Lanka in the World Cup qualifiers.
The substitutions seemed to help the team convert better in the second half, with Korea adding two goals.
Captain Hong Chul scored Korea's second goal in the 73rd minute. It was once again Kim Jin-kyu who picked up the assist, sending the ball up the pitch from behind the halfway line to Hong, who slotted it in with his left foot.
In the 86th minute, Hong sent a cross from the left, seemingly for Cho Gue-sung to head in. Cho missed, but Kang was waiting on the left side of the post and dived to head the ball into the net.
With the win, Korea now sits at the top of the standings, two points over Japan. The top position was previously held by Japan after their 6-0 over Hong Kong on July 19. But on Sunday evening at Toyota Stadium, Japan was held to a 0-0 draw by China.
The last match between Korea and Japan will be the tournament decider. With the two point advantage, Korea will be at least looking for a draw to defend their EAFF title and their fourth consecutive title if they beat Japan in their final match on Wednesday. Korea has won a total of five EAFF titles in 2003, 2008, 2015, 2017 and 2019.
BY YUN SO-HYANG [email@example.com]