It was a game that avoided disaster but left much to be desired. South Korea drew 2-2 with Honduras in their Group F match at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023 in Mendoza, Argentina, on June 26. South Korea is second in the group with one win and one draw (four points). In first place is The Gambia, who beat France 2-1 (6 points).
Before the game, South Korea was on a roll. They had beaten 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 capitalize on Honduras’ nerves by holding the ball long. At first, it seemed to work, but in the 20th minute, Choi Seok-hyun (Dankook University) stopped a Honduran player inside the penalty box and tripped him on his leg. At first, it went unnoticed, but after a video assistant referee (VAR) review, a penalty kick was awarded. Honduran David Ochoa converted. The score was 0-1, but the tables were turned shortly thereafter. 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, during a counterattack, Honduran Isaac Castillo’s mid-range shot went through the armpit of Kim Jun-hong (Gimcheon Sangmu) and conceded another goal. 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 keep the spark of hope alive. 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 in a corner kick to tie the game at 2-2. With plenty of time left on the clock and a man up, it looked like the upset was within reach. However, it didn’t happen. The team suffered a blow when Park Seung-ho, who scored the equalizer, 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 on an unexpected penalty kick, so we didn’t play the game we had prepared for,” said Kim Eun-joong after the match, “and we couldn’t capitalize 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 tired on the day. When the final whistle blew, some players were lying on the ground, unable to get up. “The players were more physically exhausted than we thought, so we will focus on recovery first,” Kim said.
Group F is a toss-up. While FIFA rankings are not a direct reflection of U-20 national team performance, we didn’t expect 27th-ranked South Korea to struggle against 62nd-ranked Honduras. The Gambia, ranked 157th, booked their spot in the round of 16 early with two straight wins. South Korea will play the Gambia in the third round on Sept. 29 at the same venue. “We want to win unconditionally against South Korea and finish first in the group,” said Gambia captain Mamin Hunt (Bayern Munich).
South Korea will advance to the Round of 16 with a draw (second place) or win (first place) against the Gambia. If they lose, it’s a little more complicated. If Honduras (W1) defeats France (W0), they will play for second place in the group based on goal difference and goal differential, and if France wins, they will advance to the round of 16 as the runner-up. Even if Honduras finishes second, they’ll still have to fight for points against the third-place team in the other group, which seems relatively easy since the third-place team in four of the six groups advances to 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.” 스포츠토토
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.