Counterattack jab, set piece KO…U-20 men’s soccer beats Europe for first time in 20 years

South Korea’s U-20 men’s national soccer team, led by head coach Kim Eun-jung, set the stage for a dream run with an “underdog revolt.

Kim Eun-Joong scored the game-winning goal in South Korea’s 2-1 victory over France in their opening Group F match at the U-20 World Cup 먹튀검증 2023 at the Mendoza Stadium in Argentina on Wednesday (July 23). France, who won the 2013 tournament and reached the quarterfinals of the 2011 tournament, were the clear favorites in Group F, which also included South Korea, Honduras, and the Gambia, but were upset by South Korea. With three points, South Korea is tied atop the standings with The Gambia (2-1), who beat Honduras the same day.

Against the favorites, Kim Eun-jung-ho’s tactical choices were spot on. France dominated possession throughout the match, outshooting South Korea in both possession (57-30) and shots (23-9), but were unable to capitalize. Rather, Korea was able to operate efficiently with the ironclad defense of Kim Ji-soo (Seongnam) and Choi Seok-hyun (Dankook University) in the center of defense and Kim Jun-hong (Gimcheon) in goal, and evenly matched in shots on goal (5-6).

Korea broke through the French goal in the 22nd minute with an organized counterattack by Kim Yong-hak (Portimonense) and Lee Seung-won (Gangwon), and again in the 19th minute on a free-kick set-piece, Lee Seung-won’s cross and Lee Young-joon’s (Gimcheon) header intertwined for a ‘keo’ from the opponent. France only managed to make up one goal (Alan Birginius) on a penalty kick six minutes after the second concession. “The players did a good job of following the counterattack tactics we prepared,” said Kim Eun-joong after the game.

This is the first time South Korea has beaten France in an U-20 tournament. South Korea lost 2-4 in Malaysia in 1997 and 1-3 in Colombia in 2011. Lee Young-jun, who scored the winning goal, told the Korea Football Association, “We prepared a lot and were nervous because France was the favorite,” adding, “A goal is a goal, but (we) didn’t concede many. We practiced a lot on set pieces and it feels great to score in a good situation.”

The match also marked the overcoming of the ‘European jinx’ for the 20-year-old national team. South Korea hadn’t won a game against a European team since beating Germany at the 2003 tournament in the United Arab Emirates (2-0) until the 2019 tournament in Poland. Their record during that time was 10 wins, 3 draws, and 7 losses. Even in 2019, when they finished as high as runners-up behind the talents of Lee Kang-in (Mallorca), they lost to Portugal in the group stage (0-1 loss) and couldn’t get past Ukraine in the final (1-3 loss).

The U-20 World Cup is a battleground for the future of national soccer. It’s where Diego Maradona in 1979 and Lionel Messi in 2005 made their mark on world soccer by leading their countries to the top. According to FIFA statistics, 13 players from last year’s Qatar World Cup winner Argentina and 10 players from the 2010 South Africa World Cup winner Spain came from this tournament.

It was also a chance for the 21-year-old Kim Eun-joong-ho, who is the future of Korean soccer. “We have to get all the points (in the remaining games) to advance to the round of 16, so we’ll just enjoy the joy of victory until today,” said captain Lee Seung-won in a postgame interview after his ace performance with one goal and one assist.

South Korea will play the second game against Honduras at 6 a.m. on Saturday.

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