South Korea’s U-20 soccer team, runners-up at the 2019 tournament, caused a stir at their first U-20 World Cup in four years by knocking out powerhouse France in the first round of the group stage.
Led by head coach Kim Eun-joong, the South Korean U-20 men’s national team defeated France 2-1 behind a goal and an assist from captain Lee Seung-won in the first match of Group F at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023 at the Mendoza Stadium in Argentina at 3:00 a.m. ET.
From the start of the match, France dominated possession and controlled the game. It was a game that lasted not only through the first half, but throughout the entire match as France dominated play and pounded away at the Korean goal while Korea defended and looked to counterattack.
Korea opened the scoring in the 22nd minute with a sharp counterattack. After defending a corner kick, Kim Yong-hak dribbled forward and crossed the ball to Lee Seung-won, who raced down the left side of the center line with three defenders in his way. Lee took the no-mark opportunity in stride, and when he found himself one-on-one with the keeper in the arc circle, he calmly slotted a right-footed shot into the back of the net.
Despite an absolute disadvantage of almost 2-to-8 in terms of ball possession, South Korea still took the lead, which boosted their momentum. However, France shook up the defense with Antoine Zouzou’s dribbling break from the left side of the field. In the 34th minute, Korea was able to save a goal when Juju’s cutback pass from the left side of the field went past the goalkeeper, but the defense blocked it.
In first-half stoppage time, Korea won a free kick in the center of the field, about 30 meters from the goal, and Kang Sung-jin took a direct left-footed shot. It was strongly curled but floated over the top of the goal to end the first half.
In the first half, South Korea had just 28% of the ball possession and 12% of the contested situations, while France had 60%. However, Korea scored a goal on the counterattack with five shots and two on target, while France had six shots and one on target.
Down 0-1, France’s offense came alive in the second half. In the fourth minute of the second half, a cross from the left side of the field was headed away by South Korean defender Park Hyun-bin, but it was saved by goalkeeper Kim Jun-hong.
Until the 17th minute of the second half, France’s offense was really strong. They fired numerous shots from inside the box, but the shots were either in front of the goalkeeper or just wide of the post, sending chills down Korea’s spine. France’s lack of finishing power was painful to watch.
Instead, in the 19th minute of the second half, South Korea added a second goal when captain Lee Seung-won, who was responsible for the first goal, curled in a free kick from the left side with his right foot, and Lee Young-joon, a 6-foot-3 striker, headed it in front of him.
For France, it was one set piece after another. In the 21st minute of the second half, France had a cross from the left, and forward Maramine Efekere collided with goalkeeper Kim Jun-hong as he attempted a diving header. Even though the collision was in a normal situation where he was trying to push the ball away, Kim Jun-hong was shown a yellow card and a penalty kick was awarded.
In a bizarre situation, France’s Alan Birginius converted the penalty kick with his right foot in the 25th minute to pull within one goal. 안전놀이터
From then on, both teams utilized their substitutions to defend and catch up. France pushed harder towards the end of the game. However, Korea’s players defended with their bodies and goalkeeper Kim Jun-hong was able to make saves to preserve the 2-1 score and win their first match.
South Korea will play their second game against Honduras on Sept. 26 at 6 a.m. and their third game against The Gambia on Sept. 29 at 6 a.m.