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(2nd LEAD) S. Korea beats Ivory Coast 2-0 in friendly

All Headlines 03:14 March 04, 2010


LONDON, March 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's national football team hammered away at its counterpart from the Ivory Coast on Wednesday, beating the West African nation 2-0 in a friendly match considered a litmus test for the Korean team's performance in the upcoming World Cup finals.

A little over three minutes into the game at Loftus Road stadium in London, Lee Dong-kook, striker for the South Korea's K-League team Jeonbuk Hyundai Motor, snagged the ball that ricocheted off a defensive header and nailed a clean volley shot from left field to give his team an early lead.

In injury time after 90 minutes, defender Kwak Tae-hwi vaulted a header into the Ivory Coast's goal post, connecting Kim Jae-sung's free kick to seal his team's victory before an overwhelming crowd of South Korean supporters that showed up at the stadium.

Ivory Coast, who fired coach Vahid Halilhodzic last weekend after the team's poor performance African Cup of Nations, threatened South Korean defense in the second half with striker Didier Drogba lodging a series of critical shots, but was unsuccessful in overwhelming goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae.

Wednesday's match was the last game for the South Korean squad before Huh Jung-moo, the South Korean team's head coach, decides on his final 23 picks for the World Cup team. The announcement is expected as early as late April.

The match against the Ivory Coast, one of the strongest African contenders at the World Cup finals, is seen as a litmus test on how South Korea will play against Nigeria in the finals.

With striker Park Chu-young of the AS Monaco not playing due to his thigh injury, South Korea summoned its top-tier players who belong to foreign football clubs, such as Park Ji-sung of Manchester United, Lee Chung-yong of the Bolton Wanderers and Ki Sung-yueng of Scotland Celtic FC.

Notably, Ahn Jung-hwan of the Chinese club Dalian Shide made a comeback to the national squad for the first time in 20 months. The veteran striker, who made three goals in two World Cup finals, was put into the match in the second half but was unsuccessful in producing any goals.

"The overall content (of the match) was good and the players seemed to be well aware of how to stick together as a team and share a common goal," Huh told reporters after the match.

The South Korean coach said that the match, with a good sparring partner, has given his team a good opportunity to prepare for actual World Cup matches. The Ivory coast currently ranks 22nd in FIFA's world ranking and South Korea stands at 53rd.

Regarding his vision for the final player entry for the World Cup, Huh said that he envisions no big changes from the line up in Wednesday's victory match.

"Of course, the players must continue to work hard and compete against each other as I may change (the roster) if the players' conditions change for the worse," the Korean coach said.


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