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(LEAD) S. Korea beat Nigeria in Olympic football prep tournament

All News 22:53 June 02, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS comments, photo)
By Joo Kyung-don

SUWON, South Korea, June 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea beat Nigeria 1-0 in their opener at an Olympic football prep tournament on Thursday.

A second-half goal by defender Choi Kyu-baek lifted South Korea to their first win at the four-nation tournament held at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, some 46 kilometers south of Seoul. Earlier in the day, Denmark edged out Honduras 4-3, thanks to two goals by Nicolai Brock-Madsen.

Gearing up for the Rio de Janeiro Summer Games, South Korea have invited Nigeria, Denmark and Honduras for the tournament as a warm-up for players under 23. All four participants have already qualified for the Rio Games, where 16 teams will compete in men's football in August.

South Korea will next play Honduras on Saturday at Goyang Stadium in Goyang, north of Seoul, before they wrap up the tournament against Denmark at Bucheon Stadium in Bucheon, 24 kilometers west of Seoul next Monday.

South Korea, the bronze medalists at the 2012 London Games, started the match with a 4-1-4-1 formation, playing Red Bull Salzburg forward Hwang Hee-chan up front. The hosts took their first shot of the game just 50 seconds after the kickoff, with midfielder Lee Chang-min's strike going off target.

Nigeria, the 1996 Olympic winners and the 2008 Beijing Games runners-up, pushed forward with speedy attackers Taiwo Awoniyi and Ubong Ekpai.

South Korea had promising chances to score in the 29th minute, but both Moon Chang-jin's left-footed shot and Hwang's header were saved by Nigerian goalkeeper Emmanuel Daniel.

Five minutes later, Nigeria almost got on the board after Awoniyi redirected Saviour Godwin's cross from the left side, but goalkeeper Gu Sung-yun was able to block the close-range shot. Muhammed Usman followed up with a right-footed shot from just out the box, only to miss the right side of the net.

In the 55th, the Africans surprised the South Koreans again with Erhun Obanor's right-footed shot rattling the crossbar.

South Korea in the 63rd delivered three shots inside the box, though none of them found the net. After receiving a cross from the right side, Moon had his two shots right in front of the net blocked by Nigerian defenders. Then Ryu Seung-woo's effort also failed to beat the goalkeeper.

While the two teams were running out of time, Choi Kyu-baek finally stepped up to score for South Korea in the 85th. Choi Kyoung-rok's free kick from the left side passed Hwang Hee-chan and Kim Min-tae, but Choi Kyu-baek was left alone in the box and easily slotted it home with his right foot.

Nigerians then pushed up forward by crowding the South Korean box, but they failed to get an equalizer even with three minutes of added time.

South Korean head coach Shin Tae-yong said that they failed to deliver the performance they wanted, but it was good to see his players doing their best until the final whistle.

"We made some mistakes because we were playing our first competitive match after a long time," he said. "But you can't play perfect football after two days of training. We will show better performances in upcoming matches."

Shin praised the goal scorer Choi Kyu-baek, saying the 22-year-old for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors served as a good example to his teammates.

"He has done what he does best on the pitch," the coach said. "Choi showed other players why playing matches regularly with their pro clubs is important."

Shin understood the stress of the players because the tournament can be their last test before the final 18-man Olympic team is announced later this month. But the coach emphasized this doesn't mean he will go easy on his players.

"I want to find our strengths and weaknesses through this tournament," he said. "The players will be facing opponents from various continents and I want to see how they play against teams with different styles of football."

Nigerian head coach Samson Siasia congratulated South Korea on their victory, but said his players were tired after a long trip. He added that the South Koreans were especially strong in the back, but felt that they were a little weak in scoring positions.

"I think both sides played a very entertaining game," he said. "But we didn't play like we used to because of fatigue and time difference."


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