ICHEON, South Korea (Yonhap) — The South Korean men’s Olympic football team beat Algeria 2-0 in a friendly match on Friday, as they enter the tune-up phase for the Rio de Janeiro Summer Games.
Midfielder Kwon Chang-hoon scored a goal and set up another in the first half for the under-23 team, delighting more than 11,750 fans at Icheon Sports Complex in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province, south of Seoul.
South Korea, coached by Shin Tae-yong, took the lead only three minutes into the match when Kwon, after receiving a long pass from Park Yong-woo, blasted a shot from just outside the box and froze up Algerian goalkeeper Abdelkadir Salhi.
Kwon, who plays for the Suwon Samsung Bluewings, could have doubled the lead in the 23rd, but his left-foot shot inside the box was saved by the goalkeeper. However, seven minutes later, the 21-year-old collected an assist after his pass found Moon Chang-jin, who also scored from outside the area.
Algerian forward Zineddine Ferhat threatened to cut the deficit with free kicks, but goalkeeper Kim Dong-joon managed to block all of his efforts.
South Korea had another chance to score in the 38th, but Song Ju-hun’s unmarked header from Moon’s free kick went wide.
In the second half, both teams tinkered with their lineups by substituting a slew of players. For this friendly, South Korea and Algeria agreed to no substitution limits on the number of players.
South Korea further tested Algeria with shots by substitutes Park Jung-bin and Lee Chang-min, but failed to add to their tally.
Coach Shin said it was nice to get a win but he wasn’t satisfied with how his players performed.
“It was painful for me to watch the performance gap between those who play regularly with their clubs and those who don’t,” he said after the match. “Our attackers failed to make cohesive plays with each other and didn’t produce smooth passes.”
Shin, however, was satisfied with the goal scorers Kwon and Moon.
“Because both players get regular action with their clubs, they were not afraid to face tough challenges from the opponents and were able to show their own games on the pitch,” he said. “What I want from these two is to play until the Olympics without getting injured.”
The 45-year-coach said that his team is trying to improve its defense because opponents at the Olympic football tournament are stronger than those that they have already faced from Asian countries. Against Algeria, Shin started two defensive midfielders to stabilize the center.
“Although we emphasized defense, we are working to push forward aggressively when attacking,” he said. “We tried to look for the right combination by substituting players. But this match is just a beginning, not the end.”
Both South Korea and Algeria have already qualified for the Summer Games in August. South Korea finished runner-up in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship in January, while Algeria were second in the 2015 Africa U-23 Cup of Nations.
South Korea and Algeria will have another friendly match at 7 p.m. Monday at Goyang Stadium in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, north of Seoul.