In-form striker scores again for S. Korea, boosts expectations for Asian Cup

November 20, 2018

BRISBANE, Australia, Nov. 20 (Yonhap) — South Korean striker Hwang Ui-jo has once again showed he is the country’s hottest goal poacher at the moment, having found the net against Uzbekistan in a friendly match Tuesday.

Hwang scored South Korea’s second goal in their 4-0 win over Uzbekistan at the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre (QSAC) in Nathan, a suburb of Brisbane, Australia. In the 24th minute, he pounced on a rebound from a tight angle and gave South Korea a 2-0 lead.

“I tried to shoot the ball as quickly as possible before the goalkeeper got in position,” Hwang said after the match. “I’m satisfied because I scored a goal.”

This was Hwang’s fourth goal in his 17 international appearances. Although his overall figures may not be impressive, three of his four goals have come in the last four matches under new head coach Paulo Bento.

South Korea's Hwang Ui-jo (L) celebrates after scoring a goal in a friendly football match against Uzbekistan at the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre (QSAC) in Nathan, a suburb of Brisbane, Australia, on Nov. 20, 2018. (Yonhap)
South Korea's Hwang Ui-jo (R) celebrates with Lee Yong after scoring a goal in a friendly football match against Uzbekistan at the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre (QSAC) in Nathan, a suburb of Brisbane, Australia, on Nov. 20, 2018. (Yonhap)

South Korea’s Hwang Ui-jo (L) celebrates after scoring a goal in a friendly football match against Uzbekistan at the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre (QSAC) in Nathan, a suburb of Brisbane, Australia, on Nov. 20, 2018. (Yonhap)

Prior to the Uzbekistan friendly, Hwang scored South Korea’s opening goal in a 1-1 draw with Australia last Saturday. Last month, he had his first international goal in three years in South Korea’s 2-1 win over Uruguay.

Hwang has now cemented his status as South Korea’s top scorer and is likely to become Bento’s first-choice striker at the 2019 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which kicks off on Jan. 5.

No player has scored more goals than Hwang since Bento took over the helm in August. Suk Hyun-jun, who was thought to be Hwang’s rival for a starting striker spot, only has one goal after scoring against Uzbekistan.

Hwang had already shown his firepower at the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia, where South Korea captured a gold medal. He was the tournament’s leading scorer with nine goals in seven matches.

With his J. League club Gamba Osaka, he has 21 goals in 34 matches across all competitions. In the league campaign this season, Hwang was on a six-game scoring streak before he was called up to the national team for the November friendlies.

Hwang has now scored 25 goals in his last 26 matches with his club and the national team, a jaw-dropping performance that the Taeguk Warriors haven’t seen from a striker for a long time.

“I came to the national team with good form from my club, and it continued,” he said. “I will successfully complete my club’s last two matches and prepare for the Asian Cup.”

Despite his unstoppable goal-scoring streak, Hwang said he still needs to make some improvements.

“Today, I played a good game because we had some space, but I think I still need to improve my delicate touches,” he said. “I play once a week with my club, so I think I have some time to rest (before the Asian Cup).”

Hwang is almost a sure bet to make the Asian Cup, and that will be his first major tournament since his senior international debut in 2015. With Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min scheduled to be absent for the first two matches at the Asian Cup, Hwang is now expected to be the No. 1 target for opponents. South Korea are in Group C with China, Kyrgyzstan and the Philip

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