South Korea defeats Paraguay 2-0 in Stielike’s coaching debut

October 10, 2014
Coach Uli Stielike congratulates Ki Sung-yeung for job well-done as he makes a second half substitution. (Yonhap)

Coach Uli Stielike congratulates Ki Sung-yeung for job well-done as he makes a second half substitution. (Yonhap)

CHEONAN, South Korea (Yonhap) — Energetic and opportunistic South Korea defeated Paraguay 2-0 in their soccer friendly on Friday, handing new head coach Uli Stielike a victory in his South Korean debut.

South Korea scored twice on two shots in the first half at Cheonan Stadium, about 90 kilometers  (55 miles) south of Seoul, with midfielders Kim Min-woo and Nam Tae-hee each getting on board.

Stielike, a former German international, was named South Korea boss in September, replacing Hong Myung-bo, who’d resigned in July to take the fall for the country’s winless performance at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Stielike’s South Korea will next face Costa Rica in Seoul on Tuesday. It will then travel to the Middle East to take on Jordan on Nov. 14 and Iran four days later.

Stielike, who’d earlier said he will give every one of 23 players an opportunity to play in the two October matches, put out a surprising starting lineup. He benched veteran striker Lee Dong-gook, who’d scored twice in the 3-1 win over Venezeula last month, and winger Son Heung-min, who’s off to a phenomenal start for Bayer Leverkusen, at the kickoff.

Less-heralded players who got the starting nods responded with spirited first half, and Kim Min-woo, in just his seventh international match, scored the team’s first goal in Stielike’s regime in the 27th minute.

After a poor clearing attempt by the Paraguayan defense, Lee Chung-yong controlled the loose ball on the right wing and sent a low cross toward Kim. Defender Pablo Aguilar lost his balance as he failed to keep the ball from reaching Kim, who managed to strike the ball past goalkeeper Antony Silva even as he fell to the ground.

South Korea doubled the lead on a picturesque goal by Nam Tae-hee just five minutes later. Right fullback Lee Yong took a nifty pass from Lee Chung-yong and sent a low cross to wide-open Nam, whose deft redirection went past helpless Silva into the Paraguayan net.

Nestor Ortigoza nearly put Paraguay on board following a corner in the 36th minute, but goalkeeper Kim Jin-hyeon, in his third international appearance, was equal to the challenge.

Paraguay threatened in the opening moments of the second half. Derlis Gonzalez forced Kim to make his toughest save of the night with a strike from the top of the arc in the 51st. Seconds later, Aguilar’s header from near the penalty spot bounced wide of the right post.

South Korea countered on the other end in the 53rd minute, with Son, who came off the bench to start the second half, setting up Han Kook-young on a breakaway chance foiled at the end by Silva.

Son again made his presence felt in the 72nd, speeding past defender Gustavo Gomez for a hard shot saved by the diving Silva. The rebound went right to Lee Dong-gook, who came into the match near the hour mark, but his shot from the point-blank range was blocked out by multiple defenders.

Paraguay refused to go away quietly. Jorge Rojas challenged Kim Jin-hyeon in the 74th with a rising shot but the South Korean custodian again stood his ground.

For South Korea, second-half substitute Han Kyo-won missed two great opportunities late in the match. In the 85th, he took a seeing-eye pass from Son and walked in alone Silva but rolled the shot wide of the left post.

Two minutes later, Han fired a shot from the top of the box that curled wide left of the goal.

On the other end, Kim made one last stop on Derlis Gonzalez in injury time to preserve the clean sheet for South Korea.

Stielike said afterward his team should have scored more goals, but that South Korea was also lucky to keep Paraguay off the board.

“I think the match should have ended 6-3 for us,” he said. “Our players did their best for 90 minutes and created many chances.”

Stielike also gave kudos to goalkeeper Kim Jin-hyeon for stopping multiple shots.

“If you play too aggressively, then you become vulnerable to counterattacks by the opponents,” the coach noted. “That’s why we gave up scoring opportunities (in the second half).”

He didn’t put much stock into his decision to bench the likes of Lee Dong-gook and Son Heung-min to start the match, saying he simply wanted to rest players who he felt were fatigued from long flights or tight playing schedules for their clubs.