(U20 World Cup) Barca youngster shines in S. Korea’s victory vs. Guinea

May 20, 2017

By Joo Kyung-don

JEONJU, South Korea, May 20 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s FC Barcelona prospect Lee Seung-woo proved his caliber as he led his team to a 3-0 victory over Guinea in the opening match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup here on Saturday.

Lee, who is with FC Barcelona Juvenil A, showed why he is the most popular player on the South Korean team — not because of his affiliation with the Catalan club or his provocative hair style, but his football skills.

Lee scored a goal and set up another in the convincing victory. After showing off his trademark dribble techniques, Lee fired a right footed shot from just outside the box in the 36th minute and it found the back of the net after taking a deflection off Guinea center back Mohamed Ali.

This was Lee’s sixth goal in 13 matches for the U-20 side and his first in a FIFA event. At the 2015 U-17 World Cup in Chile, Lee was held scoreless.

“I was able to find my pace after scoring a goal,” Lee said after the match. “I think I played well considering this was our first match. I’m happy that I scored a goal that could help my team.”

Lee again entertained 37,500 fans at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, some 240 kilometers south of Seoul, in the first half extra time. After penetrating Guinea’s left side defense, he delivered a fine assist to Cho Young-wook for what appeared to be South Korea’s second goal. But Lee’s effort was canceled by the referee after video assistant referees (VARs) determined that the ball crossed the goal line before Lee made his cross.

“I was a little embarrassed (after it was canceled),” he said. “But since the video review system is designed to make correct calls, I have to accept the decision.”

In the second half, Lee frequently tested Guinea’s defense, making a one-two with FC Barcelona B midfielder Paik Seung-ho and feeding striker Cho Young-wook with slick passes.

While Guinea attacked South Korea with speedy attackers, Lee finally became a helper in the 74th when he fed Lim Min-hyeok in the box with a through ball for South Korea’s second goal.

Lee, born in June 1998, joined the Barcelona youth team in 2011 and made an impact immediately after scoring 39 goals in 29 matches for Barcelona’s Infantil A team, which broke the record previously held by none other than Lionel Messi.

But after FIFA slammed Barcelona in 2014 for breaching transfer codes, Lee was not able to play with his club until his 18th birthday.

Although his progression with Barcelona came to a halt, Lee regularly trained with the South Korean national team and managed to keep up his fitness.

After his ban ended in 2016, Lee developed into the attacking ace for the U-20 side managed by head coach Shin Tae-yong. Before the U-20 World Cup, he had bagged three goals in South Korea’s last six matches, tied for most with Paik.

Paik was also the goalscorer against Guinea as he notched the team’s third.

“In a recent dream, I saw Paik score two goals (against Guinea),” he said. “But Paik only scored one goal, so I guess my dream didn’t become a reality.”

South Korea will next face Argentina Tuesday, also in Jeonju, and Lee said he still has more to show.

“Although I scored a goal and produced an assist, there are still more things that I can show,” he said. “Argentina are a strong team, but we want to beat them and qualify for the knockout stage.”

Just 170 centimeters tall, there were concerns whether Lee would be able to play well against powerful and tall defenders at the U-20 World Cup, but the South Korean attacking midfielder shrugged off doubts with his latest performance.

His performance was so impressive that it even earned praise from Guinea coach Mandjou Diallo.

“I think he has very good skills,” Diallo said. “I think he has a great presence on the pitch.”

South Korean boss Shin said he knew Lee would produce something positive for the team.

“Lee is a player who knows how to play his game on the pitch,” Shin said. “He is also a player who sacrifices for the team. It was really good to see Lee devote himself to the team’s victory.”

 

South Korean midfielder Lee Seung-woo celebrates after scoring a goal against Guinea in the opening match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, on May 20, 2017. (Yonhap) South Korean midfielder Lee Seung-woo celebrates after scoring a goal against Guinea in the opening match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, on May 20, 2017. (Yonhap)

kdon@yna.co.kr

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