Korea Republic began their 2018 FIFA World Cup Group F campaign with a 1-0 defeat to Sweden at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on Monday.
Andreas Granqvist emerged as the hero for the Swedes as he kept his cool to convert a 65th-minute penalty, which ultimately proved enough to decide the contest.
And, given how they created the better chances throughout the 90 minutes, few would argue that Sweden were not deserving winners against a lacklustre South Korean outfit.
The result could have been even worse were it not for some heroics in goal by Cho Hyun-woo, who at least repaid coach Shin Tae-yong’s faith in him as he was given the nod ahead of Kim Seung-gyu and Kim Jin-hyeon.
Oh my goodness that’s an unbelievable save from Cho. Spread himself brilliantly towards Berg, and just as impressively springs to his feet to punch away. That’s a save which is as good as a goal #SWEKOR
— David Preece (@davidpreece12) June 18, 2018
He produced a brilliant save in the 20th minute to deny Marcus Berg from point-blank range, before recovering well to prevent the Swedish striker a follow-up opportunity.
Despite looking disciplined when their opposition were in possession, the Taegeuk Warriors hardly threatened the Sweden defence and it was not until the 52nd minute when they delivered their first real warning shot.
Finding space inside the area, Koo Ja-cheol was picked out by Kim Min-woo’s floated cross but could only glance a header into the side-netting.
Four minutes later, Cho had to be alert once more to keep out a bullet header by Toivonen, but there was little he could do to prevent the Swedes from opening the scoring five minutes after the hour mark.
A reckless challenge by Kim on Viktor Claesson initially went unpunished but – upon consultation with the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) – a penalty was awarded, which Granqvist made no mistake in sending Cho the wrong way.
— Rhysh Roshan Rai (@RhyshRai) June 18, 2018
Now, Korea Republic really needed to get going in the attacking third and Shin promptly took off the ineffective Kim Shin-wook and Koo, with the latter replaced by rising star Lee Seung-woo.
In the end, the Taegeuk Warriors did have one final chance to force the draw in the first minute of injury-time as Lee Jae-sung climbed high at the back post to nod the ball back into the danger area, but – despite being unmarked – Hwang Hee-chan was unable to guide his header on target as he spurned the gilt-edged opportunity.
That was the moment. Hwang has to score there. Terrible miss.
— Paul Williams (@PaulWilliams_85) June 18, 2018
The South Koreans are next in action against Mexico on Saturday, before finishing off their group-stage campaign against Germany on June 27.
SWEDEN: Robin Olsen, Mikael Lustig, Pontus Jansson, Andreas Granqvist, Ludwig Augustinsson, Viktor Claesson, Sebastian Larsson (Gustav Svensson 81’), Albin Ekdal (Oscar Hiljemark 71’), Emil Forsberg, Marcus Berg, Ola Toivonen (Isaac Kiese Thelin 77’).
KOREA REPUBLIC: Cho Hyun-woo, Lee Yong, Jang Hyun-soo, Kim Young-gwon, Park Joo-ho (Kim Min-woo 28’), Ki Sung-yueng, Lee Jae-sung, Koo Ja-cheol (Lee Seung-woo 72’), Hwang Hee-chan, Son Heung-min, Kim Shin-wook (Jung Woo-young 67’).