May 21, 2017
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 Korea blanked Guinea 3-0 to open the FIFA U-20 World Cup at home on Saturday, with a pair of FC Barcelona prospects getting on the score sheet.
, who plays with Barca's Juvenil A, opened the scoring in the 36th and FC Barcelona B midfielder Paik Seung-ho
rounded out the scoring late in the second half at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, some 240 kilometers south of Seoul. Their goals sandwiched one by second-half substitute Lim Min-hyeok
before a near-sellout crowd.
South Korea had a goal called back late in the first half after video review -- in use for the first time at a FIFA youth event -- but showed no ill effects the rest of the convincing victory.
Lee Seung-woo celebrates his goal against Guinea during the teams' FIFA U-20 World Cup Group A match at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, on May 20, 2017. (Yonhap)
The 24 teams here have been divided into six groups of four and will play in six cities across South Korea. The final is set for June 11 at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, some 45 kilometers south of Seoul.
The top two nations from each group, plus four-best third-place teams, will reach the round of 16.
South Korea will next face Argentina in Jeonju on Tuesday. Argentina lost to England 3-0 earlier Saturday at the same venue.
After winning their first matches with1 identical scores, South Korea and England are tied atop Group A with three points. The first tiebreaker is the goal difference, followed by goals scored. If teams are still tied, then the head-to-head record will determine the rankings, followed by the goal difference and then goals scored in the head-to-head meeting.
FIFA said 37,500 fans watched the match, though local organizers said earlier that the tickets had sold out at the 41,785-seat stadium.
Sellout or not, South Korean head coach Shin Tae-yong was still grateful for the home fans' support.
"Because it was our first match, I think some of the players had some nerves," he said. "However, after our opening goal, the players got into their rhythm and got more energy from the fans. If we can receive this kind of avid fan support, I believe our young players will perform better."
Guinea controlled the pace early, with shifty winger Jules Keita wreaking havoc on the South Korean defense with his fancy dribbling and bursts of speed.
Keita tried to dance through multiple defenders in the eighth minute and took a shot that rolled wide of the net. His teammates Momo Yansane and Ibrahima Sory were also off target with their attempts, with South Korea barely able to mount counterattacks.
After a South Korean turnover in midfield in the 21st, Keita sprinted in alone on the left wing but lost his balance and stumbled, wasting a potentially dangerous opportunity.
South Korea continued to be sloppy with the ball in the offensive zone, but then Lee Seung-woo shifted the momentum with some great individual effort and a fortuitous bounce.
Lee took control of the ball in midfield and charged toward the box to fire it through traffic. The shot then went off the leg of a sliding Mohamed Ali before it floated over goalkeeper Moussa Camara and into the net.
Lim Min-hyeok (2nd from L) watches his goal past Guinea's goalkeeper Moussa Camara (3rd from L) in their teams' FIFA U-20 World Cup Group A match at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, on May 20, 2017. (Yonhap)
Lee wasn't as fortunate later in the first half, when he lost a pretty assist to a video review.
He played a nifty give-and-go with forward Cho Young-wook, and penetrated deep into the left side of the box before setting up Cho for what appeared to be South Korea's second goal.
Replays showed, however, Lee had dribbled the ball past the goal line before making the pass, and the score remained 1-0.
The 2017 U-20 World Cup is the first FIFA youth tournament with video assistant referees (VARs). They are to help referees when important situations occur during the match, such as goals, penalty decisions, direct red cards and cases of mistaken identity.
There were few dangerous chances at either end in the early portion of the second half, before Lim doubled the lead in the 76th, 11 minutes after he entered the match.
Lee Seung-woo got an assist that counted this time, as his through ball set up Lim for a picture-perfect finish.
Five minutes later, Paik joined the fray, taking a headed pass from Jeong Tae-wook and deftly lobbing it over Moussa Camara to make it 3-0 South Korea.
According to FIFA's match statistics, Guinea made more attempts than South Korea, 19-7, but only three of those 19 were on target, while 11 were off target and five were blocked. South Korea had four attempts on target.
South Korea held a slight edge in ball possession, 51 percent to 49 percent.
Shin rued some "easy passing mistakes," and added, "If we had more delicate plays in the midfield, we would have created more promising chances."
South Korea's best performance at this youth event remains the semifinals appearance in 1983 in Mexico.
South Korea failed to qualify for the previous U-20 World Cup in 2015. In 2013, the country reached the quarterfinals.
Paik Seung-ho (R) lobs a shot over Guinea's goalkeeper Moussa Camara in their teams' FIFA U-20 World Cup Group A match at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, on May 20, 2017. (Yonhap)