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Analysis: Battling Korea Republic unable to trouble Sweden

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Nizhny Novgorod: Korea Republic started well against Sweden in their opening Group F fixture at the FIFA World Cup on Monday but the Scandinavian side soon took control of the game and ran out deserved 1-0 winners. 

Lee Yong demonstrated his quality at both ends of the pitch

Korea Republic coach Shin Tae-yong began with a 4-3-3 formation with Son Heung-min occupying the left, Hwang Hee-chan the right and Kim Shin-wook in the centre as the East Asians spent much of the first 15 minutes on the front foot without creating a chance of note.

From then on, though, Sweden took a hold of the game and it seemed only a matter of time before the winning goal arrived, which it duly did when Andreas Granqvist converted a VAR awarded penalty in the 65th minute.

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Korea survive first-half scares, but luck runs out

After a promising start, Korea Republic found themselves under increasing pressure in the first half and it was only some outstanding work from their defence and goalkeeper that meant they went in all square at the interval.

The first sign of things to come arrived just before the 20-minute mark when skipper Granqvist closed in on goal only to be denied by a superb last-ditch challenge from Kim Young-gwon, whose solid work in his own penalty area is highlighted below with his tackles, blocks, clearances and interceptions.

Marcus Berg should have opened the scoring three minutes later but this time it was ‘keeper Jo Hyeon-woo who saved the day with an outstanding save from point-blank range to keep the Al Ain striker at bay.

Kim thwarted Berg with his second last-ditch tackle with 30 minutes gone but by now it seemed a question of how long the Koreans could survive. And it was another desperate challenge in the area that gave way to the only goal of the game as Kim Min-woo upended Viktor Claesson and Granqvist coolly dispatched from the spot midway through the second half.

Off night for Son

With Korea Republic ranked as underdogs in a group that became even trickier after holders Germany’s defeat to Mexico on Sunday, much depended on their star man Son ahead of an opening match that both sides would have considered 'must win', or at the very least 'must not lose'.

The Tottenham Hotspur forward had the pace to trouble the Swedish backline and his best moment of the game came just after the half hour when he burst passed Granqvist towards the byline, only to fail to find his target with the cutback as the Swedes cleared.

But that was about as good as it got for Son and, with no shots on goal throughout the game, the 25-year-old will be disappointed with a performance that started well but petered out as the match wore on.

Failure to create

While Sweden were creating chances at will, the Taeguk Warriors' delivery in the final third had been poor and they had to wait until the 52nd minute for a first decent sight on goal when Koo Ja-cheol headed Kim Min-woo’s cross just wide of the angle.

As shown in the graphic below, across the 90 minutes Korea Republic managed just two attempts on goal, neither of which were on target, compared to a total of nine for their opponents.

But Shin’s side so nearly grabbed what would have been a fortuitous point in stoppage time when Lee Jae-sung headed across goal for Hwang, only for the unmarked forward to head a gilt-edged opportunity wide from eight yards.

Korea Republic now need a positive result from their game with Mexico on June 27, when Sweden will also take on Germany.

Photos: Getty Images

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