Kim leads Korea over Lebanon
By Kang Seung-woo
Kim Bo-kyung kept Korea rocking in the final World Cup qualifiers with the 22-year-old midfielder delivering two goals against Lebanon in Tuesday’s 3-0 win in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province.
The Cerezo Osaka attacking winger, frequently mentioned in talks as the next Park Ji-sung, put the home side in the lead with his first goal at the international level in the 29th minute and doubled the lead three minutes after the break.
Koo Ja-cheol added to the tally in the waning minutes.
With the victory, Choi Kang-hee’s side has opened its final-round campaign on winning notes. The 35th-ranked Korean squad rallied to humble Qatar 4-1 Saturday in Doha in its first match of the qualifiers.
In addition, the second-straight rout gives the Taeguk Warriors a serious chance of reaching the finals for an eighth-straight time.
Korea will fly to Uzbekistan on Sept. 11 and Iran on Oct. 16 to wrap up this year’s qualifiers. After a five-month rest, the Red Devils will resume the qualifying stage in March, hosting Qatar on March 26 at home followed by three matches in June against Lebanon, Uzbekistan and Iran in that order.
As the manager said in Monday’s press conference, the Korean team tried to threaten their opponents’ flanks, but his men, who returned from Doha, Saturday ― the same day they faced Qatar ― rarely found their feet at the start of the match due to reverse jet lag.
In addition, Theo Bucker’s side capitalized on the home side’s sluggish performance, with a defensive-minded squad shifting into offensive mode and coming close to putting the visitors ahead.
In the 23rd minute, a botched pass in the midfield allowed midfielder Ahmad Zreik an individual run and mid-range shot into the right-side netting.
Midway through the first half, Korea finally broke open the match with Kim’s left-footed blast.
Lee Keun-ho’s cross from the left picked up Kim in front of the net and he unleashed a strong effort off diving goalkeeper Ziad el-Samad into the net.
Although it has taken 14 games for Kim to record his first goal for the national team, he needed only 19 minutes to add another.
After clearing a Lebanese threat, a counterattack allowed Kim an individual run from the halfway line and he slotted the ball past the defenseless goalkeeper into the low left corner of the net.
One minute from the end, Koo’s left-footed mid-range effort also beat el-Samad to seal the victory.
The 143th-ranked Lebanon, which edged Korea 2-1 in the third-round qualifying in November, fell to a 0-1-2 record in the final qualifying round.