S. Korea earn hard-fought draw vs. Argentina in Olympic football tuneup match

SEOUL-- Um Won-sang netted a last-gasp equalizer to add to a wonder goal by Lee Dong-gyeong, helping South Korea earn a 2-2 draw against Argentina on Tuesday in an Olympic men's football tuneup match on home soil.

South Korea were mostly outclassed by the skilled opponents, before Um pulled the team even during second-half injury time at Yongin Mireu Stadium in Yongin, 50 kilometers south of Seoul.

Lee's stunning midrange strike in the 34th minute nearly went to waste. His goal leveled the score at 1-1 after Alexis Mac Allister had the icebreaker in the 12th minute.

Carlos Valenzuela scored the go-ahead marker for Argentina 10 minutes into the second half, but the South Americans couldn't hang on to the slim lead.

South Korean head coach Kim Hak-bum said the match was just the type of confidence builder that his players needed.

"We needed to play a strong team like Argentina, and I saw some positive signs from my players that they could more than hold their own against anyone," Kim said. "We didn't play with much energy in the first half but we battled hard in the second half. If we can build on this going into the Olympics, we should be able to do well."

Um, the late goal scorer, said he didn't want to shy away from taking shots from any angle or distance.

"I think this match helped us identify our strengths and also our weaknesses," Um said. "We know what we need to work on before the Olympics."

This was the first of two prep matches for South Korea before the Tokyo Olympics kicks off next week. They will next face France at 8 p.m. Friday at Seoul World Cup Stadium, and will depart for Japan the following day.

Argentina dominated the run of play early, and deservedly took the lead in the 12th minute.

Trying to make a pass from his own zone, South Korean midfielder Won Du-jae got his pocket picked by Adolfo Gaich, and the Argentine forward charged toward the net. Kim Jae-woo's clearing attempt went right to Mac Allister instead, and the winger was left untouched as he walked into a shot from just outside the box that made it 1-0 Argentina.

Goalkeeper Ahn Joon-soo nearly gift-wrapped a goal to Argentina in the 19th minute. His goal kick went right to an opponent and Mac Allister's left-footed shot went off the leg of a South Korean defender and out of play.

South Korean players took about half an hour to get their bearings. Winger Um Won-sang hit the side of the net on a counterattack opportunity in the 31st, the first serious scoring chance for the home side.

Four minutes later, midfielder Lee Dong-gyeong netted the stunning equalizer to cap off a South Korean surge. Kim Dong-hyun took a hard tackle while intercepting the ball at the right edge of the box, and Seol Young-woo flicked the loose ball over to the wide-open Lee outside the center of the box. The 23-year-old unleashed a thunderous shot that Jeremias Ledesma had no chance of stopping in the Argentine net.

The teams traded some jabs early in the second half, with Um and Carlos Valenzuela each creating dangerous chances.

Then Valenzuela landed a hard punch squarely on the South Korean defense in the 55th minute. With Argentina in firm control deep in the offensive zone, Valenzuela received a cross on the right side of the box, and his curling shot sailed into the far corner of the net.

South Korea selected three overage players for the under-24 Olympic tournament, but head coach Kim Hak-bum held all three of them -- forwards Hwang Ui-jo and Kwon Chang-hoon, and defender Kim Min-jae -- out of the starting lineup on Tuesday.

Hwang and Kwon, along with the 20-year-old wunderkind Lee Kang-in, entered the match in the 58th minute. They didn't make much of an impact, as South Korea appeared headed for a frustrating loss.

But then Um came to the rescue with the clock ticking down. Lee sent a cross toward the net, only to have it punched out by Ledesma. The loose ball landed on Um, whose low shot skipped into the bottom left corner to make it 2-2.

South Korea's first Group B match is against New Zealand at 5 p.m. on July 22. They will then play Romania at 8 p.m. on July 25 and Honduras at 5:30 p.m. on July 28.

The top two teams from each of the four groups will advance to the quarterfinals. France, which will play out of Group A, could be South Korea's quarterfinals opponent.

Source: Yonhap News Agency