As he prepares for next year’s Olympic Games in Paris, South Korea’s Sun Hong-ho Hwang earned a comfortable victory over France in a European match. Despite being a year younger than their opponents, the South Koreans took advantage of the fact that they had more than half of their roster in the same age group. Jung Sang-bin (Minnesota United) had a multi-goal performance, while Hong Yun-sang (Pohang Steelers) added a brace.
Hwang Sun-hong’s U-20 Olympic team scored three second-half goals to earn a 3-0 victory over France’s U-21 national team in a friendly at Stade Ocean in Le Havre, France, at 2:30 a.m. ET today. Leading the way for France was world-class forward Thierry Henry.
Hwang, who had previously drawn 0-0 with Le Havre in a practice match in Ligue 1, added the victory to his team’s two-match unbeaten tour of France. It was the first win in the all-time series against France’s U-23 national team after one draw and two losses.
Of course, the French were a year younger than South Korea as they will be competing at the UEFA U-21 European Championship in 2025, but it was hard to read too much into that as Hwang Sun-hongho called up a squad that included not only players born in 2001 but also those born after 2002.
In fact, more than half of the starting lineup, six players, were born after 2002. Head coach Hwang Sun-hong used a 4-2-3-1 formation. Ahn Jae-jun (Bucheon FC) started up front, while Uhm Ji-sung (Gwangju FC), Kang Sung-jin (FC Seoul), and Jeon Byung-kwan (Daejeon Hana Citizen) formed the second line.
Lee Kang-hee (Gyeongnam FC) and Hwang Jae-won (Daegu FC) teamed up in the midfield. Cho Hyun-taek (Ulsan Hyundai), Son Seong-kwan (Bucheon), Cho Woo-je (Busan I-Park), and Min Kyung-hyun (Incheon United) anchored the defense, while Shin Song-hoon (Gimcheon Commerce) guarded the goal. Of these players, Uhm Ji Sung, Jeon Byung-kwan, Hwang Jae-won, Signature Kwan, and Shin Song-hoon were born in 2002, while Kang Sung-jin was born in 2003.
The French team was made up of players from the French Ligue 1, the English Premier League (EPL), and the German Bundesliga. The first half was a bit of a cautious affair. France opened the scoring in the 15th minute. In the 15th minute, Mathieu Tell (Bayern Munich) attempted a sharp left-footed shot from the left side of the penalty box. In the 27th minute, Barcola had a mid-range shot on goal for South Korea. Fortunately, the shot didn’t rattle the Korean net.
After that, South Korea was unable to spark a counterattack. With France looking solid in defense as well as offense, Hwang Sun-hong was unable to find a solution. Jeon Byung-kwan and Hwang Jae-won tried to draw out the defense with mid-range shots but failed to pose much of a threat. Even Ahn Jae-jun’s attempt in the 39th minute, after Hwang Jae-won’s cross was flicked on by Jeon Byung-kwan, didn’t result in a shot on target.
In fact, they almost struck first in the final minute of the first half. From a set piece, Arnaud Calimiento (Stade Rennes) struck the Korean post, and the first half ended goalless. It was a frustrating first half for South Korea.
Head coach Hwang Sun-hong made a change in the attacking lineup at the start of the second half, taking off Jeon Byung-kwan and bringing on Jung Sang-bin. South Korea started the second half with a flurry of chances. In the sixth minute of the second half, Um Ji-sung cut in from the left flank to the center and attempted a bold mid-range shot, but his effort went just wide of the goal. Gilcera France responded with a shot of their own. South Korea continued to struggle with the attack centered on Barcola. They even came close to conceding an own goal when they tried to clear a cross.
In the 23rd minute of the second half, South Korea introduced Hong Yun-sang, Oh Jae-hyuk (Jeonbuk Hyundai) and Kwon Hyuk-kyu (Celtic) to turn the tide. After surviving several crises to keep the score tied at 0-0, Korea scored the first goal in the second minute. Substitute Jung Sang-bin was at the center of the action. He took the kick from a free-kick opportunity won by substitute Hong Yun-sang and slotted the ball over the opposing defense and into the goal. 캡틴토토 도메인
With the momentum boosted by the goal, South Korea added a second goal in the 34th minute. This time, it was Jung Sang-bin who was the hero. Cho Hyun-taek sent a low cross from the left flank that sailed past both the opposing goalkeeper and defense. Sang-bin rushed into the box and calmly finished.
Cornered, France launched a late offensive in search of an equalizer, but the momentum was already with Korea. In fact, in the second half of stoppage time, a fatal mistake in the French camp drove a wedge into the game. As the goalkeeper and defenders slipped the ball between them, Hong Yun-sang took advantage and rattled the opponent’s net. The game ended with a 3-0 victory for Korea.
The victory gave Hwang a huge boost of confidence heading into the Paris Olympics. Not only did the win come against France, the host country of the Olympic Games, but it was also significant because it came after a tight 0-0 scoreline against a European powerhouse, and the team took full control of the game midway through the second half.
It was also important for the team to build on the momentum of their gold medal at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games (AG). Hwang has coached both the U-24 AG and U-22 Olympic teams, but after leading Korea to gold at the Hangzhou AG in September, he is now focusing solely on the U-22 team’s Olympic preparations. Among the players who traveled to France were AG players such as Ahn Jae-jun and Hwang Jae-won.
The latter, who scored multiple goals, including the game-winner, in the victory, scored his first goal for the U-23 national team and has been touted as the next Hwang Sun-hong Ho. He had appeared in five matches for the national team, including the final qualifier for this year’s Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Asian Cup, before this match, and was delighted with the multi-goal performance in his sixth appearance. Hong Yun-sang, who also scored a wedge goal, continued his recent rise in the K League with his club Pohang.
Meanwhile, Hwang will continue his journey to the Paris Olympics with the group draw for the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup in Doha, Qatar, on June 23. South Korea have been drawn into Port 2 based on their performance at last year’s tournament. Port 1 features hosts Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Japan. The draw was made by dividing the 16 teams into four pots, with one team from each pot being drawn into the same group. The AFC U-23 Asian Cup, which serves as the final Olympic qualifier, will be held in April and May next year. Teams must finish in the top three to qualify for the Olympic Games. South Korea will attempt to become the first country in the world to qualify for 10 consecutive Olympic Games next year in Paris.