Football: Son's header enough for S. Korea win, penalty save sees Japan salvage draw

Son Heung-min of South Korea celebrates his goal against Cameroon. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL - South Korea ended their preparations for the Nov 20-Dec 18 World Cup Finals in Qatar with a 1-0 friendly win over Cameroon on Tuesday, but majority of the 59,000 fans at the Seoul World Cup Stadium were not satisfied.

Towards the end of the match, they started to chant the name of a player on the bench whom they had wanted to see - Mallorca's 21-year-old forward Lee Kang-in.

But coach Paulo Bento ended up using all his substitutions when injured forward Hwang Ui-jo was replaced by midfielder Paik Seung-ho. It meant Lee, who had not featured for the national team since March 2021, did not play a single minute against Cameroon and the 2-2 draw with Costa Rica last Friday.

"We decided to play with other players... We analysed the game and what the team needed in different moments," Bento said on Yonhap News.

"We understood it was better to take different options. (Benching Lee) was a technical and tactical decision."

The South Korean fans had been excited to see the in-form Lee get some minutes before they travel to Qatar. He is tied for the most assists (three) in La Liga after six games.

Asked if he had heard the supporters' chants of "Lee Kang-in! Lee Kang-in!", Bento added: "I have two ears. It was impossible not to hear it. It was good to hear that because people like Kang-in."

Even without Lee, captain Son Heung-min's first-half header was enough to earn South Korea their narrow win as the Tottenham Hotspur striker netted for the second straight game.

He carried the main threat and it was from his deep cross in the fifth minute that the Taegeuk Warriors almost took the lead, Kim Jin-su nodding back across goal before Andre Onana kept out Jeong Woo-yeong's close-range header.

Moumi Ngamaleu fired over the bar with a first-time effort from distance before the South Koreans went in front 10 minutes from the interval.

Hwang Hee-chan fed Kim, and while Onana was equal to the Jeonbuk Motors fullback's strike, he was unable to stop Son's header from the rebound.

The South Koreans, who will be appearing at their 10th consecutive World Cup, will face Ghana, Uruguay and Portugal at the Finals while Cameroon are grouped with Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia.

Cameroon coach Rigobert Song said he was proud of his side.

"I think we have rediscovered our fighting spirit," said Song, who saw his team lose 2-0 to Uzbekistan last week in South Korea.

"South Korea are a great team. If we hadn't played well, they would have scored more goals."

In another friendly, Japan survived a penalty scare late in the game to draw 0-0 with Ecuador in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Enner Valencia had the perfect chance to win the clash from the spot in the 83rd minute, but his attempt was saved by Japan goalkeeper Daniel Schmidt.

The Japanese will take on Spain, Costa Rica and Germany in Qatar, while Ecuador are grouped with the hosts, Senegal and the Netherlands. AFP, REUTERS

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.