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S. Korea draws Mexico in football opener at London Olympics

NEWCASTLE (Yonhap) -- South Korea played Mexico to a scoreless draw in the opening men's football match at the London Olympics here Thursday.

In the Group B contest at St. James' Park, both teams played a lackluster opening half, but South Korea began the second half with a bit more juice. In the 50th minute, winger Kim Bo-kyung curled one past the left post from the top of the arc. 

In the 52nd, captain Koo Ja-cheol sent the ball just above the crossbar after taking a headed pass deep in the Mexico box. Another two minutes later, Koo teed it up for the charging midfielder Ki Sung-yueng, whose cannon of a shot was barely kept out by Jose Corona in net.

(London Olympic Joint Press Corps)
(London Olympic Joint Press Corps)

Mexico responded in the 57th as winger Javier Aquino drove in hard on the right wing and forced Jung to make a tough save from the point-blank range.

Mexico threatened again in the 68th, but striker Marco Fabian, following a corner, misfired on the bouncing loose ball from close range and sailed it over the bar.

With about a dozen minutes left, winger Kim Bo-kyung found unmanned Koo near the dot but the captain's header bounced wide of the left post.

Mexico had the match's final opportunity in injury time, as Raul Jimenez hit the right post with a low, hard shot.

Neither side generated much offense in the first half. South Korea kept Mexico defense busy with superior ball possession but failed to put a threatening shot on net.

Mexican offense was held at bay for the most part, until midfielders Miguel Ponce rolled one wide of the right post and Hector Herrera sent a hard shot right at South Korean keeper Jung Sung-ryong just past the 40-minute mark.

South Korea is also paired with Switzerland and Gabon in the group. The second game is against Switzerland in Coventry on Sunday and the final group phase game is against Gabon in London next Wednesday.

This is South Korea's seventh straight Olympic appearance and ninth overall, but the country has gone beyond the first round only twice in its previous eight attempts.

The Olympic tournament features four groups of four nations. The top two teams from those groups will make up the quarterfinals.