South Korea defeated Costa Rica 1-0 thanks to an early goal in their pre-World Cup tune-up match in Los Angeles on Saturday.
Striker Kim Shin-wook's goal in the 10th minute stood as the winner at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, as South Korea enjoyed an encouraging start to its preparation for the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
South Korea's record improved to four wins, four losses and three draws under head coach Hong Myung-bo.
This was the first international match of 2014 for South Korea and also the first of three friendlies scheduled in the United States. South Korea will face the 21st-ranked Mexico at 8 p.m. on Wednesday in San Antonio, or 11 a.m. on Thursday in South Korea, and then the 14th-ranked U.S. at 2 p.m. on Feb. 1 in Carson, Calif., or 7 a.m. on Feb. 2 in South Korea,
All three opponents will play at the World Cup.
Costa Rica entered the match ranked 32nd in the latest FIFA rankings, while South Korea was at 53rd. Costa Rica lost to Chile 4-0 in its previous friendly match earlier this week.
South Korea scored the lone goal 10 minutes into the match, as Kim converted a cross from winger Go Yo-han.
With South Korea in control deep in the opposing zone, fullback Lee Yong sent Go in the clear with a sharp through pass on the right wing. When goalkeeper Leonel Moreira charged out in front to steal the ball, Lee quickly crossed to find Kim near the penalty
spot, and the lanky forward struck the ball past defenders into the wide open net.
Kim almost picked up his second goal five minutes later. Lee's cross from the right side found him wide open just inside the box, but Kim's header sailed wide left of the net.
South Korea kept the pressure on Costa Rica, with players moving well without the ball to create open space. In the 35th, winger Kim Min-woo had an open one-on-one opportunity against Moreira after Kim Shin-wook headed down a long cross, but the Costa Rican keeper came through with a save.
Costa Rica barely mounted any attack in the opening half. It wasn't until the 38th that Randall Brenes had Costa Rica's first shot, but his mid-range strike traveled wide of the left post.
It was much the same story in the second half as South Korea maintained superiority in possession. Four minutes into the latter half, Lee Keun-ho stole the ball deep in the Costa Rican zone, but his shot from the top of the arc went right at Moreira.
For Costa Rica, Christopher Meneses had an open look from the top of the box following a free kick, but airmailed it well above the bar in the 53rd minute.
Meneses himself killed what little momentum Costa Rica had, getting sent off in the 68th minute after a dangerous, double-footed tackle on Lee Yong.
South Korea tried to capitalize on the man advantage in the 73rd minute, with Kim Min-woo trying to cross to Kim Shin-wook in point-blank range, but a Costa Rican defender beat the 196-centimeter striker to the ball.
Costa Rica lost another player in the 84th minute, when second-half substitute Mauricio Castillo picked up his second yellow of the match.
Substitute forward Lee Seung-gi tried to double the lead for South Korea, but his thunderous shot in the 86th sailed above the crossbar.
Head coach Hong only called up players from leagues in South Korea, Japan and China for the current training camp. European clubs aren't obliged to release their internationals for the occasion, and South Korean head coach Hong Myung-bo chose to test Asia-based players and see if they have what it takes to crack the World Cup roster.
South Korea could name about 10 players from European or Middle Eastern leagues, leaving about a dozen or so spots up for grabs among players from Asian circuits. Hong once said about 80 percent of the World Cup squad has been set in his mind.
The current camp is seen as the last opportunity for such players to make an impression on Hong. When South Korea travels to face Greece in March, it should have Europe-based stars available. (Yonhap News)