SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Yonhap) – Lethargic and sloppy at both ends, South Korea lost to Mexico 4-0 in a tune-up football match in Texas ahead of this summer's World Cup.
Forward Alan Pulido scored a hat trick and Oribe Peralta added another for Mexico's comfortable victory at Alamo Dome. It was the worst defeat South Korea has suffered in 12 matches since head coach Hong Myung-bo came on board last summer.
|Korean soccer players walk off the pitch after losing to Mexico in San Antonio, Texas on Thursday. Yonhap|
This was the second of three friendly matches for South Korea in the United States. Last Saturday, South Korea defeated Costa Rica 1-0 in Los Angeles.
On Saturday, South Korea will face the U.S. in Carson, California.
Mexico entered Wednesday's match at 21st in the world, while South Korea ranked 53rd. The Mexicans outclassed their opponents from early on, consistently breaking down the defense with short, crisp passes.
South Koreans had difficultly holding their ground against their crafty opponents, and finally cracked in the 36th minute as Peralta converted a cross from Miguel Ponce.
The Mexican forward trapped the pass deep in the South Korean zone and shook off defensive back Kang Min-soo before firing it high into the net, out of goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu's reach.
Mexico doubled the lead moments before the break, as Pulido emerged from a mad scramble near the South Korean net to make it a two-goal affair.
South Korea failed to clear the loose ball after a free kick, and Carlos Pena found Pulido near the goal in what appeared to be an offside position. With Kim Seung-gyu caught out of position, defensive back Park Jin-po made a desperate save of Pulido's shot before the Mexican forward banged home the rebound.
The South Koreans missed some chances of their own. Forward Lee Keun-ho, getting his second straight start, had an open chance down the right wing in the eighth minute but shot wide of the near post.
Six minutes later, Lee sped down the right side and beat two defenders to the loose ball, but his shot went right at goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera.
In the 25th, Kim Ki-hee put his head on a corner but it bounced off Talavera.
South Korea failed to mount much attack in the second half, as Mexico appeared more than willing to sit on the two-goal advantage.
In the 59th, substitute Kim Min-woo had a free kick near the top of the arc but the shot flew above the bar.
Mexico put the game out of reach in the 85th minute with Pulido's second of the night. Midfielder Isaac Brizuela drove down the left side virtually untouched and crossed for Pulido, who struck it past the helpless goalkeeper Kim.
Pulido then completed the hat trick three minutes later, pouncing on the rebound that the South Korean defense failed to clear after Kim made two tough saves.
South Korean head coach Hong Myung-bo only called up players from leagues in South Korea, Japan and China for the current training camp. European clubs weren't obliged to release their internationals for the occasion, and Hong chose to test Asia-based players and gave them a chance to crack the World Cup lineup.
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 the Asian circuits.
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.