NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia -- South Korea and Sweden found themselves scoreless at halftime in their World Cup Group F showdown on Monday.
South Korea, ranked 57th, put on some early pressure before No. 24 Sweden turned the tide in their favor at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. For all their superior possession numbers early, South Korea made just one shot attempt, and none on target. Sweden had eight attempts, with two on target.
South Korea had a 4-3-3 formation to start the match, with a couple of surprises. In goal, Jo Hyeon-woo made his World Cup debut over supposed starter Kim Seung-gyu. Kim Shin-wook, the tallest South Korean player at 197 centimeters, also got the nod as a starting forward up front, though he had been seen as a possible option off the bench. He was flanked by Son Heung-min and Hwang Hee-chan.
Captain Ki Sung-yueng was the deep-lying playmaker in midfield, with Koo Ja-cheol, captain at the 2014 World Cup, and Lee Jae-sung assigned attacking roles.
Kim Young-gwon, a center back from the much-maligned back line four years ago, was back in the same position, with new partner Jang Hyun-soo next to him this time. Park Joo-ho, who made the 2014 squad as the late injury replacement but didn't get off the bench, got into his first World Cup contest as the left back. Lee Yong, another returnee from four years ago, started on the right side.
South Korea spent most of the early moments in the Swedish zone, though they didn't test Robin Olsen in net. It was Sweden that had the match's first real chance in the 17th, with center back Andreas Granqvist jumping in on the attack following a Marcus Berg setup, only to have Kim Young-gwon make a solid clearance.
Then about four minutes later, Jo made an outstanding save to deny Berg from point-blank range, after the bouncing ball in a scramble landed on the Swedish forward's foot.
In the ensuing corner, Pontus Jansson saw his header bounce wide of the target.
South Korea caught a tough break in the 26th, when Park Joo-ho went down with an apparent right leg injury after trying to keep a long, cross-field pass in play. He landed hard on his right leg and grabbed the back of his thigh in pain immediately. Kim Min-woo replaced Park on defense.
Son tried to start something for South Korea in the 35th minute, charging down the right wing past multiple defenders, but his cross from deep in the box went nowhere.
Sweden kept the pressure on, but Jo made a fairly routine save on Granqvist's shot from just inside the box in the 44th minute.
In stoppage time, Viktor Claesson soared to meet Mikael Lustig's cross but missed the net to the right.
With referee Joel Aguilar calling a tight game, 24 fouls were committed in the opening 45 minutes, more than any other match in the first half at this year's World Cup.
South Korea haven't lost their opening group stage match in the past four World Cups, dating back to 2002, with three wins and a draw. (Yonhap)