(LEAD) With smart passing, strong finishing, S. Korea enjoy rare offensive explosion vs. Vietnam

SUWON, South Korea, For South Korea's international friendly against Vietnam on Tuesday night, the question wasn't whether South Korea would beat the 95th-ranked opponent, but by how many goals.

And with their creativity and strong finishing, South Korea offered a resounding answer in their 6-0 victory at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, just south of Seoul. It was South Korea's biggest win since pounding Sri Lanka 8-0 in a World Cup qualifier in October 2019.

Captain Son Heung-min, back on the field after sitting out Friday's win over Tunisia with a groin injury, had one of South Korea's five goals, with Vietnam's own goal giving South Korea a comfortable win on home soil.

Most of the South Korean goals were the result of some pretty passes that created shooting lanes and open looks amid tight Vietnamese defense.

The score could have been even more lopsided if Son hadn't airmailed a couple of shots inside the box and if Lee Kang-in, who did score in the second half, hadn't rolled a shot just wide of the far post in the first half.

Overall, though, South Korea displayed better finishing around the net than they typically had against underdogs who park the bus and try to outnumber opposing attackers.

Kim Min-jae's opening goal in the fifth minute was the result of some fortuitous bounce, as his attempted header off a Lee Kang-in corner ended up going off Kim's shoulder.

The next goal, by Hwang Hee-chan on 26 minutes, was set up by a brilliant pass from midfielder Lee Jae-sung, who threaded the ball through multiple defenders, to Hwang streaking into the box.

After a Vietnamese own goal to start the second half, Son took a Hwang Hee-chan pass in a nifty give-and-go and scored just before being taken down inside the box.

Son then did some passing work himself. After drawing three defenders to himself at the top of the box in the 70th minute, Son found Lee Kang-in alone to his right. The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder made no mistake with his left-footed shot, scoring his third goal in two matches.

Jeong Woo-yeong finished off the rout in the 86th minute, once again moving into the right spot at the right time after goalkeeper Dang Van Lam fumbled the ball on Hwang Ui-jo's shot to give up a juicy rebound. Jeong was at his efficient best when scoring eight goals in seven matches to lead the Asian Games tournament earlier this month and brought his nose for the goal back from China for his third senior international goal in 13 matches.

For the two October friendlies, coach Jurgen Klinsmann had the luxury of having several in-form attackers. Son and Hwang Hee-chan are among the Premier League leaders in goals this season. Jeong had a memorable Asian Games. Lee Kang-in scored his first two international goals last week and stayed hot Tuesday.

The strong offensive showing against Vietnam bodes well for South Korea's chances against similarly defensive-oriented opponents they will face at the upcoming World Cup qualifiers and the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup.

Hwang Hee-chan, one of the goal scorers, said finding the back of the net for the country is always sweet.

"I haven't played on home soil in quite some time, and it's great to win these two matches by such a big margin," Hwang said. "I am always happy to score for the country at home. And I am proud of the way I was able to build a good connection with my teammates."

Lee Kang-in, who finished the two-match slate with three goals and an assist, said he always has the team ahead of personal glory on his mind.

"I always try to find my teammates for goals," the playmaker said. "But the most important thing is the team's victory. That's what makes me the happiest."

Hwang Hee-chan of South Korea (R) scores against Vietnam during the teams' friendly football match at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Oct. 17, 2023. (Yonhap)

On the flip side, South Korea will have to be sharper at their own end. Some careless mistakes and shoddy clearing attempts gift-wrapped a few chances for Vietnam on Tuesday night. Klinsmann admitted Vietnam should have scored in the first half and the match may turn out to be different if the two teams were to meet again Wednesday.

It could have been the case of the players, if somewhat subconsciously, taking Vietnam lightly in some moments. They could get away with those mental lapses in friendlies, but there will be much less margin for error in matches that count later on.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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