South Korea fell to Uruguay 2-1 on Tuesday in a rematch of a group stage showdown at last year's FIFA World Cup, leaving new head coach Jurgen Klinsmann still searching for his first win.
Sebastian Coates and Matias Vecino had a goal in each half for Uruguay, while Hwang In-beom had the only South Korean goal at Seoul World Cup Stadium. The home team lost what would have been a late equalizer to an offside.
The two countries had a goalless draw in Qatar in November, and Uruguay, under caretaker boss Marcelo Broli, got the upper hand this time.
Klinsmann, still testing out players early in his regime, made four changes to the starting lineup in Friday's 2-2 draw against Colombia.
Jo Hyeon-woo replaced Kim Seung-gyu in goal for his first start since last July. Jo had been the country's first-choice goalkeeper before Klinsmann's predecessor, Paulo Bento, took charge in 2018. Kim had been the main man under Bento, and Klinsmann got his first look at Jo on Tuesday.
With the regular left fullback, Kim Jin-su, out with a lower back injury, Lee Ki-je got the starting assignment. Lee came off the bench to replace Kim after the latter suffered the injury during the first half against Colombia.
Midfielder Lee Kang-in got his first start for Klinsmann, taking the place of Jeong Woo-yeong. Forward Hwang Ui-jo, benched against Colombia with two younger strikers, Cho Gue-sung and Oh Hyeon-gyu, seeing action, got the starting nod this time.
Uruguay, on the other hand, had a vastly different team than the one that faced South Korea at the World Cup.
They had a new goalkeeper with Santiago Mele and an entirely-new backline of four defenders. Only midfielders Matias Vecino and Federico Valverde remained in the starting XI.
Uruguay scored first in the 10th minute, when Sebasitan Coates headed in a corner taken by Federico Valverde. Coates snuck in from behind the napping defense untouched and soared to meet the ball with authority.
The Uruguayans put the South Koreans back on their heels with their effective forays into the attacking zone. At the other end, South Korea failed to find much room to maneuver against high Uruguayan pressing.
Lee Kang-in had South Korea's shot on target in the 25th minute, firing a left-footed shot from the right side of the box into the body of goalkeeper Santiago Mele.
Uruguay looked ready for everything that South Korea threw at them. And when South Korea tried to get forechecking going, the South Americans consistently evaded pressure with quick passes through tight space.
South Korea found some energy in the late portions of the first half and had their best chance in the 38th minute, with Lee Ki-je rolling a left-footed shot just wide of the right post, following a cross from Lee Kang-in.
Hwang In-beom leveled the score six minutes into the second half. An initial cross by Lee Kang-in deflected off a defender and landed at Lee Ki-je's feet. Rather than firing at the net from close range with multiple bodies closing in on him, Lee calmly crossed the ball toward the middle. Hwang then sprinted into the shot and fired it into the gaping net for his fifth international goal.
Uruguay went ahead in the 63rd minute, thanks to a fortuitous break.
Goalkeeper Jo made a fine diving save on Joaquin Piquerez's free kick from just outside the box, but Jo ended up punching the ball right back to unmarked Matias Vecino, who made no mistake in slotting home the go-ahead marker.
South Korea lost Oh Hyeon-gyu's would-be equalizer in the 84th minute to an offside call following a video review.
Klinsmann said he didn't like the result but was still happy with the performance.
"We had problems today in the first 20 minutes. We couldn't find the rhythm right away," he said. "But for 70 minutes, we were clearly the far better team on the field. The performance in the 70 minutes was top class."
Broli said he was pleased with the way his player executed his strategies against "a very fast" South Korea.
"South Korea performed well at the World Cup, and I felt they were well prepared," he said. "They have some talented individual players with good technical skills. In this match, we were able to find out how great the Korean team is."
South Korea now have one win, two draws and seven losses against Uruguay.
Source: Yonhap News Agency