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(LEAD) S. Korean goalkeeper makes solid int'l debut in friendly vs. Serbia

2017/11/14 23:30

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(ATTN: ADDS comments in last 3 paras)

ULSAN, Nov. 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korean goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo made a solid national football team debut Tuesday after helping his side to a 1-1 friendly draw with Serbia.

Jo played full-time at Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan, where more than 30,000 fans were gathered to see the Taeguk Warriors' last performance at home this year.

Jo earned his first international call-up in November 2015 and was brought to the senior national team five times, but this was the first time he actually played a match for South Korea.

Against Serbia, the 26-year-old was tested a few times in the first half. After Jo punched out Andrija Zivkovic's corner kick in the 15th minute, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic fired a right-footed strike that went inches wide of the net.

Jo then showed his ability in the 27th, when he parried away Adem Ljajic's powerful free kick from just outside the box. The Torino attacker's right-footed attempt flew toward the net, but Jo was able to get a piece of the ball with his left hand, drawing enthusiastic cheers for his acrobatic move.

But Jo's international debut wasn't perfect, as he conceded a goal on Serbia's counterattack in the 58th. Milinkovic-Savic's through ball found Ljajic, who this time beat Jo with his right foot.

Jo didn't have further trouble, though, as South Korea leveled the score with Koo Ja-cheol's penalty kick in the 62nd. Jo had a couple of busy moments later, but Serbians were not able to find the target, while South Korean defenders were able to contain the visitors until the final whistle.

Jo is one of the rising stars in the domestic K League. After making his pro debut in 2013 with Daegu FC, he was named the top goalkeeper in the second division K League Challenge twice and helped his club's promotion to the first-tier K League Classic last year. This season, he has allowed 48 goals in 34 matches, with nine clean sheets that put him in a tie for second place.

With his impressive performance in the K League, Jo even earned nickname "Dae Gea," which combines the name of his club Daegu and Manchester United's Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea.

After the national team's main goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu was ruled out due to an ankle injury following the friendly with Colombia last week, Jo had to compete teammate Kim Jin-hyeon, who had 13 caps under his belt, for the starting gig against Serbia. Although there were concerns as to whether he could handle the pressure of an international debut, Jo proved his caliber and showed that head coach Shin Tae-yong made a wise choice.

"It wasn't easy to stand on the pitch," Jo said after the match. "But it was an unforgettable experience and memory for me."

   Still, Jo said he wasn't fully satisfied with his performance.

"I should have played more aggressively," he said. "I would give 50 points (out of 100) to my performance today."


South Korean goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo (2nd from R) makes a save during a friendly football match against Serbia at Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan on Nov. 14, 2017. (Yonhap) South Korean goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo (2nd from R) makes a save during a friendly football match against Serbia at Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan on Nov. 14, 2017. (Yonhap)