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S. Korea beats Syria in tune-up for Asian Cup
SEOUL, Dec. 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea edged Syria 1-0 in a friendly match on Thursday in Abu Dhabi, taking the first of two friendly games scheduled ahead of the Jan. 7-29 Asian Cup in Qatar.

   Forward Ji Dong-won, making his international debut at the senior level, scored the winning goal in the 82nd minute. After taking a pass from Yoo Byung-soo inside the box, Ji put on a nifty move to fool two charging defenders, Nadim Sabagh and Ali Diab, and fired a curling shot to the top left corner, out of reach for Syrian goalkeeper Mosab Balhous.

   South Korea is seeking to win its first Asian Cup since 1960. It has set up a training camp in Abu Dhabi and will take on Al Jazira of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Football League next Tuesday. The time and venue of the match have not yet been determined.

   Ji, who played on South Korea's under-23 Asian Games team last month, was a second-half sparkplug for the offense, which didn't generate much in the opening half. His goal was the first for South Korea in three international matches.

   South Korea was unable to take advantage of its early edge in ball possession and struggled to find targets with passes against a physical Syrian defense.

  
South Korea's Lee Chung-yong (C) dribbles past Syria's Nadim Sabagh (R) in their friendly match in Abu Dhabi on Dec. 30. (Yonhap)



South Korea's first shot on goal didn't come until the 36th minute. Midfielder Lee Chung-yong fired from just inside the box after a pretty pass by Park Ji-sung, but Balhous made the punching stop.

   In the 43rd, Ki Sung-yueng unleashed the ball from outside the arc, but Balhous smothered the low, hard shot.

   South Korea was much more in sync in the second half, as substitute Son Heung-min, a highly-touted rookie for Hamburg SV in Germany's Bundesliga, led the attack.

   In the 54th, Son headed it wide from close range. He missed another chance nine minutes later, when his shot from inside the left edge of the box rolled wide of the far post.

   Yoo Byung-soo, leading scorer in South Korea's K-League in 2010, headed a Koo Ja-cheol corner just over the crossbar in the 80th minute.

   Moments later, Syria almost got on board as Feras Esmaeel's sharp header off a corner just missed the top of the net.

   Syria, which saw several fastbreak chances foiled by the South Korean defense, had a goal called back on an offensive foul in the 75th minute.

   Ji, Son and midfielder Lee Yong-rae made their international debut. Son became the fourth youngest player to represent South Korean football, aged 18 years and 175 days.

   Syria is also entered in the Asian Cup, paired with Saudi Arabia, Japan and Jordan in Group B.

   South Korea will face Australia, Bahrain and India in Group C, and the first match is against Bahrain on Jan. 10. South Korea will depart for Qatar on Jan. 6.

   jeeho@yna.co.kr
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