S. Korea beat Kyrgyzstan to inch toward spot in Olympic football qualifiers

South Korea defeated Kyrgyzstan 1-0 on Saturday to move closer to a berth in the Asian Olympic men's football qualifiers next year.

Hong Yun-sang's third-minute goal stood as the winner for South Korea in their second Group B match of the 2024 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Asian Cup qualification tournament at Changwon Football Center in the southeastern city of Changwon.

South Korea, now at the top of the group with three points, will close out the event with a match against Myanmar at 8 p.m. Tuesday. South Korea will win Group B and qualify for the AFC U-23 Asian Cup with at least a draw against Myanmar, who have one point after a draw with Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday.

The AFC U-23 Asian Cup, kicking off in April in Qatar, will also serve as the Asian qualifiers for the Paris Olympics next summer. The top three teams will earn direct tickets to France, and the fourth-ranked team will face Guinea, the fourth-place team from the African qualifiers, in a playoff match.

South Korea will try to qualify for their 10th consecutive Olympic tournament.

There are 11 groups in action in the U-23 Asian Cup qualification event. The 11 group winners and four best runners-up will compete at the Asian Cup, with the host country Qatar automatically qualified.

Qatar ended up in Group B alongside South Korea, Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar, but Group G matches involving Qatar are treated as friendlies and do not count toward the group standings.

Qatar beat South Korea 2-0 on Wednesday and then pounded Myanmar 6-0 earlier Saturday.

After getting blanked Wednesday, South Korea netted the opening goal against Kyrgyzstan just three minutes in. Jeong Sang-bin sprinted down the right wing and sent a cross to Hong Yun-sang, who got behind the defense for a shot past goalkeeper Kurmanbek Nurlanbekov.

But that was all the offense South Korea could muster, despite a series of opportunities.

Kim Sin-jin's missed the target with a header set up by Oh Jae-hyeok's cross in the 18th minute. Seven minutes later, Kim took another crack at his first goal of the competition but was denied by Nurlanbekov.

Cho Wi-je's left-footed effort in the goalmouth scramble went just over the crossbar on 28 minutes.

Kyrgyzstan pushed back a little in the second half with some mid-range shots, and South Korea struggled to connect on passes out of their own zone at times.

South Korea held their ground to keep their opponents off the board, and attacking players coming off the bench failed to tack on goals for the home team.

Source: Yonhap News Agency