Spain edge South Korea


INNSBRUCK, June 4- European champions Spain eked out a 1-0 victory over South Korea in a World Cup finals warm-up match here on Thursday.
The match had promised to be an exciting meeting with Spain hoping to exorcise the ghosts of the 2002 World Cup when it was defeated by South Korea in a controversial quarter-final in which the Spaniards had two goals disallowed.

But the two sides failed to impress during much of the game, with just eight days to go before the tournament kicks off, despite a late goal by Jesus Navas.

Playing before a packed house, Spain had merely seemed to be giving playing time to many of its injured players, while South Korea failed to convert some good efforts.

The match started off cautiously with neither side willing to take any risks, and it mostly stayed that way in the first half.

South Korea came closest to scoring first after 13 minutes with a long shot by midfielder Kim Jung-Woo that went wide.

The Koreans seemed in attacking mood at first, spurred on by a loud contingent of South Korean fans.

A couple of efforts by the Spaniards however soon sparked faster offensive play by La Furia Roja (Red Fury).

A ball from Sergio Ramos was headed away after 27 minutes, and Cesc Fabregas, back from injury, hit the post with a good effort after 35 minutes.

Both sides seemed content however to hold back and the first half ended goalless.

The two coaches substituted their goalkeepers after half-time, with Spain bringing in Victor Valdes for Jose Manuel Reina while South Korea replaced Lee Woon-Jae with Jung Sung-Ryong.

Further changes in the Spanish side saw Fabregas make way for Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez, playing only his second match after a long time out through injury.

In what was one of the best chances of the game, Celtic’s Ki Sung-Yueng fired in a superb shot on goal after 67 minutes only to be blocked by a teammate, who accidentally headed the ball away.

The pace accelerated in the last 15 minutes with both sides attacking more consistently and Sevilla striker Navas finally netted after 86 minutes with a superb strike.

Spain is one of the favourites to win the World Cup in South Africa for the first time. Until now, its best result was a fourth place in 1962.

Vicente del Bosque’s team plays one last friendly against Poland on June 8 in Murcia, before flying down to South Africa, where it will face Switzerland, Honduras and Chile in the group stage.

South Korea, coached by Huh Jung-Moo will meanwhile play its first group match against Euro 2004 winners Greece on June 12 in Durban, followed by two-time World Cup winners Argentina and Nigeria.