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Tunisia beat S.Korea in World Cup send-off Coach apologizes as tune-up falls flat

SEOUL, May 28, (AFP): South Korea’s coach apologised to fans Wednesday after a 1-0 defeat to Tunisia tempered World Cup hopes in their final home friendly before the tournament in Brazil. Hong Myung-Bo, a hero of South Korea’s run to the 2002 semifinals, said his team would struggle in Brazil if they cannot fix their problems. Midfielder Zouhaier Dhaouadi netted the game’s only goal late in the first half at Seoul World Cup Stadium, as the visitors handed Georges Leekens a victory on his debut as coach. While Tunisia celebrated, this was clearly not the send-off the Taeguk Warriors wanted as they set off for their eighth consecutive World Cup. “I’m sorry we didn’t get a good result in our last home match,” Hong told the crowd after the game. He added at the post-match press conference: “I think this match will teach us a big lesson. We gave away too much space in the middle and the back, and that allowed Tunisian forwards to play freely. “Unless we can fix that, we will continue to have a difficult time.”

Goal-shy South Korea, who will face Belgium, Algeria and Russia in Group H, travel to Miami on Friday where they will play another friendly against Ghana on June 9. After a cautious start, South Korean captain Koo Ja-Cheol had the first dangerous attempt from outside the box in the 14th minute, but fired just wide of the right post. The hosts were shading possession but were not able to threaten. Bayer Leverkusen’s Son Heung-Min got a sight of goal on the half-hour but his shot went straight at goalkeeper Farouk Ben Mustapha. Tunisia came into the game late in the first half, with Wissem Yahya forcing South Korean ‘keeper Jung Sung-Ryong into a sharp save in the 42nd minute.

And the visitors broke the deadlock two minutes later, when Dhaouadi took the ball in midfield and sprinted virtually uncontested into the area before putting it past the diving Jung. South Korea came out with more life after the break. On-loan Arsenal striker Park Chu-Young struck a low shot from the edge of the box, but Ben Mustapha parried. And the home team found themselves frustrated by Tunisia, who put bodies behind the ball to make sure of holding on to their slim lead. Second-half substitute Ha Dae-Sung nearly equalised at the death, but his shot moments before the whistle skidded wide of the left post. However Leekens, Tunisia’s Belgian coach, said defeat could act as a spur to South Korea ahead of their World Cup campaign. “We were the good-spirited team and we forced you to commit mistakes,” he said. “One defeat in preparation sometimes is good. I wish you can go to the second round (in Brazil).”

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