S. Korea blank Hong Kong for 2nd straight win at East Asian football tournament

South Korea defeated Hong Kong 3-0 at a regional men’s football tournament in Japan on Sunday, moving within a win of capturing their fourth consecutive title.

The 19-year-old forward Kang Sung-jin scored his first two international goals at Toyota Stadium in Toyota for South Korea’s second straight victory at the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) E-1 Football Championship.

Defender Hong Chul netted the second goal for South Korea in the second half on a breakaway, and he assisted on Kang’s second goal in late moments to cap off the breezy win.

South Korea opened the tournament with a 3-0 win over China last Wednesday. They can collect their fourth EAFF title in a row, and sixth overall, by beating Japan in the final match of the round-robin competition on Wednesday, back at Toyota.

With three players making their international debut, South Korea looked a bit disjointed in the early moments. Then Kang, an up-and-coming forward for FC Seoul, opened the scoring in the 17th minute, when his left-footed shot, set up by Kim Jin-gyu, went in off the crossbar.

Daegu FC left back Hong doubled South Korea’s lead with a tough-angle shot in the 74th minute. It was his first goal in his 44th international appearance.

About a dozen minutes later, Hong set up Kang for a diving header that rounded out the scoring.

For K League players hoping to make the World Cup squad this fall, the EAFF event is their final audition in a tournament setting. South Korea will play a pair of friendly matches in September before head coach Paulo Bento settles on his final roster for the World Cup in Qatar.

The men’s national team typically includes several players based in Europe, such as Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min. For the EAFF event, which is not part of the FIFA international window, Bento selected mostly K League players. A few of them have been mainstays on the national team and they have been trying to tighten their grips on the roster spots. Others with much less experience, including several international rookies, have been given every opportunity to play and make an impression during the tournament.