(ATTN: ADDS details in paras 5-8, 10-13)
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, May 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea battled for a 2-2 draw against Honduras at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina, as their knockout fate remains up in the air with one group match to go.
South Korea netted two unanswered goals in the second half for the hard-fought draw in Group F at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza, western Argentina, on Thursday (local time).
South Korea, who opened the tournament with a 2-1 win over France on Monday, sit in second place in the group with four points, two behind Gambia, who clinched a knockout spot earlier Thursday by beating France 2-1 for their second straight victory.
South Korea and Gambia will face each other at 6 p.m. Sunday in Mendoza, or 6 a.m. Monday (Seoul time).
South Korea will join Gambia in the round of 16 with a victory or a draw. Even with a loss, South Korea may still advance to the knockouts.
If South Korea beat Gambia, they will finish first in Group F and will take on the runners-up from Group E in the round of 16.
South Korea will finish second behind Gambia with a draw, in which case South Korea will face the runners-up from Group B in the first knockout match.
Even if South Korea lose to Gambia, they will still grab the No. 2 seed with either a France-Honduras draw or a France win over Honduras on Sunday.
There are six groups of four in the tournament, and the top two teams from each group, along with the four best third-place teams, will play in the round of 16.
If South Korea lose to Gambia and Honduras beat France, then South Korea and Honduras will be tied at four points. They will then go to the tiebreakers, with the goal difference being the first category, followed by goals scored.
Through two matches, South Korea have scored four times and conceded three goals. Honduras have scored three goals and given up four.
If South Korea end up in third place, they will have to be among the four best No. 3 seeds to advance.
With every team having played two matches, Tunisia, Ecuador and Italy have three points each, and Honduras are holding down the fourth spot among the third-ranked teams with one point.
South Korea are seeking a third consecutive trip to the knockouts at the U-20 event. They made it to the round of 16 in 2017 and finished runners-up to Ukraine in 2019. The 2021 tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Honduras scored the opening goal on a 22nd-minute penalty by David Ochoa, moments after defender Choi Seok-hyun was called for a foul on Daniel Carter inside the box.
The match took a bizarre twist just five minutes later, when Ochoa was sent off for slapping Bae Seo-joon on the back of the head while battling for the ball.
With the man advantage, South Korea began ratcheting up their offensive pressure late in the first half. However, it was Honduras getting the next goal, with Isaac Castillo scoring off a counterattack in the 51st minute.
South Korea kept on knocking on Honduras' door, and it finally cracked open in the 58th minute, with Kim Yong-hak's left-footed shot beating goalkeeper Juergen Garcia.
Substitute Park Seung-ho headed home the equalizer in the 62nd minute, jumping to meet a corner taken by Lee Seung-won.
Park left the match only four minutes later with an ankle injury, and South Korea failed to find the next gear for the go-ahead goal.
In the 86th minute, Cho Young-kwang's cross deflected off Garcia's hand and struck the top of the crossbar. Then early in the eight-minute stoppage time, Kang Seong-jin's hard shot from close range was turned aside by the Honduran goalkeeper.
South Korean defender Choi Seok-hyun was sent off in the dying moments with his second yellow card of the match.