By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, June 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea are moving on to the quarterfinals at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina.
South Korea defeated Ecuador 3-2 in the round of 16 at Santiago del Estero Stadium in Santiago del Estero, northern Argentina, on Thursday (local time), behind first-half goals by Lee Young-jun and Bae Jun-ho. Choi Seok-hyun had the third goal early in the second half.
Coached by Kim Eun-jung, South Korea will face Nigeria in the quarterfinals. That match kicks off at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the same Santiago del Estero venue, or 2:30 a.m. Monday (Seoul time).
This is South Korea's 16th appearance at the U-20 World Cup, and their sixth trip to the final eight.
South Korea finished as the runners-up to Ukraine at the previous U-20 World Cup in 2019. The 2021 event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
South Korea built a 2-0 lead within the first 20 minutes of the match, despite losing the possession battle early on.
Forward Lee Young-jun netted his second goal of the tournament in the 11th minute. Lee snuck behind the defender Stalin Valencia to chest a cross from Bae Jun-ho in the goalmouth and fired it past goalkeeper Gilmar Napa in one motion before the ball even hit the ground.
South Korea doubled their lead eight minutes later, as Bae got in on the scoring act himself with some great individual effort.
After receiving a pass from Park Chang-woo just inside the box, Bae undressed the defender Daniel de la Cruz before scoring off his right foot for a 2-0 lead.
Ecuador cut their deficit in half in the 36th minute with Justin Cuero's penalty.
Park, who set up the second South Korean goal, was the guilty party here, getting called for a foul after grabbing Kendry Paez from behind just inside the box.
The initial penalty call was confirmed after a lengthy video review, and Cuero stepped up to beat Kim Joon-hong to make it a 2-1 game.
South Korea regained their two-goal lead just about two minutes into the second half, as defender Choi Seok-hyun soared to meet a corner taken by Lee Seung-won and headed it into the top-right corner.
Ecuador refused to go down without a fight and moved back within a goal in the 84th minute on a broken play.
Christian Garcia's volley following a corner bounced past multiple South Korean defenders and found its way to Sebastian Gonzalez, who alertly slotted it home to cut the lead to 3-2.
Ecuador made multiple forays into the box in their desperate search for the equalizer, but South Korea held on for dear life to close out the narrow win.