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Flashback: Asia in the Round of 16

Saturday, June 30, 2018
Ahn Jung-hwan (2)

Kuala Lumpur: Japan’s 1-0 defeat to Poland was enough to ensure the Samurai Blue qualified for the FIFA World Cup Round of 16 for the third time in what is a record for an Asian nation, having also advanced in 2002 on home soil and 2010 in South Africa. 

With the first knockout round set to kick off today, looks back at the five previous times when Asian sides have progressed beyond the group stage and into the business end of the global showpiece.

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Saudi Arabia v Sweden (1994 FIFA World Cup – Dallas, USA)

Although DPR Korea qualified for the quarter-finals in England in 1966, that was before the introduction of the Round of 16, making Saudi Arabia’s appearance in 1994 a first for the continent.

Having lost to the Netherlands then beaten Morocco in their debut campaign, it was Saeed Al Owairan’s iconic goal in a 1-0 victory over Belgium that saw the Green Falcons secure a place in the knockout rounds and a date with Sweden.

Up against a Sweden side who had drawn with eventual champions Brazil in the group stage, Saudi Arabia fell behind at the Cotton Bowl after an early Martin Dahlin strike, before the imposing Kennet Andersson doubled the Swedes’ advantage after the interval.

Fahad Al Ghesheyan gave Jorge Solari’s team a ray of hope with five minutes remaining but Andersson struck the killer blow soon after as the Saudis exited, heads held high, from what remains their standout performance at the World Cup.

Japan v Turkey (2002 FIFA World Cup – Miyagi, Japan)

Eight years later and the tournament was being staged in Asia for the first time, with Japan and Korea Republic acting as co-hosts in a competition that lives long in the memory as the continent’s most successful to date.

Japan had qualified for their first World Cup in 1998, but exited at the group stage after losing all three matches. Four years later they were back, with the likes of Hidetoshi Nakata and Shinji Ono already boasting experience on the global stage.

Led by Frenchman Philippe Troussier, the Samurai Blue drew with Belgium before defeating Russia and Tunisia to top their group and line up a clash with Turkey, who were also making their second appearance at the tournament.

But it was not to be for the Japanese as Umit Davala headed in a corner from the right as Turkey took the lead after just 12 minutes at Miyagi Stadium with what was the only goal of the game. The Turks went on to finish third after losing to Brazil in the semi-finals.

Korea Republic v Italy (2002 FIFA World Cup – Daejeon, Korea Republic)

Not to be outdone, Korea Republic also advanced after a surprise 1-0 victory over a star-studded Portugal came on the back of a win and draw against Poland and the USA respectively as Guus Hiddink’s team topped their group. What followed against Italy shocked the world.

Ahn Jung-hwan missed an early penalty before Christian Vieri headed the three-time winners in front in the 18th minute. With two minutes remaining, Italy appeared to be heading into the last eight, but Seol Ki-hyeon struck to force extra time.

Francesco Totti was dismissed in a heated additional 30 minutes in which Ahn redeemed himself in stunning fashion as he headed in Lee Young-pyo’s cross from the left to kill the tie with a ‘golden goal’ and break Italian hearts.

Korea Republic ousted Spain on penalties after a scoreless draw in the quarter-finals, before their incredible run was finally ended in the last four following a 1-0 defeat to Germany at Seoul World Cup Stadium.

Japan v Paraguay (2010 FIFA World Cup – Pretoria, South Africa)

Having fallen at the group stage without a win in 2006, Japan returned in 2010 to deliver what was arguably an even better performance than on home soil as they came within a penalty shootout of a place in the quarter-finals.

Keisuke Honda’s first World Cup goal saw off Cameroon in the Samurai Blue’s tournament opener, before Takeshi Okada’s side followed defeat to the Netherlands with a 3-1 victory over Denmark to beat the Danes to second place in the group.

Paraguay lay in wait in the Round of 16 and Daisuke Matsui was inches away from giving the Japanese a first-half lead when he struck the crossbar from distance with what was the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock in 120 minutes of action.

It was heartbreak from the spot, though, as after Yasuhito Endo and Makoto Hasebe found the back of the net, Yuichi Komano hit the woodwork. Honda netted but the Paraguayans scored all five to advance, before being ousted by Spain in the quarter-finals.

Korea Republic v Uruguay (2010 FIFA World Cup – Port Elizabeth, South Africa)

Just as in 2002, meanwhile, Korea Republic were also able to navigate the group stage to progress to the last 16 in what was their seventh successive World Cup appearance and eighth overall.

The Taeguk Warriors began with a 2-0 victory over Greece before going down 4-1 to Argentina. A 2-2 draw with Nigeria, though, ensured that Huh Jung-moo’s side booked their second appearance in the knockout rounds, where they would meet Uruguay.

Park Chu-young’s early free-kick struck the post before Korea Republic fell behind to Luis Suarez’s opener soon after, but Lee Chung-yong headed home midway through the second half to restore parity.

Then, with 10 minutes remaining, Suarez produced a moment of magic to curl into the back of the net from the edge of the area as the South Americans progressed to the quarter-finals and sent Korea Republic home.

Photos: Getty Images

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