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Classic AFC Asian Cup Matches: Japan v Korea Republic (2011)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Kuala Lumpur: With the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 on the horizon, we look back at some classic matches from previous editions of Asia's most prestigious national team tournament.

Four years after Korea Republic had pipped Japan to the bronze medal at the AFC Asian Cup 2007, beating them 6-5 on penalties in the third-place decider, the eternal rivals locked horns again.

This time, a place in the final was at stake. Doha, which had hosted the first-ever AFC Asian Cup encounter between the two sides back in 1988, was the venue once more.

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Japan’s route to the semi-finals had seen them edge out Jordan on goal difference to top Group B. Korea Republic, in turn, also collected seven points in their group, but goal difference wasn’t on their side as they finished second behind Australia.

The Samurai Blue were pitted against the hosts Qatar in the quarter-finals, and despite falling behind twice, they emerged 3-2 winners while Korea Republic needed 30 minutes of extra-time to settle their tie with Islamic Republic of Iran.

Just over 23 years on from their previous meeting on Qatari soil, Al Gharafa Stadium played host to one of the most entertaining matches of the tournament. One that would go down as an AFC Asian Cup classic.

Halfway through the opening half, Korea Republic were awarded a penalty after Park Ji-sung was brought down inside the box by Yasuyuki Konno. Ki Sung-yueng converted from the spot to put the Taeguk Warriors in front.

The Korean lead lasted just 13 minutes until Honda released Yuto Nagatomo down the left-flank. The full-back advanced and squared for Maeda who swept home the equaliser from close range.

The two teams could not be separated after a goalless second half, and it took another penalty for the net to be visited again. Honda missed his penalty kick after a foul on Okazaki, but Hajime Hosogai followed through to give Japan the lead in the seventh minute of extra time.

As the Samurai Blue fans prepared to celebrate reaching the final, there was one more plot twist. Defender Hwang Jae-won pounced on the ball following a defensive mix-up inside the box to equalise in the dying seconds.

With nothing to separate the sides, it was all down to penalties, and the man who missed for Japan in extra time, Honda, stepped up to take the first spot-kick. The talisman emphatically fired his shot into the net.

Four-goal man Koo was denied by a superb Eiji Kawashima, before Okazaki converted for Japan. Kawashima was in top form, saving Lee Yong-rae’s penalty to give his side a comfortable two-goal cushion.

Korea Republic’s hopes were revived shortly as Nagatomo skied his shot, but substitute Hong Jeong-ho failed to find the target, putting Japan’s hopes of reaching the final at the feet of the then 28-year-old Konno.

The central midfielder atoned for causing the penalty in the first half by keeping his composure and scoring from the spot to send Japan into the final.

The Samurai Blue would go on to defeat Australia 1-0 in the final to lift their fourth AFC Asian Cup trophy, while Korea Republic’s wait for a first title since 1960 would be extended as they settled for third place.

What The Coaches Said

Alberto Zaccheroni, Japan

"It was a very tough, very tight game. We were better in the first half, especially on the flanks, and had three big chances but we conceded early."

“I told him a few days ago (Kawashima) that I trusted him and I told him again today and he did better than I even expected.

"Korea Republic outran us in the second half. They are a very good team and winning against a very good team makes it even sweeter."

Cho Kwang-rae, Korea Republic

"First of all, I would like to thank all my players. We were in a difficult situation to play the second extra time in a row."

"They never gave up and controlled the game, put on pressure and scored the second goal. We showed how strong we are, our fighting spirit and passion to play good football."

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