Thu, 28 Oct, 2021
Sydney: With Korea Republic one win away from sealing their first AFC Asian Cup title success since 1960, the-afc.com takes a look at how Uli Stielike’s side have reached the reached Saturday’s final showdown with Australia.
Group A: Korea Republic 1-0 Oman
Entering their joint-record 13th AFC Asian Cup tournament, Korea Republic were, in the words of skipper Ki Sung-yeung, keen to get off to a flying start in their opening match against Oman.
The two-time champions had the better of the first half but only had Cho Young-cheol’s close-range strike in first-half stoppage time to show for their efforts and with Oman giving a better account of themselves after the interval, the Qatar-based forward’s first international goal was ultimately all that separated the two sides at the end of a hard-fought opener for Stielike’s charges.
Group A: Korea Republic 1-0 Kuwait
With illness and injuries giving Stielike selection headaches, the German coach made seven changes to the side that started against Oman and for the second successive match the Koreans found it tough going against Gulf opposition, edging Kuwait for the narrow victory that saw them become the first team at Australia 2015 to guarantee their place in the knockout stage.
After a cagey start to their second Group A fixture, Korea Republic took the lead through Nam Tae-hee’s 35th minute header and while Kuwait, who had impressed in spells during their loss to Australia despite going down 4-1 to the tournament hosts, created a number of chances in a strong second-half show, the midfielder’s first-half goal was enough to settle the contest in favour of the Koreans.
Group A: Korea Republic 1-0 Australia
The top-of-table-clash brought together the tournament’s best attack in the shape of a Socceroos side that had scored eight times in their first two matches and one it’s meanest defences, with the Koreans one of just three teams who went into their third Group Stage fixture without having conceded a goal.
And as it transpired, the Koreans completed a hat-trick of clean sheets as they finished at the Group A summit with Lee Jeong-hyeop scoring what ultimately transpired to be the winner 12 minutes from the interval when the he got the slightest touch onto a cross from former AFC Player of the Year Lee Kuen-ho as the Taeguk Warriors marched into quarter-finals with a 100% record.
Quarter-final: Korea Republic 2-0 Uzbekistan (aet)
Neither side could break the deadlock after 90 minutes of thoroughly entertaining football at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium despite both having their fair share of chances, with the best opportunity falling to Uzbek substitute Lutfulla Turaev, who headed wide in the 78th minute with the Korean goal at his mercy.
After struggling with illness in the Group Stage, Bayer Leverkusen’s Son Heung-min finally lived up to his star billing by netting both of the Taeguk Warriors’ extra-time goals, with the back-to-back KFA Footballer of the Year putting the East Asians’ one up with a 104th minute header before securing the semi-final ticket five minutes into the second period with an unstoppable drive from Cha Du-ri’s cutback.
Semi-final: Korea Republic 2-0 Iraq
Korea Republic reached the final of the AFC Asian Cup for the first time since 1988 with a 2-0 victory over a spirited Iraq side whose epic quarter-final win over Iran no doubt took its toll on the players towards the end of their battle with the Taeguk Warriors.
Stielike’s side took the attacking initiative from the start and were rewarded after 20 minutes when Lee Jeong-hyeop headed home his second goal of the tournament before chesting the ball into the path of Kim Young-gwon for the Guangzhou Evergrande defender to fire in the 50th minute winner as the Koreans avenged their 2007 semi-final defeat to eventual champions Iraq.