DOHA - Substitute Yoon Bit-garam produced
a stunning extra-time strike to send South Korea into the Asian
Cup semi-finals with a 1-0 defeat of a defensive Iran on
South Korea will now play three-times champions Japan at the
Al Gharafa Stadium on Tuesday. Earlier Australia set
up a last four meeting with Uzbekistan by beating holders Iraq
1-0, also after extra-time.
"The next match against Japan is one of the most crucial we
will play. Japan has been getting better and better throughout
the tournament in every aspect of their game but I have never
feared the Japanese team," South Korean coach Cho Kwang-rae told
The Koreans dominated territory and possession for long
periods at the Qatar Sports Club but failed to create many clear
cut chances as the Iranians defended deeply but effectively,
marshalled by the headband-wearing Hadi Aghili.
However, Aghili and his team could not stop Yoon from
cutting in off the right flank and angling a left-foot drive
into the far corner of the net in the 105th minute to leave
Korea dreaming of a first Asian Cup title in 51 years.
"The Iranian team's defensive organisation was very strong
they were very compact and very organised I believe not many
teams can score many goals against them but we created a couple
of chances," Cho said.
Cho predicted the Iranians would resort to fouling in the
early stages to disrupt his side from playing their short, sharp
passing game and he was proved right as heavy challenges flew in
from both sides in a niggly start.
Teenage striker Ji Dong-won looked the most likely to break
the deadlock for the Koreans with Manchester United midfielder
Park Ji-sung also causing problems for the three-times
Ji, 19, went close to opening the scoring on the stroke of
half-time but his curling right-foot effort went narrowly wide.
The start of the second half continued in much the same
fashion, despite Iran coach Afshin Ghotbi bringing on defender
Khosro Heidari to try and stem the flow.
"I could have changed seven or eight players in the first
half as they didn't perform to their level," said Ghotbi, who
will now step down as coach to take charge of J-League side
With 25 minutes remaining, Iran started to enjoy more
possession and ventured out of their defensive shell with
captain Javad Nekonam firing a free-kick just over the bar with
12 minutes left.
The start of the 30 minutes of extra-time was littered with
stoppages for minor injuries before Yoon, who came on in the
81st minute for Koo Ja-cheol, scored to leave the Koreans
dreaming of a third Asian title.
"In the first half we did not play the football we like to
play and that had something to do with the quality of the
Koreans," Ghotbi said.
"As the game went on we became stronger and started
dictating but unfortunately in overtime we took a goal in the
wrong moment and it was a fantastic finish."
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