Socceroos to face South Korea in Asian Cup last eight

Anna Harrington |

South Korea’s winning goalscorer Hwang Hee-cha celebrates with penalty hero goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo.
South Korea’s winning goalscorer Hwang Hee-cha celebrates with penalty hero goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo.

The well-rested Socceroos will take on familiar foes South Korea for a spot in the Asian Cup semi-finals after Jurgen Klinsmann’s side won a penalty shoot-out to overcome Saudi Arabia in the round of 16.

The South Koreans teed up a rematch of the 2015 Asian Cup final, which Australia won on home soil, with a dramatic comeback victory in Qatar – taking the shoot-out 4-2 after a 1-1 draw.

But – to the delight of Socceroos coach Graham Arnold and his players, who already had two days’ extra rest after beating Indonesia on Sunday – they did it the long way.

South Korea players
South Korea players begin to celebrate after winning the shoot-out against a dejected Saudi Arabia. (AP PHOTO)

Australia will have had 53.5 hours more recovery time than South Korea heading into the quarter-final at Al Janoub Stadium on Friday night (Saturday AEDT).

“This is a little bit unfair but we don’t care about that,” winning penalty taker Hwang Hee-chan said.

“We keep pushing and we can do better than today. We improved a lot.

“We trust each other. We understand very well each other and we can keep going.”

Klinsmann again shot down suggestions he had been happy for his side to finish runners-up in their group and avoid a last-16 clash with Japan, saying, “I wanted to win the group and face whoever because of the recovery days.

“It is now that schedule because we didn’t win the group. So we have to pay that price.

“Now we’re looking at this 53-and-a-half hours and we’ll recover. We will recover. Because we have a good atmosphere, we have a good spirit.

“This tournament, there’s no easy games. But this win tonight gives us a lot of optimism, a lot of belief, and energy – which we need to beat Australia.”

Saudi manager Roberto Mancini walked up the tunnel with his back to play before Hwang buried the winning spot-kick, adding to doubts over his future.

“I apologise for (leaving before the last penalty), I thought the shoot-out was over,” he said.

“I’m very sad after conceding a goal in the last minute and losing a penalty shoot-out.”

The clash, played in front of a massively pro-Saudi crowd of 42,389 at Education City Stadium in Doha, had been the most hotly anticipated clash in the round of 16.

South Korea star Son Heung-min had some early half-chances but Saudi Arabia took the lead when Abdullah Radif came off the bench at halftime and scored with his first involvement a minute later.

South Korea hardly fired a shot until the closing half-hour, when they started to pepper the Saudi goal.

Klinsmann’s charges broke through in the ninth minute of second-half injury time, with Cho Gue-sung’s header forcing the match to extra time.

Both teams spurned chances to win the game but mulleted goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo stood tall in the shoot-out, denying Sami Al-Najei, then Abdulrahman Ghareeb.

Jo Hyeon-Woo
South Korea goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo saves from Saudi Arabia’s Abdulrahman Ghareeb in the shoot-out. (AP PHOTO)

All four of South Korea’s penalty takers scored.

Australia have played South Korea 30 times, winning 11, drawing 11 and losing eight.

Since Arnold took the reins in 2018, Australia have drawn 1-1 with South Korea in Brisbane in November of that year and lost 1-0 in Busan in June 2019.

The winner of the quarter-final will face either Tajikistan or Jordan.

In Tuesday’s other last-16 tie Uzbekistan beat Thailand 2-1 and will meet hosts Qatar in the last eight.