South Korea midfielder Koo Ja-cheol scored his third goal of the
Asian Cup in a 1-1 draw with Australia on Friday in a pulsating
encounter in the showcase group match of the tournament.
South Korea had the better start in the Group C game between two
of Asia’s top teams, and took the lead when Koo received a pass in
the area from striker Ji Dong-won and fired a shot past a diving
Mark Schwarzer in goal in the 24th minute.
But Australia had the better chances in the second half, and
equalized when a chip into the area from captain Lucas Neill found
Mile Jedinak, who headed home in the 62nd minute for his first
”It could have been better when it came to the result of the
match,” South Korea coach Cho Kwang-rae said. ”For all the fans
watching the game, it was very exciting. When it comes to the
players’ performance, I quite appreciated their performance.”
Australia coach Holger Osieck agreed, saying both teams played
their hearts out.
”We have seen a very high-standard match today. Both teams have
great potential,” he said. ”It was a good game. At times it was
end to end. Both teams played football, tried to play football and
I think it was not only entertaining but, from a technical point of
view, very good.”
Osieck praised his team’s performance, especially its success in
the second half to close down South Korea’s midfield, which was
such a threat in the first 45 minutes.
”What I found very encouraging was that we created a couple of
chances, particularly in the first half,” Osieck said. ”We could
have scored probably a bit more. But we never gave up, even when we
(conceded) the goal from the goalkeeper’s long ball and there was
some turbulence in our penalty area. We never gave in and we got
back into the game.”
It was billed as a match of Asian heavyweights – even a possible
rehearsal for the final – with some of the best players in the
It didn’t disappoint.
South Korea captain and playmaker Park Ji-sung, who plays for
Manchester United, made his presence felt early by having the first
shot on goal in the opening minutes. He would go on to threaten the
Australian defense for much of the first half.
Australia, which beat India 4-0 in its opening match, had the
first real chance in the seventh minute, Harry Kewell shooting over
the crossbar from inside the area and receiving the ball from a
Tim Cahill had a chance seven minutes later but his header went
wide, then angrily protested that he was pushed by a defender.
South Korea, which beat Bahrain 2-1 on Monday, then stepped it
up. Using speed to outrun the bigger but often sluggish Australian
defenders, the South Koreans repeatedly breached the defense.
It almost paid off when Ji Dong Won’s shot was headed away from
an empty net by Cahill in the 18th minute. Five minutes later, Koo
took a pass in the area from Ji and scored the opening goal after a
long kick from ‘keeper Jung Sung-ryong.
Schwarzer blamed himself for the goal.
”It was a long a ball and I called for it,” Schwarzer said.
”The ball didn’t carry through. Unfortunately, once I called for
it, the guys let the ball go and it fell to South Korea and they
scored. That was disappointing but as a team we stuck together and
Led by Park and Ki Sung-yueng, South Korea kept pressuring and
combining well with pretty one-touch passes. The Australians,
meanwhile, had the better chances on goal in the last 10 minutes.
Again, it was Cahill who almost scored, only to have defender Kim
Jin-Hyeon flick the ball away at the last moment.
Australia’s momentum carried into the second half, dominating
possession. The Australians’ physical style began taking a toll on
their opponents, whose pace slowed significantly. Australia had
several shots that flew over before Neil dropped a lovely ball into
a crowd of Australians in front of the net.
Jung came for the ball but missed, leaving the net open for
Jedinak’s equalizing header. Australia kept the pressure with drive
from Kewell saved by Jung in the 84th minute and then Korean
responding on the counterattack and Ki just failing to get a shot
Australia’s players were happy to have fought back from a goal
down but felt they should have come away with a victory.
”We have to be realistic. Tonight was a massive game and was
tough and a point is a good point. Korea is favorite to win this
competition,” Cahill said. ”But we didn’t finish our chances. I
think we had the chance of winning if I had finished, maybe Harry
finishes, any of us finishes.”
Neill felt the team showed it had a ”hunger” to go far into
”We are not the aging, old team struggling for movement. We are
here and we are (set) to go a long way in tournament,” he said.
”There is definitely a hunger, good harmony, something special
happening. The boys are starting to feel this could be a special
Australia: Mark Schwarzer, Lucas Neill, David Carney, Tim
Cahill, Jason Culina (Carl Valeri, 46) Sasa Ognenovski, Brett
Emerton, Luke Wilkshire (Jade North, 68), Harry Kewell, Brett
Holman, Mile Jedinak.
South Korea: Jung Sung-ryong; Hwang Jae-won, Lee Yong-rae, Park
Ji-sung, Ji Dong-won (Yoo Byung-soo, 67), Lee Young-pyo, Koo
Ja-cheoul (Yeom Ki-hun, 67), Lee Jung-soo, Ki Sung-yueng, Lee
Chung-young, Cha Du-ri.