Chaotic Korea stays on course in Asia

From left, Korea's Lee Kang-in, Son Heung-min, Hwang Hee-chan prepare for a penalty kick during the second half of the AFC Asian Cup quarterfinal match against Australia at Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, Friday.  Yonhap

It is hard to see much of a strategy or gameplan in South Korea’s Asian Cup campaign but there is plenty of spirit and individual skill in this team that will take on Jordan in the semifinal on Tuesday in Qatar. Korea’s first continental title since 1960 is moving into view.In the five games so far, the Taeguk Warriors have scored four goals after the 90 minute mark. The last two, against Saudi Arabia and Australia, came in the 99th and 96th minutes when the team was seconds away from going home. The pressure was well and truly on but so far, it is this pressure that is driving the team forward.Surely it can’t keep happening but this is a team that does not know it is beat. It is a team that will keep coming until the end and will never give up even when it seems dead and buried. Not for nothing has the Korean media started calling this “Zombie Football” and it does not take a genius to guess why.

And this is a team that has players capable of delivering when the pressure is well and truly on. It could be said that there has not yet been a stable and controlled performance from the team so far, except perhaps for some periods in the first game against Bahrain. Increasingly, it has been frantic.Against Saudi Arabia and Australia, Korea went behind just before or just after half-time. For the majority of both games, the team had created little and not really looked like scoring but as the minutes ticked by, the need to score became more and more pressing and then the players just seemed to take it upon themselves to make something happen.Son had been quiet against Australia but then, in the 94th minute, he did well to win a penalty that was converted by Hwang Hee-chan in the coolest of fashions. Then in extra-time, Son scored a magnificent free-kick and that was that.

Had Australia not conceded that late penalty, it would have been a deserved win for the Socceroos. Yet at the end of extra-time, the team looked second best and dead on its feet and could only be stunned at the energy, speed and stamina of a determined Korean team. Australia had two days more rest but looked more tired.It is hard to analyze such performances, it is best to just try and enjoy the drama and excitement and to wonder where it will end. Jordan is next.In the group stage, Korea needed a last-minute own goal to tie 2-2. The Middle Easterners have impressed in getting this far for the very first time but will be underdogs on Tuesday especially since there will be players missing. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann is going to have to produce a more intelligent and controlled performance that does not rely on guts and skill alone.Or maybe that is not going to happen. Maybe it is time just to embrace the madness and trust in the likes of Son Heung-min, Hwang Hee-chan, Lee Kang-in and all the rest. So far, they have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and 스포츠토토존 have kept Korea on course for glory.

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