The Socceroos were unable to continue their winning form from their previous 2 group stage matches in the AFC Asian Cup against Korea Republic in front of a full house at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. Ange Postecoglou’s will now face Group B winners, China PR in the same stadium next Thursday.
By Javier Yap – @javiervanderyap
Both sides came into this match hoping to top Group A but it was Uli Stielike’s side that came out on top with 3 wins from 3 matches. The host nation had more shots (14 – 9) but struggled to convert any of these chances into goals against the two time tournament winners. Korea Republic forward, Lee Jeong-Hyeop was the only player on the scoreboard with his 32nd minute left foot goal.
Australia kicked off the match, however it was Korea Republic who were the more fiery side in the opening minutes. The Socceroos nullified the game in the middle of the 1st half, dominating possession but were unable to create any real chances.
Park Joo Ho was stretchered off in the 28th minute after taking an elbow knock to his head by Nathan Burns. Postecoglou’s side did not take advantage of Korea Republic’s 10 men situation and were punished. Lee Jeong-Hyeop put his side ahead in the 32nd minute after a low pass into the box from Swansea City midfielder, Ki Sung-Yeong.
Australia seemed to have hit one back a few minutes later when Massimo Luongo and James Troisi created a chance on the counter attack, only for Troisi’s near-post effort to hit the outside net.
Stielike was forced to make another change 3 minutes into the 2nd half after a strong challenge on the tournament’s top goal scorer in Qatar 4 years ago, Koo Ja Cheol by Matthew Spiranovic. The Western Sydney Wanderers FC defender picked up his 2nd yellow card of the night in the 77th minute and will miss out on his country’s quarter final clash on Thursday.
Tomi Juric could have equalised for Australia but was unable to tap the ball past keeper Jung Sung Ryong in the 52nd minute. This was the host nation’s best chance of the game up to that moment. Soon after, forward Nathan Burns almost pulled one back for his country but also couldn’t put the ball past the keeper in front of the goal before being substituted off. Socceroos top scorer (37) Tim Cahill and Bayer Leverkusen forward Robbie Kruse replaced Burns and Matt McKay with 20 minutes to play but were unable to unable to help their team level back.
Australia could have been 2 goals down in extra time but luckily for the home side, keeper Matthew Ryan got a hand to a shot from Jang HyunSoo.
Substitute Robbie Kruse almost earned his side a 1-1 draw which would have put the Socceroos top of Group A in the 97th minute. Kruse had a great first touch in the box from Tomi Juric’s back heal but Sung Ryong was able to get a hand on the ball.
Both sides are through to the quarter finals but Australia could face a tougher challenge with a possible meeting with current champions, Japan in the semi finals on Tuesday 27th January at Newcastle Stadium.
Korea Republic will now face Group B’s runner-up, either Saudi Arabia or Uzbekistan which will be decided on Sunday at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
Postecoglou’s men are hoping to go one step further than their second place finish in the 2011 Asian Cup where they were defeated 0-1 by Japan in Qatar. A win would record the Socceroos’ first Asian Cup title since their debut in the tournament in 2007 when Australia joined the Asian confederation. The finals will be held at the Sydney Stadium on Saturday 31st January at 8pm AEST.