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Making a statement

Korea’s 4-1 thrashing of India sets up Iran clash in quarters


Korea finished second in Group C behind Australia after cruising past India 4-1 Tuesday at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in its final group game in Qatar.

Korea and Australia both finished their group games with two wins and one draw, but the Taeguk Warriors came in second place on goal difference.

Had Korea scored one more goal against India, one of the weakest sides of the competition, the team would have finished at the top of Group C.

But despite numerous chances ― Korea had 38 shots with 20 on target ― they failed to score a fifth.

The result means Korea now meets Iran in the quarterfinals. It will be the fifth straight quarterfinal showdown between the two sides, and the fifth consecutive Asian Cup in which they have faced each other, having split the previous four.
Korea’s Son Heung-min connects on a goal against India. (Yonhap News)
Korea’s Son Heung-min connects on a goal against India. (Yonhap News)

The first of those was in the 1996 tournament, where Korea suffered a humiliating 6-2 defeat. In 2007, Korea beat Iran in a penalty shootout after goalless match.

But in a friendly in September, Korea lost 1-0 to Iran.

Korean national team manager Cho Kwang-rae had admitted earlier that he would prefer to face Iran, the three-time Asian Cup champion, much later in the competition.

Iran is considered the strongest opponent for Cho’s side, which is aiming to win the Asian Cup title for the first time in 51 years.

The Iranian side, led by the captain Javad Nekounam of CA Osasuna, secured a quarterfinal berth after edging Iraq 2-1 and North Korea 1-0.

Some predict that Iran has a slight edge over Korea as Iranian manger Afshin Ghotbi is believed to have a thorough understanding of Korean football.

The 47-year-old Iranian-American had a two-year tenure on the Korean national team as a technical analyst under Guus Hiddink from 2002 and continued another four years as an assistant coach for the team until 2007.

However, the 56-year-old manager Cho said he was confident this time.

“I’m comfortable about meeting Iran because we played a friendly match in Seoul and if you compare our team from then, we’re much better now,” Cho told reporters after watching his side beat India.

On Tuesday, Cho’s men were far too strong for the India side in what proved to be a one-sided encounter. Korea netted two goals before 10 minutes into the game thanks to Ji Dong-won and Koo Ja-cheol.

Just three minutes into the game, the 20-year-old striker Ji scored the opener with a clear header from close-range and Jeju United’s midfielder Koo added one in the 9th minute after rounding the goalkeeper to slide the ball into the empty net.

Korea conceded one in the 12th minute after defender Kwak Tae-hwi made an unnecessary challenge inside the penalty box. But that was the only blemish of the night.

Ji added his second goal of the game in the 23rd minute and substitute Son Heung-min finished the game, scoring his first international goal in the 81st minute with a powerful close-range drive.

“I am quite satisfied about the result of tonight’s match. If we can continue these performances, I believe the team will do an excellent job for the quarterfinal match,” Cho said.

Korea faces Iran at Qatar SC stadium on Sunday at 1:25 a.m. Korean time. If Korea beats Iran it will play against the winner from the match between Japan and Qatar in the semifinals.

By Oh Kyu-wook (596story@heraldcorp.com)
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