Football team’s hopes are dashed

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Football team’s hopes are dashed

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The U-23 national football team’s hopes of winning its first Asiad gold in 24 years were dashed when it failed yet again to advance past the semifinals.

Korea allowed a goal with time expiring in the second half of extra time to lose the semifinals to the United Arab Emirates, 1-0. Korea last won a gold in football at the 1986 Seoul Asian Games and has failed to reach the finals in six consecutive Asian Games.

Korea will now face Iran in the bronze medal match today at 4:30 p.m. while U.A.E. will take on Japan in the gold medal match starting at 8 p.m.

On Tuesday night, Korea took control and set the pace of the game from the start. Korea created several quality chances but failed to capitalize on them. At the end of regulation and extra time, Korea led in shots, 24-9, with 11 of those shots hitting the target.

The biggest problem for Korea proved to be U.A.E.’s stifling defense. The Middle Eastern squad had not allowed a single goal in the tourney after tying their opening group stage match against Hong Kong, 1-1. Korea did not have a lot of time to maneuver in the game as four to five U.A.E. defenders quickly dropped back deep into their zone every time Korea managed to mount a quality chance.

“We analyzed the reasons why Korea came up short in past Asian Games and put a lot of time into preparing for the games,” said coach Hong Myung-bo at a press conference. “I want to apologize to Korean football fans for failing to produce better results.”

Said forward Park Chu-young: “Our opponents played a defensive game and we grew fatigued as the game wore on in extra time.”

With the U.A.E. thwarting Korea’s attack through much of the second half and extra time, the game seemed to be headed for penalty kicks. With several of Korea’s players visibly fatigued in the late stages of the game, Hong made the decision to substitute goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu in place of Lee Bum-young in the 120th minute. The decision ended up backfiring on Hong as forward Ahmed Ali Alabry scored moments later to deflate Korea’s hopes of advancing to the finals.

“I made the late substitution in anticipation of the penalty kicks but it didn’t work out and that was a mistake on my part,” said Hong. “We focused on having our players maintain their composure but as they lost focus in the final moments, they allowed easy openings to the opposing side.”

In their upcoming game, Korea faces another tough opponent in Iran. Iran has won the most football gold medals in the history of the Asiad at four. Iran has won three gold medals since the 1990 Asiad and placed second at the 2006 Doha Asian Games. The Iranians stormed through the group stage and elimination rounds by winning all its games to an aggregate score of 10-2 against the likes of Turkmenistan, Bahrain, Vietnam, Malaysia and Oman before losing to Japan in the semifinals 2-1 Tuesday.


By Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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