No easy path to semifinal for Korea

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No easy path to semifinal for Korea

South Korea’s national football team will be looking for a lopsided victory when it takes on India in the final game of the opening round at the 2011 Asian Cup in Qatar.

The Taegeuk Warriors will try to run up the score against the world’s 144th-ranked team to increase its chances of coming out on top of Group C and avoid playing the surging Iranians in the quarterfinals.

South Korea only needs a tie against India tomorrow night at 10:15 p.m. to secure a place in the knockout stage of the tournament. If Bahrain pulls off an upset and manages to either tie or beat Australia, then South Korea will win the group.

But in the event that Bahrain loses, South Korea will have to best India by at least four goals if it hopes to have any chance of safely finishing atop Group C on goal differential.

Coming off a 1-1 draw against Australia - the top-ranked squad in Asia - on Friday, South Korea is tied in the Group C standings with the Aussies with one win and one draw.

Koo Ja-cheol scored the opening goal in the 24th minute to improve his 2011 Asian Cup total to three goals, but Australia’s Mile Jedinak scored an equalizer in the 62nd minute.

Despite identical records, Australia sits atop the group on goal differential advantage thanks to its 4-0 win over India last week. Australia’s goal differential sits at four, while South Korea’s is one. Both teams have one game left to play in the first round.

Iran, having already secured a place in the quarterfinals out of Group D with a 1-0 win over North Korea yesterday, will face the runner-up from Group C.

The winner of Group C will face the runner-up from Group D - Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and North Korea are involved in a close fight for second.

South Korea lost its most recent friendly against Iran 1-0 in Seoul on July 9 last year. Most pundits agree that South Korea would have a better chance against one of the other three teams from Group D.

Some pundits suggest national team manager Cho Kwang-rae rest key players, including defenders Lee Jung-soo, Cha Du-ri and midfielder Ki Sung-yeung. All three have collected one yellow card each and run the risk of missing the quarters if they collect another card against India. Cho said that he is confident of his team’s chances no matter who they play.

“I have no worries about the possibility of meeting Iran in the quarterfinals,” said Cho. “We are confident about our chances, regardless of who we meet in the knockout stage, whether it be Iran, Iraq or another team.”


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