Korea squeaks by Iran; faces Japan next

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Korea squeaks by Iran; faces Japan next


Korea’s Yoon Bitgaram, front, celebrates after scoring against Iran in extra time during their 2011 Asian Cup quarterfinal match at the Qatar Sports Club in Doha yesterday. [REUTERS/YONHAP]

It took 120 minutes, but Korea narrowly edged Iran 1-0 to earn a date with its archrival Japan in the semifinals of the 2011 Asian Cup, tomorrow night at 10:25 p.m.

Korea and Iran tussled in a tightly contested and physical matchup that was the fifth consecutive Asian Cup knockout-stage showdown between the two countries. The game was deadlocked in a scoreless draw until Yoon Bitgaram, who was substituted into the match for Koo Ja-cheol in the 81st minute, scored the winning goal in the 105th minute - in added time of the first half of extra time.

Yoon, who was managed by national team manager Cho Kwang-rae at Gyeongnam FC, was tabbed as a starting midfielder in the friendly matches leading up to the 2011 Asian Cup but had not received much playing time in Qatar until he regained the trust of his manager by providing an offensive spark and scoring yesterday’s winning goal.

“To be honest, I had reservations about using Yoon as a substitute in the game,” said Cho. “But he came up big and ended up scoring the winning goal.”


Another one of Cho’s former disciples at Gyeongnam FC, Lee Yong-rae, also came up big yesterday. Playing the defensive midfield position, Lee kept himself active and covered a lot of ground to earn the Man of the Match distinction from the tournament organizers.

Meanwhile, Japan had an impressive come-from-behind win against home team Qatar in the quarterfinals on Friday night. With his team trailing the game 2-1, Shinji Kagawa scored a goal in the 71st minute to level the game at two goals apiece. Then, Masahiko Inoha scored the dramatic winning goal in the 90th minute.

Cho sounded confident about his team’s chances in the upcoming semifinal match against Japan after Korea’s quarterfinal win over Iran.

“Korea has the best teamwork of all the teams at the Asian Cup tournament,” said Cho. “The fact that we decided to focus more on enjoying ourselves out there rather than getting fixated on the outcome of the game actually helped us play better. We will approach our game against Japan in the same manner.”

Korea and Japan played to a scoreless draw in their previous match in Seoul on Oct. 12. It was Cho’s third friendly as manager of the national team and Japan was also in a transitional period under its new manager Alberto Zaccheroni.


Japan looked a bit sluggish at the start of the Asian Cup this year, tying Jordan, 1-1, to start the tourney. Since then, however, it picked up the pace by defeating Syria, 2-1, and dominating Saudi Arabia, 5-0, in its final group stage match.

“Japan has improved its game and pace,” said Cho. “We’ve also made many changes since the friendly match against Japan in October.

“I have never feared facing Japan in competition, dating back to my playing days on the national team.”

Central defender Lee Jung-soo will not suit up for the semifinal match, after collecting his second yellow card of the tournament yesterday.

Despite losing his starting defender, Cho has other viable options on the bench, with Cho Yong-hyung, Hwang Jae-won, Kwak Tae-hwi and Hong Jeong-ho all capable of starting against Japan.

Meanwhile, Australia managed a 1-0 win over Iraq in its quarterfinal match yesterday and will face Uzbekistan in the other semifinal early Wednesday at 1:25 a.m.

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

Related Korean Article [중앙일보]

[아시안컵 축구] 짧고 간결한 패스 일본 잡을 방법은 ‘흔들어라, 압박하라’
윤빛가람 한 방으로 이란 깬 한국
내일 일본과 양보 못 할 4강전

난적 이란을 깼다. 이제는 숙적 일본이다.

한국 축구대표팀이 2011 카타르 아시안컵 4강에 진출했다. 한국은 23일(한국시간) 카타르 도하 카타르스포츠클럽 스타디움에서 열린 이란과 8강전에서 윤빛가람(21·경남)의 연장 결승골을 앞세워 1-0으로 승리했다. 4강에 오른 한국은 25일 오후 10시25분 알 가라파 스타디움에서 일본과 결승 진출을 다툰다. 결승에서는 호주-우즈베키스탄의 승자와 맞붙는다.

*맨유 전술로 아시아의 바르샤를 넘어라=8강전에서 일본에 2-3으로 진 카타르의 브뤼노 메추 감독은 “일본은 아시아의 바르셀로나”라고 했다. 짧고 간결한 패스 플레이로 상대를 제압하는 일본 팀의 색깔이 세계 최강 클럽팀으로 평가받는 스페인 바르셀로나와 비슷하다는 얘기다.

반면 인도 주장 바이충 부티아는 한국과 조별리그 경기를 앞두고 “한국은 아시아의 맨유”라고 말했다. 박지성(30·맨체스터 유나이티드)이 뛰는 맨유의 전방 압박과 공격진의 스위칭 플레이(상황에 따라 4명의 공격수가 위치를 바꾸는 것)를 완벽히 구사한다. 전방 압박은 호주·이란을 전반전에 꼼짝 못하게 한 이번 대회 최고 히트상품이다.

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