Korea beat Iraq 3-0 to maintain undefeated streak
Korea beat Iraq 3-0 in the second leg of the third round of Asian qualifiers for the 2022 Qatar World Cup on Tuesday.
This comes as some redemption for the Taeguk Warriors who were forced to settle for a tepid 0-0 draw against Iraq on Sept. 3 at home. Korea dominated during the game — as well they should at world No. 36, compared to Iraq's No. 70 — but were unable to do anything to impact the score.
But at midnight, as the game started, the Taeguk Warriors were looking confident. They faced Iraq in an empty Thani bin Jassim Stadium in Doha, Qatar, as no spectators were allowed into the stands. Starting members included Kim Seung-gyu who took to the goal post, while Cho Gue-sung of Gimcheon Sangmu played the front line with Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min on the left wing and Wolverhampton Wanderers forward Hwang Hee-chan on the right wing. Lee Jae-sung of Mainz, Jung Woo-young of Al Sadd and Hwang In-beom of Rubin Kazan took the midfield, and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors' Kim Jin-su, Seongnam FC's Kwon Kyung-won, Fenerbahce's Kim Min-jae and Jeonbuk's Lee yong took the defense.
Korea's first chance came in the 33rd minute when Son quickly sent the ball to Lee Yong who crossed it over to Kim Jin-su in the left side of the box. Kim Jin-su set it up for Lee Jae-sung who slotted it in to score the game's first goal. The goal was the Mainz midfielder's first for the national team since March of 2019 when Korea faced Columbia.
The Taeguk Warriors were seen playing comfortably at their own pace, keeping the ball and passing it around until the Iraqi defense would loosen up, at which point Korea would try a shot.
The whistle eventually blew to end the first half. Korea's possession rate came out to 72 percent, much higher than the remaining 28 percent by Iraq. Korea took five shots, four of which were on-target, while Iraq took two shots and none were on target. Korea had made 445 passes in the first half while Iraq made 167.
With the start of the second half, the Iraqi side was playing a stronger offense, but Korea seemed to have figured the opponent out. In the 65th minute, Lee Jae-sung was transferred out for Jeong Woo-young, a midfielder for SC Freidburg, and four minutes later, Cho drew a foul from Ali Adnan.
Son took the penalty himself but ended up making the shot twice after the VAR revealed that, during the first penalty shot, Jeong Woo-young had moved into the box before Son made the actual kick. But the Spurs forward was still confident in the second shot and made the back of the net, marking his 30th international goal as a Taeguk Warrior.
Coincidentally, the Thani bin Jassim Stadium was where Son had scored his first-ever goal for the national team during Korea's 4-1 victory against India at an AFC Asian Cup match in 2011. With his 30th goal, Son is now tied for sixth place in making the most international goals in the Korean national team.
In the 78th minute, Jeong seized the opportunity to score Korea's third goal. The goal was the product of perfect teamwork, as Son first found the ball inside the box, but instead of shooting it himself, he sent it over to Hwang who then set it up for Jeong while Cho took care of the Iraqi defense. Jeong's shot met the back of the net and took the score to 3-0, which Korea maintained until the end of the match.
"I think the team deserves it because we worked really hard," Son said after the match.
"We remember the first game against Iraq: It was a tough game and we drew and lost two points, but today we did a fantastic job. Everybody, including players who played and who didn't play and supported the team, did amazingly. I am happy, so proud to be part of this team."
Korea has been on an undefeated streak since June, after Korea took a decisive 5-0 win over Turkmenistan. Undefeated after six out of 10 matches in the final World Cup qualifying round, Korea looks to advance to the World Cup finals for the 10th consecutive time. With four wins and two draws, Korea is the current runner-up after first place Iran, who has five wins and one draw.
BY YUN SO-HYANG [firstname.lastname@example.org]