AFC Asian Cup: Son Heung-min drags S. Korea into semifinals

February 3, 2024
Captain Son Heung-min won a stoppage-time penalty and scored an extra-time free-kick on Friday night to propel South Korea
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Doha, Feb 3 (IANS) Captain Son Heung-min won a stoppage-time penalty and scored an extra-time free-kick on Friday night to propel South Korea to the AFC Asian Cup semifinals following a 2-1 comeback victory over Australia.

The two-time winners of the tournament, moving a step closer to reclaiming the continental title for the first time since 1960, will face Jordan in a last-four clash on Tuesday.

“I want them to experience what it would mean to get to the end of a tournament, all the way to the end and to play for the trophy,” South Korea head coach Jurgen Klinsmann from Germany said before the match.

Klinsmann’s encouragement for his side was well responded in the thrilling quarterfinal against Australia, the champions in the 2015 edition.

On a windy and a little cold night at Al Janoub Stadium in Doha, the Socceroos started the game well with full energy and fluent transition from defense to attack.

Craig Goodwin, the left winger in a 4-3-3 formation, grabbed possession on the edge of the area after a misplaced pass from the opponent, and smashed a left foot volley for the opener in the 42nd minute following good combination with Nathaniel Atkinson.

South Korea pushed even higher after the break but failed to net an equalizer after a bunch of crosses, as the towering center-back Harry Souttar led a solid defense in the area.

Facing elimination, Son Heung-min, the star forward for Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, stepped up to save South Korea.

His resolute burst six minutes into injury time led to Lewis Miller’s foul in the area.

Hwang Hee-chan, the striker for Premier League club Wolverhampton Wanderers, thumped the spot-kick past Australian keeper Mathew Ryan, dragging the quarterfinal game into the extra time.

The 31-year-old Son again proved the value of the ace star.

Son curled a trademark free-kick over the Australian wall in the first half of the extra time, sending Klinsmann’s side through to the next round.

Earlier on Friday, Jordan entered the semifinals for the first time in their history after a 1-0 victory over Tajikistan.

Having reached the quarterfinals twice, the West Asian team finally strode a step forward this time.

Center-back Abdallah Nasib rose high to meet a cross from the corner in the 66th minute, and his header bounced off Tajik defender Vahdat Hanonov before falling into the net.

Tajikistan, who were on their maiden continental campaign, ended their fairy-tale runs on a high note.

The Asian Cup, featuring a total of 24 teams, is running from January 12 to February 10.

–IANS

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