Taiwan's chances of qualifying for next year's Asian Cup look almost impossible after the national soccer team was soundly beaten 3-0 by South Korea in its third Group B match at Taipei's Zhongshan Stadium (
It certainly wasn't a beautiful game, but Taiwan, which beat Macau in a warm-up friendly by one goal to nil in the former Portuguese colony last weekend, was outplayed from the kick-off.
A spirited, yet lackluster, team was made to pay for some sloppy defending and almost non-existent midfield. But the much-expected rout never materialized.
The 5,000 or so local fans and a few hundred Korean supporters had to wait until the 31st minute for the opening goal.
Ahn Jung-Huan made a meal of it, but the the ball somehow managed to find its way into the back of the net over the prone Taiwan goalkeeper, Lu Kun-chi (呂昆錡).
The second goal came in the 55th minute after a long cross from outside the penalty area found the foot of Jung Jo-gook, who volleyed it into the net.
The third and final goal arrived in the 81st minute from a daisy-cutter by Kim Do-heon.
Prior to kick-off South Korea's Dutch coach, Pim Verbeek, said that he was hoping that the qualifying match would "break the jinx that has plagued [South Korea] in its away games in recent months."
And for a while he had cause to worry as the match was far less of a formality than he anticipated.
"We had seen Taiwan play on DVD and saw their defense was well organized. We tried to score an early goal, but it was more difficult then we thought," said a visibly relieved Verbeek.
"In the second half we were more in control defensively, and we didn't give much away. We created more chances but we didn't score the goals. I wasn't satisfied with three goals. There should have been more," he added.
Even though his team was beaten, Taiwan's coach Imai Toshaiko still managed to sound upbeat at the post-match press conference.
"We lost the game," said Toshaiko. "But I think we made a bit of progress, as we were playing South Korea and they are a very strong team."
The result means that Taiwan sit at the bottom of group B, having lost three matches and scored zero goals. South Korea now has six points from two games.
Taiwan's next game will see the squad travel to South Korea on Sept. 6, when it has the unenviable task of taking on the Asian Tigers on their home turf at the 64,000-seat Seoul World Cup Stadium.
The 2007 Asian Cup will for the first time be jointly hosted by four nations -- Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam -- from between July 7 and 29 next year. Sixteen teams -- the six winners and runners up from the qualifying groups and the four host nations -- will compete for the cup. The current holder of the cup is Japan, which beat China by three goals to one in Beijing in 2004.
According to the latest FIFA world soccer rankings South Korea are in 56th place and Taiwan in 149th place between Turkmenistan and Surinam.