Thu, Jul 26, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Iraq send South Korea crashing

AFP , KUALA LUMPUR

South Korea's Cho Jae-jin, left, vies for the ball with Iraq's Nashat Akram during their Asian Cup semi-final match at the Bukit Jalil stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

Iraq stunned South Korea 4-3 on penalties to win their way into the Asian Cup final for the first time after a match of excruciating tension yesterday.

Tournament surprises Iraq will play Saudi Arabia -- who defeated defending champions Japan -- in Sunday's decider in Jakarta.

The epic match went to a shootout after both sides failed to score in over two hours of sustained, committed soccer.

It is Iraq's first-ever Asian Cup final after getting as far as the 1976 semi-final against Kuwait, which went to extra time, while South Korea were chasing their third title since 1960.

In emotional scenes at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, Iraqi players rushed to their supporters to grab national flags as other players wept with joy when realization hit that they had won.

The decisive breakthrough came in the shoot-out when goalkeeper Noor Sabri, the man-of-the-match, pushed Yeom Ki-hun's attempt past the post and then Kim Jung-woo's shot hit the post and bounced away.

Iraq are now just one match away from completing their greatest soccer achievement after they reached the semi-final of the 2004 Athens Olympics and the final of last year's Asian Games in Doha.

It was desolation for the South Koreans, who were backing up after their win on penalties over Iran in their quarter-final last Sunday.

Iraq had the better scoring chance in an uninspiring first 45 minutes with midfielder Karrar Jassim just failing to get his head on to a cross from Haidar Abdul Amer after 28 minutes.

Skipper Younis Mahmoud had two chances, hitting the side-netting in the 16th minute and just sending his shot wide of the diving Lee Woon-jae late in the half.

The South Koreans had several chances with goalkeeper Noor Sabri having little trouble defusing Yeom Ki-hun's tame downward header and punching clear a Lee Chun-soo free kick a few minutes before half-time.

But South Korea ramped up the pressure in the second half with winger Choi Sung-kuk's pass blocked by Ali Hussein Rehema with two team-mates in a scoring position.

Noor punched away another attack away to safety as the South Koreans kept up the pressure on Iraq's goal.

Yeom Ki-hun's left-foot free kick almost caught out the Iraqi goalkeeper minutes later but he scrambled it clear as the South Koreans mounted more pressure.

Again the Koreans pressed and defender Kim Jin-kyu's header off a corner just missed the target.

Lee Chun-soo had a glorious chance but sent his first-time volley sailing past the post with Noor beaten.

Choi was stretchered off with five minutes of normal time left to make way for Middlesbrough striker Lee Dong-guk.

The South Koreans peppered the Iraqi goal in the final minutes of regulation time but the game went into 30 minutes' extra-time.

Hawar Mohammed had a great chance to put Iraq ahead when Haidar's cross had the Korean defense in a dither and Hawar's shot hit the inside of the post and rolled along the goal-line for Kim Jin-kyu to hack it away.

But it ended in a deadlock that took it to penalties.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top