Taiwan on Tuesday displayed much improved gameplay, but still bowed out without a win in their FIFA World Cup Asia Group B second-round qualifying tour, losing 2-1 to Kuwait after captain Wu Chun-ching scored from a header.
Taiwan drew praise for a team effort and momentum on attack that produced a comeback in the second half to level the score at 1-1. They held the hosts through most of the game at the Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium in Kuwait City.
It was a much different performance from their first-leg match, in which Kuwait demolished Taiwan 9-0 on Nov. 14, 2019. On that occasion, Taiwan were in disarray and their defense crumbled under pressure.
However, on Tuesday, Taiwan had a better organized defense and strength in midfield, while they launched attacking runs to trouble the hosts.
Kuwait forward Yousef Nasser opened the scoring in the 14th minute, beating Taiwan goalkeeper Derek Shih on a low drive after a good buildup down the left side.
Taiwan picked up their game with tough defense and mounted forays into the opposition zone, but could not find the net.
Bader al-Motawa came close in the 38th minute, lobbing a shot from inside the box that bounced off a post, and a few minutes later supplied a free-kick for Hamad Al Harbi to put a header on target, but Shih denied him with an outstanding save to keep it at 1-0 going into halftime.
Taiwan pushed onto the offense at the start of the second half and were rewarded in the 51st minute.
Emilio Estevez Tsai swung in a cross from a free-kick, connecting with Wu, who found the back of the net with a brilliant header to equalize.
Both teams pressed to find a winner and it was Nasser who succeeded, scoring his second goal with a shot from 20m out to beat Shih in the 71st minute.
Taiwan threatened on the attack, but could not finish off their chances.
“It was an excellent free-kick from Tsai and I seized the opportunity with the header,” Wu said after the game.
“It was a great feeling to score,” he said of his 11th goal for Taiwan.
“At the start, our younger players were somewhat nervous and uptight, but with game action, they overcame the pressure and made strong runs on attack,” he said.
“It created chances for us, leading to free-kicks and corners, and ultimately to me scoring the goal,” Wu said. “They will improve with more international experience.”
Tsai said that communication played a large role in their goal.
“Before the free-kick, I checked Wu’s position and his intentions, and signaled to him,” Tsai said. “We know Wu has good ability in the air and he can head the ball well. I was ecstatic when the ball went in.”
Tsai said that Taiwan had a chance to go ahead in the first half after he was knocked down inside the area, but the referee ignored the incident.
“That’s part of the game,” he said. “We just had to forget that one and stay focused.”
“After playing the past three matches, I can see that we have a bright future and will improve,” Tsai said. “I want to return to fight for wins with these players.”
With the eight losses, Taiwan finished last in the five-team Group B in the second round of Asian qualifiers for next year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Kuwait were second in the group with 14 points, but also missed out on the final qualifying round because other second-place finishers had better records.
Additional reporting by CNA
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