(Asian Cup) Draw vs. underdog Jordan learning experience for S. Korea: Sonny

January 22, 2024

In light of South Korea’s 2-2 draw against the underdog Jordan on Saturday at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup in Qatar, captain Son Heung-min acknowledged he wasn’t pleased with the team’s performance. But that doesn’t mean the match was all for naught.

“As you can see in the Asian Cups, there is never an easy game. If you’re not ready mentally and physically, they can hurt you,” Son said in a scrum with English-speaking media at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha. “Today is another good example. As a player, as a team, we learned something from this game and luckily, it’s happened in the group stage. So we have to move on, and we have to be even stronger.”


South Korea came into the Group E match ranked 23rd in the world, 64 spots above Jordan. South Korea had also never lost to Jordan in five previous meetings.

Son put South Korea on the board with a ninth-minute penalty, but then Jordan grabbed the lead afterward thanks to an own goal by South Korean midfielder Park Yong-woo and a go-ahead goal by Yazan Al-Naimat.

It was Al-Naimat’s own goal early in second-half stoppage time that allowed South Korea to salvage the draw.

Jordan remained atop Group E with four points, South Korea also have four points but trail Jordan in goal difference, +4 to +2.

South Korea will close out the group stage against No. 130 Malaysia on Thursday, while Jordan will take on Bahrain the same day. If South Korea and Jordan both win those matches without South Korea overcoming the goal difference gap, then South Korea will advance to the round of 16 as the runner-up in Group E.

In that case, they will face the Group F winner, likely Saudi Arabia.

However, if South Korea can rout Malaysia and finish with a better goal difference than Jordan, South Korea will face the Group D runner-up, which will likely be Japan.

Japan became the victim of the tournament’s first big upset Friday, when they lost to Iraq 2-1. The first tiebreaker is the head-to-head record between the tied teams, and this means Japan cannot win Group D even if they finished tied with Iraq in points.

This could set up an earlier-than-anticipated showdown between South Korea and Japan, two bitter sporting rivals, in the first knockout match. If the two countries had won all three group matches and kept advancing, they would have clashed in the championship final.

Son, for his part, said he wasn’t ready to look that far down the road.

“When you want to win the tournament, you have to face any team, and you have to beat any team,” he said. “You never know what the future will be. We’ll just focus on the next game.”

South Korea are chasing their first AFC Asian Cup title since 1960.