Olympic soccer qualifying: S. Korea wins Group C after a draw against Iraq

January 19, 2016
Kim Hyun, left, gets a hug from Yoo Soo-hyun after his header found back of the net. (Yonhap)

Kim Hyun, left, gets a hug from Yoo Soo-hyun after his header found back of the net. (Yonhap)

South Korea allowed a game-tying goal in extra time to settle for a 1-1 draw against Iraq, but still topped their group in the Olympic men’s football qualifying tournament Tuesday.

South Korea took the lead on forward Kim Hyun’s first-half header, but let the win slip away in waning moments. Iraq’s Amjed Hussein scored the late equalizer in the final Group C match at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship in the Qatari capital of Doha.

Both countries finished the group stage with two wins and a draw, but the goal differential put the South Koreans on top (+6 to +3).

As the Group C winner, South Korea will face the yet-to-be-determined runner-up from Group D in the quarterfinals. If they get through, South Korea will face the winner of Qatar-North Korea matchup in the semifinals.

This competition is also serving as the Asian qualifying tournament for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. The top three nations will advance to the Olympics, and South Koreans are gunning for their eighth consecutive appearance in the quadrennial event.

Both South Korea and Iraq had secured knockout berths prior to the match, with only the top spot in the group at stake. South Korean head coach Shin Tae-yong inserted seven new starters into the lineup compared to the squad that defeated Yemen 5-0 last Saturday, and Kim Hyun, in his first start of the tournament, came through with the opening score in the 22nd.

Lee Chang-min sent a sharp cross from the left wing and Kim, the tallest South Korean attacker at 190 centimeters, deftly redirected it with his head past goalkeeper Karrar Ibrahim.

Iraq barely put up any fight in the opening half, though Amjed Waleed Hussein fired a low shot in the 40th that forced goalkeeper Kim Dong-jun to make a diving save to his left.

Iraq upped the pressure to open the second half, though their superior ball possession didn’t translate into dangerous opportunities.

Iraq kept knocking on the door over the final 15 minutes and finally got on board in injury time. Mohannad Abdul-Raheem took control of the ball on the right wing and sent a cross to the charging Hussein, whose redirection rolled past Kim Dong-jun in net.

South Korea coach Shin Tae-yong said he was disappointed with the way his players blew the lead, but the result will eventually serve as a good learning experience.

“I think we made a mistake of trying to protect the lead without adding more goals,” Shin said. “After the match, I told the players in the locker room to learn from this. We will make sure something like this won’t happen again in the knockout stage.”

Shin tried to look on the bright side and said the reserves who finally got a chance to play made strong contributions.

“Hwang Ki-wook (holding midfielder making his first start of the tournament) was our best player today,” the coach said. “And I think Kim Hyun must have grown more confident after scoring the goal. He will get his share of chances to play.”

Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Australia all have a chance to win Group D, and their final group matches will take place on Wednesday.


*Yonhap materials were used in this article.