S. Korea fall to Qatar in pursuit of spot in Olympic football qualifiers

September 6, 2023

South Korea lost to Qatar 2-0 on Wednesday to begin their pursuit of a berth in next year’s Asian Olympic men’s football qualifiers.

Qatar scored a goal in each half against a lethargic South Korea in Group B action in the qualification for the 2024 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Asian Cup at Changwon Football Center in the southeastern city of Changwon.

The 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, which kicks off in Qatar in April, will also serve as the regional qualification event for the Paris Olympics later that year. The top three teams at the AFC tournament will grab their tickets to France, and the fourth-ranked team will take on Guinea, the fourth-place team from the African qualifiers, in a playoff. South Korea have played at each of the past nine Olympic Games.

Wednesday’s match was inconsequential for both countries, though. Qatar, as the hosts of the AFC U-23 Asian Cup, have already qualified for the event and their matches in Changwon will not count toward Group B standings.

On the other hand, South Korea’s uninspiring performance Wednesday should be cause for concern for head coach Hwang Sun-hong.

The first South Korean match that matters will be against Kyrgyzstan at 8 p.m. Saturday, followed by the finale against Myanmar at 8 p.m. next Tuesday. Both matches will be at Changwon Football Center.

Earlier Wednesday, Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan played to a 1-1 draw.

There are 11 groups in the U-23 Asian Cup qualification. The 11 group winners and the four best runners-up will qualify for the main tournament.

South Korea had some promising moments early, with Jeon Byeong-gwan missing an open net after Heo Yool’s pass from the left side of the box found him all alone in the goalmouth.

But Qatar struck first in the 38th minute. Forward Ahmed Al-Rawi trapped a pass with his chest just outside the box, and fired a right-footed shot into the bottom right corner past goalkeeper Baek Jong-beom.

The teams traded some opportunities in the early moments of the second half. For South Korea, Oh Jae-hyeok tested goalkeeper Yousef Abdulla Baliadeh with a shot from the center of the box on 47 minutes. Some five minutes later, Al-Rawi forced Baek to make a diving save as he went for his second goal of the match.

Qatar doubled their lead with a bizarre goal on 67 minutes. Standing on the right side of the box with his back to the net, Tameem Mansour Al-Abdullah put his head to a throw-in by Abdalla Yousif. The ball sailed over multiple players, bounced in front of Baek, and then floated into the gaping net on the opposite side.

South Korea kept pushing for a goal that never came, as they misfired from all over the field.