S. Korea plays Saudi Arabia to scoreless draw in final prep before Olympic qualifiers

January 7, 2016


SEOUL (Yonhap) — South Korea ended in a scoreless draw with Saudi Arabia on Thursday in Dubai in their final test match ahead of next week’s Olympic qualifiers.

Coming off a 2-0 victory over the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, South Korea failed to generate much offense against Saudi Arabia at Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium.

South Korea will now travel to Qatar Friday to prepare for the 2016 AFC U-23 Championship Jan. 12-30. The competition will double as the Asian qualifying tournament for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. South Korea must finish in the top three to advance to their eighth consecutive Olympics.

Saudi Arabia took control early and South Korea generated barely any offense in the first half.

Mustafa Al Bassas hit the left goal post for Saudi Arabia a dozen minutes in, as he pounced on a loose ball from the top of the box and froze goalkeeper Kim Dong-jun on his spot in the middle of the net.

South Korea’s only scoring chance in the first half came in the 28th minute when Lee Seul-chan’s volley went off the crossbar, after goalkeeper Abdullah Al Arraf punched away a shot right to the South Korean defender.

South Korea appeared to come alive in the second half. In the 58th, some fine passes from midfield sent Kim Hyun past two defenders, but the streaking forward could only manage a weak roller wide of the left post.

In the next minute, Sim Sang-min got off a volley after Saudi Arabia failed to clear the loose ball, only to bounce it weakly into the arms of Al Arraf.

That was the extent of South Korea’s offense, however, as the two sides engaged in a dull affair.

Kim Dong-jun kept the match scoreless with a spectacular save on Saleh Al Jamaan in the 83rd. Abdulwahab Jafar hit the crossbar from just inside the box, and the rebounded landed right at Al Jamaan in the point-blank range. The South Korean goalkeeper stood his ground and denied the forward a chance to be the hero.

At the AFC tournament, South Korea have been paired with Uzbekistan, Iraq and Yemen in Group C.

There are 16 nations, divided into four groups of four. The top two countries from each group will reach the quarterfinals.

South Korea will first face Uzbekistan on Jan. 13, followed by Yemen on Jan. 16 and Iraq on Jan. 19.

South Korea won bronze at the 2012 Olympics in London, the country’s first Olympic medal in football. They have competed in every Olympics since 1988.