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AFC U23 Championship Preview: South Korea vs Jordan

South Korea vs Jordan - AFC U23 Championship

South Korea have three wins out of three in the group stage, but there’s no room for error in their quarter-final match against Jordan. Unlike the group stage, or even the semi-finals, there are no second chances in the quarter-finals so if South Korea lose, their Olympic dreams will be over. No pressure then. K League United’s Korean National Team Correspondent Steve Price with the preview.
(Image via AFC)


Last Time Out

South Korea had already qualified from Group C before they played Uzbekistan, so the only thing they had to play for was the top spot in the group. For their opponents, qualification was still very much in the balance. Kim Hak-beom once again rotated his side, this time opting for slightly more experience against the current U23 AFC champions. Once again, long range shots made the difference for Korea who have been taking advantage of the relatively low quality of goalkeeping at this tournament. Oh Se-hun opened the scoring after five minutes with a swerving shot that wrong-footed the Uzbekistan goalkeeper. Uzbekistan soon leveled through Bobir Abdixolikov whose header looped over Song Beom-keun and into the far corner of the Korean net. Song will feel he should have done better to prevent what looked like a rather poor goal to concede. Oh Se-hun fired in the winner with twenty minutes to play. The striker spun on the ball after a sharp pass by Lee Dong-kyeong then shot from the edge of the box into the bottom corner.

Jordan took on the United Arab Emirates in their final Group D match knowing a score-draw would be enough for both sides to progress. The UAE took the lead on 41 minutes after Majid Rashid headed a corner back across goal for Al Ameri to tap home. Ihab Ali equalized for Jordan with quarter of an hour to go, getting on the end of an Omar Hani through-ball to slot home. The match finished 1-1, meaning the UAE face Uzbekistan and Jordan face South Korea in the quarterfinals. 

[READ: Group Stage Recap]

The Adversary

Jordan reached the quarterfinals with a win against North Korea followed by draws against Vietnam and the UAE. Fast on the counter-attack and good at creating chances, Jordan could have scored plenty more than their three goals so far in Thailand if their finishing had been up to scratch. Based on their previous games though, Jordan have enough in their locker to cause South Korea problems. The two goals they have conceded have come from poor defending on set-pieces so that may be a way in for Korea if they are pushing for a goal late in the game. Jordan will likely look to let South Korea have the ball and try to hit them on the counter attack. They only managed 38% possession against Vietnam and 41% against North Korea (two sides not famed for their possession football) but still created the better chances in both of those games.

What To Watch

With Kim Hak-beom rotating his team during the group stage, this match is the first chance to see what team he considers his best side. Defeat in the semifinals and South Korea would get another shot of Olympic qualification through the third-place playoff so this quarterfinal match is the most crucial match of the whole tournament for South Korea; now is not the time to rest your strongest players.

Oh Se-hun has started two of Korea’s matches and capped off a strong performance on his birthday with two goals against Uzbekistan. Kim Hak-beom said after that match that the performance had given Oh Se-hun a confidence boost and that he needs to play well for the whole team to be stronger. Lee Dong-jun is also showing why he was many people’s pick to have a strong tournament. He has two goals so far, including that crucial late winner against China, and is the only Korean in Asian football expert Martin Lowe’s Group Stage Best XI. Kim Hak-beom will be looking to get the most out of him in the knockout stages.

The two goals Korea have conceded so far this tournament have been a bit sloppy, and Jordan’s attack looks like it is able to turn an opponent’s sloppy play into a goal-scoring opportunity. Song Beom-geun will certainly be called into action a few times and will have to do better than he did for Uzbekistan’s goal if he wants to show fans why he is Jeonbuk’s Number One. When Korea won the Asian Games, Song was to blame for most of the sloppy goals Korea conceded, including a howler against Malaysia, so he still has some work to do to convince fans he is a future full national team goalkeeper.

But as South Korea are the only team in the tournament with a perfect record, which they earned from the so-called ‘group of death’, they should still approach this match with plenty of confidence.

South Korea play Jordan on Sunday 19th January at 19:15 Korean Time.


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