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scouting

2023 AFC Asian Asian Cup: Australia vs. South Korea Quarterfinal Preview

Four of Asia's top teams meet in the quarterfinals of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, including a match between fourth and third - Australia and South Korea this Friday night. A win would set up a semifinal against Tajikistan or Jordan.
(Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)

Overview & Match Information

Fixture: Australia vs. South Korea
Competition: 2023 AFC Asian Cup, Quarterfinal
Venue: Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
Date: Friday 2nd February, 18:30 (Sat. 3rd February, 00:30 AM KST)

A repeat of the 2015 final, South Korea take on Australia for a place in the semifinals of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. Both will fancy themselves, both are among the tournament favourites. Rest and recovery may be the difference as Australia will have had a five-day rest before facing Korea; Jurgen Klinsmann's men went into extra time and penalties against Saudi Arabia and will only have had three days off.

Klinsmann, though, isn't using the lack of rest as an excuse: "We have players playing in the Premier League every three, four days. Also in the K League, they play sometimes every three, four days. It's absolutely doable.

"Athletes learn how to deal with fatigue and how to deal with pain. Now, we have to go through pain. These players have the will to go through pain, which they did in the second half (against Saudi Arabia)," the coach said. "We're going to be fit, and we're going to be fresh when we go on the field against Australia," he said via Yonhap.

Opta says that South Korea have a 47.6% chance of beating Australia with the Socceroos the favourites at 52.4%. In terms of title odds, Australia also seem to be the front runners with Opta giving Graham Arnold's men a 20.7% chance; South Korea's chances are currently at 17.3%.



Recent Form

It was, technically, another draw for South Korea last time out but one that, even after the end of normal time, will have felt like a win. Korea struck in the ninth minute of time added on to force extra time and penalties with Cho Gue-sung's close-range header Korea's just rewards for simply refusing to be beaten. Korea registered 22 total shots, 11 of which came in the second half. In extra time, too, Korea kept going and edged possession and dominated the number of chances - five compared to Saudi Arabia's two.

Head-to-Head

Friday's meeting will be the first in competitive action since the 2015 AFC Asian Cup final. The Socceroos, led by current Tottenham Hotspur boss Ange Postecoglou, won in extra time after Son Heung-min had found a late, late equaliser. The two teams had met in the Group Stage, too, with Korea emerging as 1-0 winners thanks to a Lee Jeong-hyeop goal on 32 minutes. The most recent meeting was a friendly in June 2019 in Busan where Korea picked up a 1-0 win. Overall, there have been nine matches played between Australia and Korea with the Taeguk Warriors winning four, drawing three, and losing two. 


The Opposition with Commentator Simon Hill

Australia celebrate 4th goal in 4-0 Ro16 win over Indonesia (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images)
10 Football and Paramount+ Australia commentator Simon Hill provides an insight on the Socceroos heading into Friday's quarterfinal.

From Australia's perspective, what are your thoughts on the Socceroos getting drawn against South Korea in the quarters?

"Well, this is the toughest game that Australia have had so far. There's no doubt about that.
You know, Indonesia, with the greatest respect, were not the strongest of oppositions and even so, they frustrated Australia for long periods. The 4-0 scoreline was a little bit flattering in the end. But, the one thing that you can say about Australia is that they've got the job done in all the games that they've played. Even against Uzbekistan, which they drew, that was the result they needed to top the group. So they haven't really been in any trouble in this tournament as yet. So this could be a different sort of a game for them in some ways. It might suit them a little bit because South Korea, I think, will come out and play. That's very much the way they're expected to play, particularly given their big-name stars, they've got been players playing in some of the top leagues and top clubs in the world. So it might suit Australia in some ways. 

"One of the reasons why they did so well at the World Cup is that they were able to play against teams with greater reputations and on paper, at least better players than them.
But the collective, the organization defensively allowed them to withstand any pressure that was put on them, and they were good enough to pinch a goal at the other end. It's almost felt a little bit like that in terms of the results at this Asian Cup, but the difference has been in most of the, if not all of the games so far, they've been expected to be the team that dominates. And they're not necessarily the best in the world at doing that at the moment, because they don't really have, for example, a Son Heung-min, a Lee Kang-in so it might be a fixture that suits them a little bit more, but the way that the drawers opened up suggests that if they win this game and, I won't say an easy path to the final, but a more straightforward one that perhaps they would have expected.": 

Australia have look quite assured, confident and professional as far as their performances are concerned. Will they be phased at all in getting drawn against one of the favourites? 

"No, I don't think that they'll be fazed. I mean, obviously they played at the World Cup against the likes of Argentina who they ran pretty close to be honest, and that's not too long ago. Most of this team, or a lot of this team, were involved in that squad so I don't think there will be overawed. They would probably, I think, have preferred to play Saudi Arabia. Again, just because they don't have those outstanding individuals, probably with Salem Al-Dawsari as an exception, whereas the Korean team is littered with them, really. But I think they'll be confident they've got a good record in big tournaments of not necessarily being the favored team, but you know, fighting hard and getting the results. I think they'll be quietly confident to get in the job done. And of course, the other thing to throw into the mix is that South Korea have got two less days to prepare. I mean, the scheduling for me is, is a little bit of a question mark. I worked it out, it will be 68 hours from the end of the penalty shootout against Saudi Arabia to kick off against Australia, which I don't think that's particularly fair on South Korea."

What can we expect from Australia in terms of tactics or formation? Any personnel changes?

"It's possible. I certainly think Mitch Duke comes back into contention in the central striking role, although Bruno Fornaroli did well for me, particularly in the first half against Indonesia. I'd personally like to see him maintain his spot because I think it suits the way Australia play a little bit more, but Mitch Duke is certainly the number-one choice in that position. He's back fit again after his hamstring strain so he will possibly come back in. Craig Goodwin's cameo off the bench against Indonesia, the last 10 minutes was very good - a goal and an assist and his set piece delivery is one of the reasons why he's in this squad. I think it was a little knee problem that it had for a week or so. He's still important for Australia so those would be the two players I would imagine might come back in.

"There's a couple of slight question marks in the defense. Gethin Jones, does he maintain his spot? Although, again, he put in a great cross for Martin Boyle's second goal against Indonesia. The squad is full of right backs, Lewis Miller, Tommy Deng, Nathaniel Atkinson, that they can all take that spot. The other slight question mark, I guess, is, whether Cameron Burgess comes back in to partner Harry Souttar in preference to Kye Rowles but I would imagine he'd stick with Kye Rowles." 

Any areas of weakness in this Socceroos side?

"Well, the one that is glaring at the moment is their lack of creativity. I mean, the team really misses having a true number 10. The proper creative players that we've had over the last few years, Aaron Mooy, Tommy Rogic, Massimo Luongo, are all now retired. The heir to that throne, if you want to call it that, Ajdin Hrustic has suffered from injuries and lack of game time, so he's not in this squad. So without those players, there isn't really a true number 10. Now, there's creativity in other areas. Craig Goodwin is a good deliverer of set pieces. Martin Boyle takes on his man and is very direct. Riley McGree offers a little bit of spark in that number 10 role, if you like, but he's not a true creative player. 

"In fact,  the one player in the squad that hasn't really been used much as yet, that's Marco Tilio but he normally starts in a wider role. And again, he's barely had any club football with Celtic this season at all. So, you know, I would imagine you'd stick with McGree now that he's back fully fit again, Connor Metcalfe is another option, but again, they're different sorts of midfielders to that true playmaker. So that's, that's the glaring problem, I think for Australia. So far, they've dealt with it, they cope with it, but can they do so against a team that is obviously on a different level to the ones I've played already?" 


It might be a tight game, two fairly evenly-matched teams. Korea have Lee Kang-in who can sort of conjure up something from nothing and can be a match-winner. Who is that person for Australia, do you think?

"Well, there's a couple. Martin Boyle is certainly capable, he's got a decent goal scoring records. Jackson Irvine has had a very good, was maybe a little bit unlucky not to get credited with a third goal for the opener against Indonesia, but it did take a heavy touch off Elkan Baggott. And of course, in terms of set pieces, which is Australia's strength, then you're looking at big Harry Souttar, who's almost impossible to defend in the air. Now I would imagine Kim Min-jae might go one-on-one with him from those situations because you can't really afford to leave him on his own. If Craig Goodwin or another player gets their delivery right from those set pieces, he can be hard to stop. It's not often in international football that you say a central defender is one of your main attacking threats but that's the way it is for Australia at the moment."

Simon's thoughts on South Korea:

"To be honest, with a bit like a lot of the other big names, they've struggled. Australia have struggled in a creative sense. I think South Korea's problems have probably been a little bit more at the other end where that they've been sloppy and conceded silly goals. Certainly, the one against Malaysia, and against Jordan they needed that stoppage time goal to get out of jail, if you like. Similar story against Saudi Arabia where it looked to me as though they were heading out, to be honest, even though they were on the front foot in the second half. But they don't seem to have been very fluent, South Korea, and maybe that's common with the other big nations again. Is that complacency or is that something a bit deeper? I don't really know, I have to say."

Watch the full interview on KLU Patreon. Simon talks about who he thinks will win this quarterfinal clash and who will go on to win the whole competition.

KLU Patreon

Who to Watch

Son Heung-min

Son Heung-min (R) is distraught after losing to Australia in 2015 Asian Cup final (PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images)
Nine years ago, South Korea suffered Asian Cup heartbreak when they lost in the final to hosts Australia. What will have made it even more painful is that Korea equalised in the 91st minute through Son Heung-min, only to then lose the match in extra time. Son, then just 22 and still with Bayer Leverkusen, is one of just two players who are still with the national team squad, the other being centre back Kim Young-gwon. So, in terms of players will be looking to make the difference, no one will be as fired up as Korea's skipper. 

Son has spoken of not wanting to repeat the same mistakes but recognises how difficult of a match this will be: "Clearly, this is a game that will not be easy. Australia are in very good form but this is football and anything can happen... 2015 really hurt. I'm really determined to not make the same mistakes from back then."

Son's performances have come under the spotlight as, despite scoring two goals, both have been penalties. The Spurs skipper has registered 20 shots, of which nine have hit the target. His xG for the tournament so far is 3.15. Taking away penalties, it's 18 shots and seven on target with an xG of 1.63. Son carries the weight of a nation on his shoulders every time he puts on the Korea shirt and so his role is more than just scoring goals. He'll draw defenders away from the likes of Lee Kang-in, do a lot of running, and sacrifice himself for the team. But Son will want to exorcise the ghost of 2015 and progress to the semis. Son actually ranks first in the competition for total shots (20) and touches in the box (35) so will be confident of a first goal from open play.

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