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2023 AFC Asian Cup: South Korea's potential route to the final

It wasn't as straightforward as perhaps was expected but South Korea are through to the knockout rounds of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. Jurgen Klinsmann's team take on Saudi Arabia having avoided Japan as the two East Asian rivals finished second in their respective groups, and will only face each other in this competition if they reach the final. But, who would the Taeguk Warriors meet along the way?
Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images

The Taeguk Warriors, being the third-highest-ranked team in Asia behind Iran and Japan, were seen as one of the favourites heading into the tournament. Two straight draws with some less-than-impressive performances to end the Group Stage meant that South Korea finished second in Group E. T

alk of reaching the final, then, might be a bit presumptuous, particularly as Korea limped over the line and have a very tough Round of 16 clash with Saudi Arabia to contend with first. So, should South Korea make it past Saudi Arabia, who could they face in the subsequent rounds?

The winners of Saudi Arabia versus South Korea will face the winners of Australia versus Indonesia in the quarters. After that, it would be one of Tajikistan, a Paulo Bento-led United Arab Emirates, Iraq, or Jordan in the quarters. 

Given how the Group Stage went, Tajikistan versus the UAE will be close. Both earned four points in their respective groups to finish as runners-up. 

But given how strong Iraq have looked in the competition so far, with three wins from three in Group D, the Lions of Mesopotamia will be favourites to beat a Jordan side that lost to Bahrain in their final group match.

On paper, it looks like it could be Australia in the quarters and then Iraq in the semis for Korea. As for the final, Japan will be the favourites to beat Bahrain, Qatar will be backed to beat Palestine, while Uzbekistan versus Thailand could be a close one to call. 

But, should Korea see an upturn in form and make it to the final on 10th February, they are likely to be heading into a Han-Il derby against Japan.


 

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