Opposition Watch: Korea Republic tastes glory at Asian Games

The Caltex Socceroos are likely to face a confident Korea Republic in November after the Taegeuk Warriors’ exploits at the 2018 Asian Games.

Graham Arnold’s first match on home soil will be against Korea at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on November 17 in a crucial warm-up clash for both nations ahead of January’s AFC Asian Cup.

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And Korea will be riding high having won the Gold Medal at the Games, a multi-sport event held every four years.

How they won it

After coming through a seven-goal thriller against Uzbekistan in the quarter-finals, Korea had an easier time of things in the semis against Vietnam.

A double to Lee Seung-Woo and another goal from Hwang Ui Jo was enough for them to cruise to a 3-1 victory and book their spot in the final against Japan.

The Koreans were clearly the better team in the decider, dominating possession throughout (63% to 37%) and firing off 18 shots at goal to Japan’s seven.

But despite controlling the match, Kim Hak Bum’s men were unable to find a breakthrough with the sides goalless after 90 absorbing minutes.

Semi-final hero Seung-Woo broke the deadlock three minutes into extra-time, slamming the ball into the roof of the net after skipper Son Heung-Min’s layoff.

Son was the architect of Korea’s second goal eight minutes later, with his deep free-kick from the left headed in by Hwang Hee-Chan.

While Japan pulled a goal back five minutes from the end through Ayase Ueda, Korea held on to make it back-to-back gold medals in men’s football at the Asian Games.

Big moment for their star attacker

The Korean side received a huge reception on returning home at Incheon International Airport, with hundreds of fans waiting to greet the gold medallists.

Tottenham attacker Son Heung-Min is undoubtedly Korea Republic’s main man and the 26-year-old – who was captain throughout the tournament – was relieved to finally win a major event with the national team.

"I'm happy and thankful that I won with the South Korean jersey. I hope I can have more moments that I can smile at in the end," he said.

"It was the first time playing a competition as the team captain, so I was concerned," he added.

"But Hwang Ui-jo and other players helped me a lot. On the pitch, I felt more responsibility as captain.

"We had a tight schedule, and it was the first time since my middle or high school days that I played that many matches in such a short period of time.

"But I learned many things. Although I was physically tired, I tried not to show it to my teammates, and I always worked hard to sacrifice for the team. The players followed me, and that's why we got a good result."

Son Heung-Min

What’s next?

Before heading to Australia in November, Korea has four international friendlies lined up in September and October.

While the Caltex Socceroos are at a training camp in Turkey over the next week, Korea will play matches at home against Costa Rica on Friday, September 7 (AEST), before taking on South American powerhouses Chile four days later.

In October they face another South American side in Uruguay, while they will also face Panama on Monday, October 15 (AEST).

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This article was originally published on the Caltex Socceroos website.
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