Son’s Brace takes Korea to Asia Cup Semifinals

Extra Time over: 2-0 Korea over Uzbekistan – a grueling quarterfinal clash featuring nail biting end to end action, finally concludes with Team Korea digging deep to overcome fatigue to score 2 extra time goals, courtesy of Son Heung-Min. The Bayer Leverkusen man found a good time to stop his tournament scoring drought as Korea now advances to face the winner of tomorrow’s Iran v Iraq quarterfinal.  

There are several incredible moments frozen in time: the image of Son’s face as jubilance at seeing the ball go in the net turned to anguish and pain as he collapsed in the 119th minute…


Before we go further, it’s 5:50 am here at the physical Tavern so this is going to be a flittering reel of observations / thoughts / tweet recollections and points to take away from this quarterfinal. Here we go:

Pre match:

Uzbekistan’s coach Mirjalol Qosimov made a bold prediction – that he and his side will beat Korea. Uli doesn’t bite. Instead Son Heung-min gets out in front and sends a special message to Taeguk Warrior supporters via youtube in which he asks people not to be overly be critical and nitpicky (hello? netizens?).

Despite winning Group A, Korea’s lineup had been battered by some key injuries: both Lee Chung-yong and Koo Ja-Cheol out was a big blow to the teams hopes of going deep into the tourney.  With Iran possibly looming in the semis, should Stielike rest players like captain Ki? Would Kim Ju-Young recover in time to be paired with either Kwak or Kim Young-Gwon as the CB pair in the back?  Cha back at right back?  The starting lineup please:

Similar to the last starting XI vs Australia, no Cha, but Nam Tae-hee in the middle. Ok, carry on.  

That early scare gives an idea of how Korea was operating from the onset, under pressure from Uzbekistan. But they couldn’t sustain the pace and Korea managed to settle things.  As the game muddled on, it seemed for every time Korea would build an attack that would fail, Uzbekistan was ready to pounce on the counter, looking more or less dangerous each time. It’s at this point in the match that things got a bit crazy.


We’ll exit the twittersphere for a moment – a number of great chances for either side, with the goalkeepers the reason things were still nil-nil – it was thrilling AND incredibly frustrating to witness simultaneously. We reach HT, scoreless. Son, who was a bit anonymous at the start, towards the end of the half was as Duerden put it, starting to get into a groove (listening to some old school Madge are we?) Meanwhile Lee Jung-Hyub, on getting serviced by Son, was nearly one on one with the keeper, but his shot was incredibly wide of the target.  This might’ve been the reason Ki started coming up further to shoot.   2nd half, Korea had the better of the two sides with utterly dead on chances to go ahead.  

Wait, I’ll be back – got to get the kids up in a few minutes for school. Stay tuned…

and I’m back…


In the 65th minute, Korea with a near setpiece defending catastrophe averted when Nasimov connects but misses at the back post. 12 minutes later, again problems:

Nam Tae-hee will probably rather forget this:

  It’s now the first deadlocked game after 90 minutes in the tourney, and the first goal-less game as well. But it is here, in the agony of extra time that Korea reached deep within and found their inner Taeguk Warrior, summoned just for the occasion.  We go to just before the extra time break, Hoffenheim man Kim Jin-Su pries the ball away from an Uzbek player deep in their half, then quickly crosses to Son: Magic. But there was still 15 minutes to go. Tenseness in the Korea camp as Uzbekistan pressed for an equalizer.  Each time Korea cleared it, Uli Stielike kept waving his hands, signaling his players to not park the bus but to press onward.  The tired squad considered doing so. Finally in the 119th minute, Cha Du-Ri went ahead and launched a counter, drove heroically down the right flank, exposing the defense who were busy in Korea’s half.  Cha kept going. Then old man Cha shifted into another gear, outran the first defender, nutmegged a 2nd before finding Son approaching the edge of the box. Defenders who were supposed to mark him, instead rushed to cover an onrushing Cha.  The son of legend Cha Bum-Kun brilliantly laid it off for ‘Sonaldo’. A few tense miliseconds for him to settle the ball and BOOM – he blasted the shot center high, past the keeper and on into the net. Magic x2. Game over. Check out Cha’s run and Son’s goal:

To that moment I wrote earlier about frozen in time, you can see from the replay Son’s joy upon realizing that it’s going in -turning to pain and agony as he collapses in slow motion.  He was stretchered off, but came limping back in before the game was over. Here’s what happened before the final whistle:

  Here’s what we can take away from this match:



    • Free kicks / corner kicks: no, Korea didn’t score from set pieces, but this is very much in the postiv development column today. Son, Ki and Kim Jin-Su all were able to send some pernicious balls into Uzbek’s area – a number of these could’ve have been gone in if it weren’t that Korea faced yet another outstanding keeper.


  • Son rises to the occasion: He was highly touted before the tournament, but has had some mixed performances, perhaps hampered by the flu. While Kim Jin-Su and Cha Du-Ri needs to take a bow for their brilliant work to create both goals, Son was there to finish.  Makes people, including Jae to wonder whether he needs to be converted as Korea’s choice for center forward.  And with all the chances created, the margin could have been higher. Still, it goes on record as Korea’s first multi goal game thus far in the Asia Cup.



  • Ki Sung-Yeung:  solid as captain. Flawless passing, metronomic precision, keeps the ball and Korea moving along.



  • Fullbacks: Kim Jin-Su was in beast mode. Absolutely critical to Korea today, set up the first goal with his feisty steal and cross. While Kim Chang Soo had a quieter game, the introduction to his substitute Cha Du-Ri literally was a game changer. Korea started to have more options down the right; he kept up a good solid D while fit enough to bomb it down the line -which he did to help put the game away in extra time. Said it before, saying it again: the old man still has it. That and it’s his 2nd crucial assist in the tourney – the first was against Kuwait when he crossed to Nam Tae-Hee – his header was the lone goal and eventual game winner.




    • Quality in the final third: Breaking things down from the forward question, Lee Keun-ho and Lee Jung-Hyub, while they combined for the goal against Australia, this time were blanking out, both flubbing their shots on goal. Nam Tae-hee, filling in for an injured Koo Ja-Cheol today when he had a wide open net, couldn’t connect on Ki’s cross to score late in the 83rd minute.


  • Game goes to extra time: as a result of squandering their chances to score in regulation time, all the players, were gassed at the end. Both Son & Ki had cramping symptoms during extra time. Great to win, sure, but as a consequence of going into OT, they will have Iran (probably) breathing down their neck in the semis. Should Iran and Iraq not go into extra time, Korea may find themselves struggling to keep up.



  • This might sound familiar: despite a clean sheet, Korea could count themselves lucky they didn’t concede today. Heart Attack inducing set piece defending? Check. Unmarked players on the far post? Check. Were it not for their lack of clinical finishing, the scoreline and the outcome may have been vastly different.  Uli and Team Korea and the entirety of their defense has to wonder how much longer can their luck last?



  Just got a tweet, video highlight reel from the AFC:

Here are your final game stats, courtesy of the AFC (first stat sheet is after 90 minutes, followed by extra time)


Kwak Tae-Hwi was somehow named Man of the Match today by tournament officials. By what committee?  Not to denigrate Kwak, he didn’t have a terrible game per se, but really? Moving on…

About to close up the Tavern…but wait, it’s morning time…guess we’ll open the Tavern again. What are your thoughts on the game?  How should Uli try to organize the lineup in preparation for the semifinal – which by the way will be…

Korea v (winner of Iran v Iraq) Monday January 26 at 4am US EST /  6pm Korea Time (lucky bastards).

About Roy Ghim 454 Articles
The old Tavern Owner


  1. I don’t entirely agree with everyone’s fear of the team being gassed. They should be gassed! It’s a tournament after all. If any player on any team isn’t gassed at the end of the game, they didn’t play a strong team… at this point all the teams are good so it shouldn’t be an excuse. Also, this cup has one less game than the World Cup… and that tournament has much stronger teams. Every player needs to be ready Our team is filled with professionals and they gotta expect it. I’m gonna go one step further and say that Korea moreso than any team in the tournament has it easier at this point. They’ll get an extra day of rest (Iran/Iraq play tomorrow) and then whoever wins that match will get an extra day of rest over Aussie/Jap or UAE for the final. That’s crucial! I realize that Korea has injury concerns and also had a sickness, but again… comes with the territory. They’re in a good spot I think and they gotta use that to their advantage.

    • PS thanks for the write up. Nice to relive the moments. This wasn’t the team’s best game but it was Son’s best, and there are definitely positive takeaways. I knew Uzbek would bring it… they’re a good team and will hopefully get better and better in the future. We were definitely lucky not to concede a goal at a few moments.

      • I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am always end up being surprised to see Uzbekistan taking Korea to it’s limits. There’s not much news as to how they set up their national football program, their footballing culture and overall infrastructure, but judging solely on that team’s performance, they can really play some decent football.

        • didn’t uzbekistan just barely miss getting to the world cup by a game or something? def shouldn’t be surprised. i think they are the best of the second tier after the traditional asian powers.

  2. It’s amazing how Korea has managed to keep a clean while playing mediocre defense. They really have been lucky. I’m not anticipating a victory for Korea if they play against Iran.

    Son did a great job with finishing his few chances, but he appeared to be poor on the ball. He kept losing the ball, especially in the first half.

    I don’t like how Korea is playing too direct and relying on long balls. If they had Kim Shin Wook, then this strategy would make sense. Korea doesn’t seem to have the right personnel to play an effective short-passing game without KJC and LCY, but I think Korea should try to retain possession better.

    • I saw this. I know Cha Bum-kun is a legend in Korea, but I didn’t know how popular he was in certain parts of Germany. It’s amazing how people still remember and recognize him. I watched the game with my dad and he told me that Cha Du Ri’s dribbling run that set up Korea’s 2nd goal really reminded him of Cha Bum-kun.

  3. i like how the korean announcer said after he set up the goal, “i wonder why this type of player like cha duri was sitting at home during the KNT during the world cup?”

    • And the concept that one small change in the past can have a significant ripple-effect makes you think…. what if we had Cha for 2014 WC?

      Surely we could have used his veteran presence too, as the 2014 WC SKNFT were 8th youngest team (iirc) of the tournament.

      • yea, i wasn’t too critical of hong myong bo overall as it’s hard to blame him for much with how little time he had, but i definitely didn’t like his not including cha.

  4. Okay so the atmosphere at the match was amazing, the Korean fans were honestly so good, we cheered till we lost our voices!
    A few things:
    1. Although Son did score two goals, he was largely shut down for a lot of the match.
    2. Park Joo-Ho did amazingly, he was running around everywhere, cleaning up the ball a lot, and always a passing option.
    3. By the end Ki was actually just walking, worried about the players :/
    4. I, to be honest thought Kwak taewhi was the man of the match, his positioning was good bar some moments of speed from the Uzbek team.
    5. Nam, Ki, and Son triangle would work a lot better than any combo I’ve seen, maybe Jinsu supporting too.
    6. I think subbing Cha was a really good decision, however, I think maybe subbing him on at half time is a better option.

    • Wow! You were at the match – super! And might I add, I’m very envious – in a good way of course!

      Good points you made. and I must say I forgot to include Park Joo-Ho -he is improving as part of the double pivot and looked solid to me (save for one back pass, but I think Kim Young-Gwon took care of that – here’s to teamwork, right?).

      I absolutely agree about Cha – HT sub would have been more timely but credit Stielike – he eventually signaled for the move – better late than never.

      Ki was just walking at the end – yeah I wonder if he can be subbed in against Iraq (now that the upset has just occurred -I’m still amazed that happened!).

      • Yeah the match was super fun. A lot of Aussies had bought tickets assuming australia would beat korean and play in melbourne, and they were all going against korea, which was fun when we won.
        Another thing that I hate saying but realised was that the ref was absolute shit. The way Uzbeks were tackling there should have been two send offs for sure. Our attackers were fouled by their last men on five different occasions and not even a card was drawn

  5. Iran and Japan are out? Maybe we should be happy… but I’m not. I wanted a rematch for both! Yes Iran and Japan are tougher than Iraq and UAE. But still… I think Korea should have faxed the harder teams. The Asian cup isn’t super important, and it’d be a better test for them.
    Aussie fans are probably ecstatic though. They’re probably counting on a final at home. When’s the last time that happened at a major competition?

    • whoa. crazy. and i agree with you. i’d rather see them play good teams. but iraq and uae aren’t jokes either. they are sort of in that second tier i mentioned with uzbekistan. uae i believe has sort of been knocking on the doors of breaking through a little bit in terms of talent, from what i’ve heard, but they just haven’t put it together. i’d say beating japan is putting it together.

    • I feel you man…I have mixed feeling about it. I love the unpredictability of tournaments – those are pretty amazing upsets. UAE – who would’ve thought they could’ve taken out the Blue Samurai? Holy smokes… but as neat as a Korea v Iran and Korea v Japan asia cup rematch would’ve been, for reasons stated in the tavern preview podcast, should Korea win the cup (and I don’t want to presume given all these upsets now) – benefits are Confederations Cup entry (talk about a great test for Uli & KNT) and scouts who could take a look or two at Koreans who could represent in top flight euro leagues (NTH ?). This is the break that a injury battered KNT needs to win that damn cup.

      • This perspective of Euro clubs purchasing players based on short tournaments (WC, Asian Cup and etc) is over-rated. When Japan beat Korea in last Asian Cup, it was only Okazaki (ugly split with his J-league club to transfer to Europe) & Tandanari Lee who benefited (just like Koo & Ji moving to Europe for bigger transfer fee). The other Japanese who moved to Bundesliga and etc so forth happened afterwards (some moving to Bundesliga 2 as transition before Bundesliga) & they weren’t even part of the Asian Cup squad in 2011 (the other players such as Hosogai & Nagatamo confirmed their move before the tourney).

        Kagawa’s great form (same with Uchida at Schalke) really helped Bundesliga clubs to take a punt at Japanese players after 2011 AC. The same way Korean players are benefiting from Son’s great rise in Bundesliga (HSV, Leverkusen).

        • Good points, you might be right, but if I had to guess, scouts are there and looking for ‘diamonds in the rough’. It certainly can’t hurt to have scouts taking notes, and should players like Nam make an impression – well, clubs might roll the dice. Let’s see what happens.

          • Well, NTH is out of contract soon. I’m sure clubs have noticed his stats from Qatar (along with clubs asking Stielike about him). Certainly worth a punt (as long as he doesn’t ask for crazy wage) for many low-tiered clubs in Europe.

          • You guys seem to forget that Nam has played in Europe for most of his teenage life. I think, if anyone in the NT, it would be him that’s ready for a move to a European club.

  6. Whoo, it’s been a while since I last posted xP Things r lookin real good, so much better than b4; like Uli said, we still haven’t seen Son in top form yet cuz of flu. & dat nu GK =O…. Is he the real deal? Everything just feels more…solid, for lack of a better term. Especially liking Uli stressing the mental aspects, telling the team to toughen up, don’t b choke artists; hope the players take this to heart 🙂

    Shame these games start in the wee hrs here on the east coast (don’t even know if they’re on TV), but I’ll b keeping my eye on developments that’s for sure

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