January 31 – South Korea advanced to the quarter finals of the Asian Cup by way of penalty shootout on Tuesday night, as the Koreans left it late but got the job done over the high-flying Saudi Falcons.
South Korea boss Jurgen Klinsmann commended the efforts of his opposition and praised Saudi manager Roberto Mancini for his work in the transforming the Falcons since taking over six months ago.
“What Mancini has done for Saudi Arabia is exceptional – he has made them into a great team. They were better in the first half but we made changes and turned it around. We expected a challenge and were ready when it mattered.”
Thanks to the late victory, South Korea will face Australia on Friday evening. The Socceroos cruised to a comfortable 4-0 win against Indonesia on the 28th January, and have had multiple extra days to prepare for the heavyweight clash in the quarter finals.
“Australia will have had 53 hours more rest than us,” explained Klinsmann.
“That’s the reason why I badly wanted to win the group for recovery days. We now have a tough schedule and we paid the price for not winning the group.”
Quick to commend his team’s fantastic heart to claw back an equaliser at the last breath, Klinsmann continued: “This team has enormous energy. I love working with these players as they have a lot of pride for their country. We look to the next couple of days to recover and we look forward to the challenge of Australia. This is a very difficult tournament and I’m learning a lot- there is no easy game.
“We need optimism, energy and belief if we are going to beat Australia.”
Following the last-gasp victory on Tuesday night, South Korea are three games away from breaking a 64-year-old Asian Cup curse.
“I believe in my players which is why I said we will come here and try to go all the way to the end. It has been a very long time since Korea won an Asian Cup, we will try our best to amend that.”
South Korean goalkeeper Hyun-Woo Cho cemented a heroic performance with two crucial saves in the penalty shootout, earning his team a place in the next round and himself the Man of the Match award.
“First of all it all came from belief. The coach told us to belief and it paid off. We gave everything,” said Cho.
“I was confident I could make the saves and that’s exactly what happened. If we face another shootout, it will be the same.
“As a goalkeeper you never want to concede. We needed to forget about the past and focus on the game at hand.
“This evening shows that football is all about mentality. We had it this evening but next game is a new game, we start again.”
Contact the writer of this story, Harry Ewing, at email@example.com