February 6 – The semi-finals of the Asian Cup kick off today with Jordan playing South Korea in the Ahmad bin Ali stadium in Doha. Tomorrow Qatar play Iran.
Jordan are making their debut in the semi-finals while South Korea have won the title twice before but not since 1960.
The Koreans start as firm favourites but they will need to start faster than they have in their other games. In the quarter finals they levelled against Australia in the last breath of added time, before going on to win in extra time.
Jordan have similarly built into the competition as it has progressed.
Jordan finished third in their group behind Korea but since then have beaten a spectacularly self imploding Iraq and Asian Cup debutants Tajikistan.
In their group game the two sides drew 2-2, with the Koreans again equalising with an added time goal.
Jordan will not likely let that happen again but the South Korean coach Jurgen Klinsmann will have impressed on his players the importance of an making pressure count earlier in the game.
“I wish sometimes we start 1-0 down so that we can play that way from the start, running after the ball,” despaired Klinsmann after the Australian game.
“Maybe we get into a higher rhythm when we go down. Maybe when we’re 0-0 we worry too much. It’s all psychological.”
Hwang Hee-chan’s 96th-minute penalty had levelled the game before Son Heung-min struck the winner in extra time. Against Saudi Arabia in the last 16 Cho Gue-sung’s equaliser in the 99th minute propelled them on to a penalty shoot-out win.
Korea will be without Bayern Munich central defender Kim Min-jae who picked up a booking in the quarter-final win ruling him out against Jordan. But with Son up front they have a world beater.
While the likes of Son, Hwang Hee-chan and Lee Kang-in grab many of the headlines, there is little doubt of the importance of a centre-back who won Serie A with Napoli last season and is now a regular at Bayern Munich.
The Jordanians are missing influential striker Ali Olwan through suspension but in Yazan Al Naimat, Mahmoud Al Mardi and star man Musa Al Taamari they have significant fire power to expose any Korean gaps at the back.
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