South Korea down Uzbeks to claim third spot


DOHA – South Korea bowed out of the Asian Cup in style by edging Uzbekistan 3-2 in an entertaining third-place play-off on Friday to secure an automatic place at the 2015 tournament in Australia. Cho Kwang-Rae’s men looked on course for a handsome victory at 3-0 up in the first-half, but Uzbekistan clawed back the deficit to salvage some pride after their 6-0 drubbing by Australia in the semi-finals.
Koo Ja-Cheol’s fifth goal of the competition, making him outright top scorer, set South Korea on their way, before Ji Dong-Won claimed a brace with a pair of artfully constructed strikes. Goals either side of half-time from Alexander Geynrikh brought the Uzbeks back into the game, but Korea held on to claim third place at the continental showpiece for the third time in four tournaments.
Australia meet three-time champions Japan in Saturday’s final. Captain Park Ji-Sung was left out of the Korea squad, raising the possibility that he has played his last game for his country as he is expected to announce his international retirement after the tournament.
Koo broke the deadlock in the 17th minute at the Al-Sadd Stadium, calmly beating Uzbek goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov after Lee Yong-Rae had launched a barrelling one-man counter-attack from deep inside the Korean half. Odil Akhmedov was partly at fault for the goal, allowing Lee Yong-Rae’s pass to roll beneath his foot, but the reluctant centre-back almost atoned with a 22-yard curler that landed a yard or two wide of the right-hand post.
Korea’s football has received plenty of plaudits during the tournament and Ji’s first goal in the 28th minute was a fine example of their craft. A slick exchange involving Lee Young-Pyo, Ki Sung-Yueng, Lee Chung-Yong and Koo culminated in Ji receiving the ball in space inside the penalty area, and the 19-year-old striker rattled the ball into the bottom-left corner. South Korean goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong was called into action by a low strike from Azizbek Haydarov before Ji claimed his second, a magnificent header from a Hong Jeong-Ho cross that left Nesterov clutching at thin air.