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Football: Asian Cup, Group A – Ki key as South Korea sink Socceroos

Former Brisbane resident Ki Sung-yueng (right) was named Samsung Man of the Match. Photos: AFCAsianCup.com.

Former Brisbane resident Ki Sung-yueng (right) was named Samsung Man of the Match. Photos: AFCAsianCup.com.

January 17, 2015: Korea Republic topped Group A at the AFC Asian Cup by beating hosts Australia 1-0 in front of 48,513 fans in Brisbane on Saturday, a victory that was extra special for captain Ki Sung-yueng, who lived in the city for four years as a teenager.

 

In front of some of his old friends, the Swansea City midfielder was named Samsung Man of the Match after leading Korea Republic to their third victory in as many games in the first round. Ki, 25, instigated the 32nd-minute goal when he slid a through ball to Lee Keun-ho, who squared for 23-year-old striker Lee Jeong-hyeop to deflect from close range.

 

Korea will now play either Saudi Arabia or Uzbekistan from Group B in the quarter-finals in Melbourne on Thursday.

 

“Since I’ve been playing for my country, every time I play Australia has been special,” said Ki, who visited his old school a day earlier. “I have a lot of friends and people I know because I was here for four years and today’s game was very special for myself, playing against Australia in Brisbane. A lot of my friends came to watch the game so there was extra pressure on myself.

 

“Today was a tough match between two of the best teams in Asia. It was very tough, but I think we played at 100 per cent – maybe 120 per cent. Today’s game was for pride. We start preparing now for the quarter-finals and must win every game from here. The most important thing is to recover. We have some injuries, but we have good players on the bench.”

 

Lee Jeong-hyeop scored the only goal as Korea Republic beat Australia 1-0.

Lee Jeong-hyeop scored the only goal as Korea Republic beat Australia 1-0.

Coach Uli Stielike, who likened the atmosphere of the game to a cup final, lost Mainz duo Park Joo-ho and Koo Ja-cheol to injury. The German coach said he expects Park to be fit for the quarter-finals, but would have to wait for tests on Sunday regarding Koo, who was stretchered off with a right-elbow injury.

 

“I didn’t have the impression that today was the group stage,” Stielike said. “I thought it was the final. The players felt the ambience of a final which supported the quality of the match. I hope tonight will serve as the benchmark for the rest of the games.

 

“The players from both teams did a great job in the heat over 95 minutes. The result could have easily been 1-1, but the result was not so important. It doesn’t matter if you are first or second. What was more important was the behaviour and manner in the game we played.

 

“We have nothing to worry about apart from the injuries to Park Joo-ho and Koo Ja-cheol. Park is not so bad, but Koo will have to have an X-ray tomorrow to see how he is.”

 

Oman coach Paul Le Guen was delighted his side recorded their first win in the Asian Cup after earlier edging Kuwait 1-0 at Newcastle Stadium to finish third in Group A.

 

“We had some difficulties during the game, but we kept fighting. I like that about this team,” said the Frenchman. “Kuwait are a good team. It is good for us and the state of our mind in the future. It was important to get a result.”

 

Abdulaziz Al Muqbali, the Samsung Man of the Match, scored against the run of play in the 69th minute to hand Oman the win after a 4-0 loss to hosts Australia and a 1-0 reversal against Korea Republic in a tough group.

 

“It is the only game Oman have won in the Asian Cup. It is not a shame to finish third. I am happy with my players. They battled hard,” Le Guen said. “I tell the players never give up. You need to work to cope at international level. Players have to cope with high level (pressure).”

 

Source: Shintaro Kano / WSG / AFC Asian Cup (www.afcasiancup.com); Editing by SportAsia

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