Al Wakrah, Qatar – South Korea have made it a habit of leaving it until the dying moments of stoppage time to make a comeback in their knockout games and progress to the next round at the AFC Asian Cup 2023 in Qatar.
Keep readinglist of 3 items
It prompted Jurgen Klinsmann, the Koreans’ German coach, to joke that perhaps his team should start all matches with a 0-1 score.
“It’s not great to wait 120 minutes for a result, so maybe if we start a goal down we can get [a win] earlier,” Klinsmann told bemused reporters after the match.
It took South Korea 96 minutes to find a goal – scored by Hee-Chan Hwang from the penalty spot – that kept them alive in the tournament and another 15 to give their talismanic captain Heung-Min Son a chance to score a scintillating winner and stun Australia.
The Socceroos took the lead in the 42nd minute as Craig Goodwin latched onto a loose ball in front of the Korean goal to break the deadlock in a tight first half.
Once in the lead, the Australians put up a strong defensive display to keep the Taegeuk Warriors at bay deep into the second half.
As the night wore on, the temperature in Al Wakrah dropped to a chilly 14 degrees Celsius but the action on the field heated up as South Korea began attacking the Australian goal. It was similar to their late assault against Saudi Arabia that eventually produced an equaliser and gave them a win in a penalty shootout.
This time, the penalty came in the sixth minute of added time and brought them level. Once into extra time, the Koreans were controlling the game and Australia were barely able to keep up.
When South Korea won a free-kick on the edge of the Australian box in the 103rd minute, Son bent it into the corner to complete another stunning comeback.
The crowd, who had been chanting his name all night long, went into a wild celebration of relief, joy and disbelief.
Many of these fans arrived in Doha after a 10-hour overnight flight from Seoul and said it was too much to take for a second game in a row.
“They [the team] need to stop doing this to us now,” Kim Hyeseong, a South Korean fan, told Al Jazeera moments after the win was sealed.
“They pull off miracles because they never give up,” he said.
Klinsmann said he is aware of the expectations his team faces from the fans in the stadium and those back home.
“Sometimes the pressure blocks the players [mentally] in the beginning – but when we go down, we know we can only go forward from there,” the former World Cup winner said.
For fans like Leo Chan, it is more a case of having belief in the team. But he said they say make it hard for themselves and their supporters.
“I was about to leave the stadium moments before the penalty was awarded, but now I’m staying all the way until the final because these players are miracle-makers and will win it [the championship].”