Double delight for South Korea

It has been a memorable week for South Korea in terms of football as both the men’s and women’s national teams have qualified for the upcoming world cups.

It was the women’s team that qualified first for the world cup after a stunning win over Australia in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, which is currently going on in India. Australia was the tournament’s favourite, and they played like the best until they met South Korea in the quarter-finals. Korea rode on Ji So-yun’s late long-range stunner to beat Australia by a solitary goal.

South Korea had a dominant performance in the group stage matches and was unbeaten in all three games. They defeated Vietnam for three goals in the opening match and won the second match for two goals against Myanmar. They conceded the first goal in the tournament in the third and final match of the group stage against Japan. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.

Now South Korea will face the Philippines in the semi-finals of the tournament. All the Asian Cup semifinalists earn an automatic spot in the 2023 World Cup to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand. Australia has already qualified for the World Cup as co-hosts. China, Philippines and Japan are three other teams that have qualified for the 2023 World Cup.

The three losing semifinalists sides — Thailand, Chinese Taipei and Vietnam will feature in a playoffs round on February 2, 4 and 6.
On Tuesday, the South Korean men’s team beat Syria 2-0 in Dubai to reach their 10th straight World Cup finals.

The Koreans, who have appeared at every finals since Mexico in 1986 and came fourth when they co-hosted the tournament in 2002, go to Qatar alongside Iran, who had already clinched a place from Asia’s preliminary Group A.

Even without their star player Son Heung-Min, Paulo Bento’s side dominated the game. Kim Jin-Su opened the scoring with a 54th-minute shot that gave Syrian goalkeeper Ibrahim Alma no chance. Kwon Chang-Hoon shot from outside the penalty area to double the score in the 74th minute.

South Korea have a history of World Cup upsets. They knocked out Italy to reach the semi-finals in 2002 and at the last World Cup in Russia beat Germany 2-0 but failed to reach the knockout rounds.

Only the top two finishers in each of Asia’s two qualifying groups can claim guaranteed berths at the finals. At the same time, the third-placed nations will face off for the right to meet South American opposition in an intercontinental playoff.