South Korea beat Saudi Arabia 4-2 in a penalty shootout to advance to the Asian Cup quarter-finals, setting up a clash with Australia. Second-choice goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-Woo was the star performer in Doha, stopping penalties from Sami Al-Najei and Abdulrahman Ghareeb to help Jurgen Klinsmann’s side reach the last eight for the first time since 1996. Hwang Hee-chan then converted the decisive spot kick in extra time to clinch victory for South Korea, aiming to end a 64-year title drought.
After a dramatic first half at Education City Stadium, the match was poised on a knife edge. Saudi substitute Radif pounced just 30 seconds after his arrival to give the hosts the lead, but Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Cho Gue-sung leveled in the 99th minute to send the game into extra time.
Cho threw his body at the ball as he tried to volley home a loose ball, but Ahmed Al-Kassar dived to his right to block the shot. The Koreans threw everything at the Saudis in the opening minutes of extra time but could not break through. The Koreans squandered many good chances, including when Son Heung-min’s tame header crashed off the crossbar, and he hit a shot destined for the top corner just wide.
Saudi players, who were mostly recruited from the country’s domestic professional leagues, were disciplined and prevented their opponents from creating clear-cut chances. In contrast, the South Koreans were more sloppy in possession and wasted several good opportunities.
Both sides threw everything at their rivals in the second period of added time, with Al-Kassar making a string of saves as he kept out the Koreans’ attacks. Klinsmann threw on Wolverhampton Wanderers’ striker Hwang Hee-chan in the dying moments, hoping to find a way through. The German coach’s gamble paid off when Cho bundled home from close range to send the match into penalties.
The arena was silenced as the shootout got underway, and mulleted goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-Woo stood tall to deny Sami Al-Najei and Ghareeb. Hwang Hee-chan then put away the final penalty, putting the match out of Saudi reach and allowing the Asian champions to move on to face Australia in their next match.
Australia’s former England boss Roy Arnold coaches have never beaten South Korea in the 31 previous team encounters. The Socceroos will play either Tajikistan or Jordan in their quarter-final tie, which is set to take place on Thursday. The winner will qualify for the semi-finals to meet Japan or Uzbekistan. The loser will be sent home. This is the first time Saudi Arabia lost a game in a penalty shootout at the tournament and the third time in four tournaments.