South Korea lift AFC U23 Championship title to highlight Olympic credentials

January, 27/2020 - 10:20

South Korea won the AFC U23 Championship final by dramatically beating Saudi Arabia 1-0 after extra-time.


Saudi Arabian defender Saud Abdullah Abdulhamid (L) heads the ball away from South Korean striker Jeong Wooyeong (R) during the AFC U-23 Championship final football match between Saudi Arabia and South Korea at Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok on January 26, 2020. — AFP/VNA Photo

BANGKOK — South Korea won the AFC U23 Championship final by dramatically beating Saudi Arabia 1-0 after extra-time.

Saudi Arabia's superbly organised defence looked set to frustrate the South Koreans until Jeong Tae-wook's 113th-minute winner.

It was the South Koreans' first title in the fourth edition of this tournament, giving them the perfect ending to a campaign in which they qualified for their ninth straight Olympic Games.

With the Top Three sides in the competition earning places at Tokyo 2020, Olympic qualification had already been secured for the two finalists, alongside third-placed Australia.

But continental glory was at stake and, given their impressive form, South Korea were favourites coming into the final.

After a scrappy opening period, Jeong Woo-yeong brought the game to life in the 20th minute. The SC Freiburg forward tricked his way past a defender to go through on goal before Mohammed Al Yami narrowed the angle and saved his shot.

The Saudis responded 10 minutes later when Abdullah Al-Hamdan saw his effort blocked from close range.

Three minutes from half-time, Jeong Woo-Yeong missed the best chance of the first 45 minutes, blasting over from 12 yards out.

South Korea again came close to making the breakthrough in the 58th minute. Lee Dong-jun cut inside from the right and angled a shot for the far corner, but Al Yami got down to make a fine save.

Saudi Arabia finally showed some more attacking intent as the match edged toward the 90-minute mark and Abdulrahman Ghareeb fired a powerful effort over from 20 yards with three minutes remaining.

The match entered extra time and, after an uneventful 20 minutes, Lee Dong-gyeong threatened with a low shot from the edge of the box, but Al Yami made the save again.

But South Korea finally broke the deadlock in the 113th minute when Jeong Tae-wook rose to head home Lee Dong-gyeong's free kick, sparking wild celebrations. — AFP