Talented but directionless, Korea takes humiliating exit

Korean players react to their 2-0 loss to Jordan in the semifinal of the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, Feb. 6. Yonhap

By staging improbable late comebacks to reach the last four at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup in Qatar, Korea earned the moniker “zombie football.” In moments when their chances of winning seemed all but gone, the Taegeuk Warriors refused to die and came back to unlikely life.The zombie was laid to rest Tuesday night near Doha, however, as Korea, world No. 23, got knocked out of the semifinals with a 2-0 loss to 87th-ranked Jordan.Korea, coached by Jurgen Klinsmann, were trying to win their first Asian Cup crown since 1960. For a long-time AFC powerhouse, the drought is rather puzzling. They have been in the final only four times over the past 64 years, most recently in 2015 in Australia.As wasted opportunities go, this year’s semifinal exit will loom large for years to come, considering the level of talent Korea boasted on its squad. Korea featured Tottenham Hotspur captain Son Heung-min, widely considered the best Asian player in football today. Joining him were other Europe-based stars who were all in great form before the Asian Cup: Hwang Hee-chan of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Lee Kang-in of Paris Saint-Germain and Kim Min-jae of Bayern Munich.Before joining the German champions, Kim was named Serie A’s best defender and led Napoli to their first Italian title in 33 years. With Son and Kim in tow, it could be argued Korea had the best attacker and best defender at the Asian Cup.However, neither had a particularly strong tournament.

Son tied Lee for the team lead with three goals, but none came in open play. Son scored two penalties and one free kick goal. Predictably, Son drew multiple defenders whenever he had the ball in the danger zone and had trouble finding space to create chances for himself or others.Kim didn’t even play in the Jordan loss, after picking up his second yellow card of the tournament late against Australia in the quarterfinals. Korea were trailing 1-0 then, and Kim was cautioned for getting into some testy tussle match with an opponent who was trying to kill time.Korea rallied for a 2-1 win, and Kim’s loss of composure proved costly as Korea had no answer against Jordan’s press and speedy counterattacks.Even with Kim in the lineup, however, Korea conceded eight goals in their first five matches. They went from not giving up any goal in seven straight matches before the Asian Cup to allowing three goals in one match against lowly Malaysia, ranked 130th in the world.Korea trailed in five of their six matches, their 3-1 win over Bahrain in the first group match being the lone exception. Playing from behind so often is never a recipe for success in a tournament, 스포츠토토존 no matter how much excitement it can create for fans.

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