It’s been a rough start for Hwang Sun-hong’s team as they look to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
The South Korea U22 national team, led by Hwang Sun-hong, conceded an early goal against Qatar in the first leg of their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U23 Asian Cup qualifying Group B match at the Changwon Football Center Main Stadium at 8 p.m. on Saturday, ending the first half 0-1.
A total of 16 teams will qualify for the U-23 Asian Cup, including the first-place team from each of the 11 qualifying groups, the top four finishers from Group 2 and hosts Qatar.
South Korea is the most successful team to reach the quarterfinals of the U-23 Asian Cup, which will be held for the sixth time next year. They won the 2020 tournament in Thailand over Saudi Arabia and finished runners-up in Qatar in 2016. They finished fourth in the 2013 and 2018 editions.
However, at the most recent tournament in Uzbekistan in 2022, the team lost 0-3 to Japan in the quarterfinals, sending shockwaves through the domestic soccer community. The defeat was especially painful as Japan, unlike South Korea, only fielded players under the age of 21 for the U-23 Asian Cup in preparation for the Paris Olympics. The first qualifier in Changwon will be the starting point for Japan to avenge last year’s disappointment at next year’s tournament in Qatar.
The AFC U-23 Asian Cup 2024 will be held in April next year as the final Asian qualifier for the Paris Olympics. The top three teams from the tournament will qualify directly for the Olympic Games, while the fourth-placed team will have to play a playoff with the fourth-placed team from the African qualifiers for the Olympic berth.
South Korea will become the first team in the world to qualify for 10 consecutive Olympic Games in men’s soccer if it finishes in the top three at next year’s tournament in Qatar and earns a ticket to Paris.
South Korea was placed in Group B alongside Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, and Myanmar in qualifying for the tournament. The match against the hosts, Qatar, is considered a friendly and the result will not affect their ranking. However, the importance of this match is high for Hwang Sun-Hong as it is a possible opponent for the main draw.
South Korea lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation. Baek Jong-beom was in goal, and Min Kyung-hyun, Cho Sung-kwon, Cho Woo-je, and Lee Tae-seok formed the defense. Lee Jin-yong was the lone defender in the midfield, while the second line consisted of Um Ji Sung, Kang Hyun-mook, Oh Jae-hyuk, Jeon Byung-kwan, and Heo Yul up front.
Qatar countered with a 4-3-3 formation. Youssef Amdullah was in goal and Abdallah Cirelkatim, Mohammed Emad Aisash, Jassem Abdulsalam, and Hassan Fadlallah formed the defense. Abdulaziz Hassan, Abdelrahman Zaki, and Osama Abdulkarim Altairi held down the midfield, while Tamim Ansur Al-Abdullah, Ilyes Brimil, and Ahmed Alawi were in the attack.
The game was tight from the start, with Qatar playing in a friendly but simulating a full-scale match. Qatar seemed to have the upper hand as they pressed hard and won possession.
South Korea overcame the early difficulties and tried to attack with more time in possession. Finding space on the flanks, South Korea had a chance in the 12th minute when Lee Tae-seok’s low cross from the left was met by Jeon Byung-kwan, but the goalkeeper made the save.
Two minutes later, Heo tried a low cross again after penetrating down the left flank. Jeon Byung-kwan was able to get on the end of the slightly longer ball, but was unable to connect with an accurate shot.
South Korea again created chances from the flanks. In the 24th minute, Uhm Ji Sung tried to cut back after penetrating down the left flank. Heo Yul tried to shoot, but hit the high post. Uhm was offside earlier, but he was unlucky to miss his shot.
Qatar tried to push forward by winning the midfield battle. In the 29th minute, after winning a battle for possession, Altairi tried a right-footed curling shot that Baek Jong-beom threw himself to block.
South Korea fell victim to one more Qatari attack. In the 38th minute, Alawi calmly controlled a long pass from the left side with his chest and struck a precise right-footed shot into the right corner of the goal.
Immediately after the goal, South Korea went through a period of anxiety, with a back-pass error putting them in danger. In the 41st minute, a mix-up in the box led to another Alawi goal. 바카라
South Korea was unable to get past the Qatari defense with ease and lacked decisiveness. In the four minutes of added time, Korea’s offense was blunt and they allowed Qatar to shoot again. The first half ended the same way.