AFC U-16 Championship: Korea Republic down India to seal U-17 World Cup berth

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Korea Republic will be Asia’s fourth and final representative at the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup after advancing to the semi-finals of the AFC U-16 Championship with a 1-0 triumph over India on Monday.

The hero for the South Koreans at the Petaling Jaya Stadium was Jeong Sang-bin, who came on as a halftime substitute and netted what proved to be the winner in the 68th minute of the tournament’s last quarter-final.

While it means that Korea Republic are still in the running to win the tournament for a third time, the bigger prize arguably is a place in next year’s U-17 World Cup to be held in Peru.

Having scored 12 goals and conceded none prior to the game, Korea Republic were huge favourites against an India outfit that rode their luck on their way to the knockout round – scoring just one goal in three group-stage matches and qualifying by just a point.

However, defence has been an area of strength for Bibiano Fernandes’ young charges and it initially looked as though they could frustrate their opponents and pull off an upset.

For all their first-half domination, Korea Republic struggled to break down a stubborn India defence and – when they did – opposition keeper Niraj Kumar proved equal to everything that was fired at him.

But, the breakthrough finally arrived eight minutes after the hour mark after Niraj could only parry Choi Min-seo’s snapshot as far as to Jeong, who made no mistake in converting on the rebound from a couple of yards out.

Now desperately needing a goal but having only scored once in the tournament thus far, India just lacked the creativity and panache in the final third although the likes of Vikram Pratap Singh and Ridge Demello both tried their best.

Ultimately, though, it was the South Koreans who held on to deservedly advance into the last four and book their tickets to Peru for next October.

KOREA REPUBLIC: Shin Song-hoon, Son Ho-jun, Hong Sung-wook, Lee Jun-suk, Lee Tae-seok (Kwak Yong-chan 86’), Yoon Suk-ju, Seo Jae-min (Jo Jin-ho 62’), Paik Sang-hoon, Hong Yun-sang, Kim Ryun-seong (Jeong Sang-bin 46’), Choi Min-seo.

INDIA: Niraj Kumar, Shabas Ahammed Moothedath, Thoiba Singh Moirangthem, Harpreet Singh, Gurkirat Singh, Vikram Pratap Singh, Ricky John Shabong (Eric Rempuatpuia Chhangte 80’), Bekey Oram, Ravi Bahadur Rana (Bhuvnesh Shendre 70’), Givson Singh Moirangthem (Lalchhanhima Sailo 71’), Ridge Demello.