2020 AFC U23 Championship: Dominant Korea Republic see off Australia to reach final

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Korea Republic are through to the final of the 2020 AFC U23 Championship after producing a dominant display to beat Australia 2-0 in the semi-finals on Wednesday.

Following a goalless first half at the Thammasat Stadium, Kim Dae-won broke the deadlock for the South Koreans in the 56th minute before Lee Dong-gyeong added a second with 14 minutes remaining to seal the win.

Now guaranteed of their place at the Olympic Games later this year, Korea Republic can focus their attentions on winning the tournament for the first time ever when they meet Saudi Arabia in Sunday’s final, while Australia can still qualify for the prestigious quadrennial event should they beat Uzbekistan in the third-place playoff a day before.

AFC U23 Championship Highlights – Australia vs Korea Republic

Given how dominant they were against quality opponents, and as the only side in the competition to boast a 100 per cent record of five consecutive wins, the South Koreans have reason to be confident in their prospects of winning the decider in four days’ time.

Controlling proceedings from the opening whistle, Korea Republic were unlucky not to have opened the scoring earlier.

Oh proved a real handful for the Australia defence.

Oh Se-hun produced a brilliant effort in the 24th minute when he held up the ball well with his back towards goal and then spun away from his marker before firing away a shot on the turn, only to see it crash off the woodwork.

Kim then came close in first-half stoppage time as he wriggled his way free on the edge of the box and curled away a shot that was inches wide of the post.

The onslaught on the Australia goal continued immediately after the break with Kim forcing Tom Glover into a smart save with another speculative effort from distance, while Lee Dong-jun then latched onto an Oh flick-on a minute later and squeezed a shot past the Olyroos keeper but watched on as it trickled just wide.

It did look as though it might be one of those days for the South Koreans as Australia escaped again in the 51st minute; Jeong Tae-wook meeting Kim’s cross with a header off the post before Lee pounced on the rebound but his effort from two yards out was blocked by some desperate defending.

Nonetheless, the breakthrough finally arrived five minutes later when Korea Republic right-back Lee You-hyeon pushed forward with great intent and drilled a low shot off the foot of the post, with Kim reacting well to slot home on the rebound.

Joy for Korea Republic after Kim hands them the lead.

And, in the 76th minute, the result was put beyond doubt when substitute Lee Dong-gyeong – South Korea’s hero in the quarter-final when he scored a stunning 95th-minute freekick to seal a 2-1 win over Jordan – once again came on the good effect.

After Won Du-jae did well to win a header and help the ball on towards goal, Lee Dong-gyeong ran onto the pass and calmly cut inside Dylan Ryan before clinically firing a shot in off the near post to win cap off a fine display from the South Koreans – one that should install them as favourites for Sunday’s final against the Saudi Arabians.

AUSTRALIA: Tom Glover, Gabriel Cleur, Tass Mourdoukoutas, Dylan Ryan, Alex Gersbach, Keanu Baccus, Aiden O’Neill (Ben Folami 66’), Connor Metcalfe (Denis Genreau 46’), Trent Buhagiar, Jacob Italiano (Reno Piscopo 66’), Al Hassan Toure.

KOREA REPUBLIC: Song Bum-keun, Lee You-hyeon, Jeong Tae-wook, Lee Sang-min, Kang Yun-seong, Won Du-jae, Kim Dong-hyun, Um Won-sang (Lee Dong-jun 46’), Jung Seung-won (Lee Dong-gyeong 64’), Kim Dae-won (Kim Tae-hyeon 87’), Oh Se-hun.