South Korea post narrow win past impressive Philippines
Koo Jacheol of South Korea and John Patrick Strauss of Philippines vie for the ball.
Dubai - Coach Eriksson all praise for Philippines team
Gamba Osaka striker Hwang Uijo, whose nine goals helped South Korea clinch the gold at the Jakarta Asian Games last year, threatened to break the deadlock so many times only to be denied by the impressive Philippines goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard.
But Uijo eventually had the last laugh as his goal separated the victor from the vanquished, giving South Korea a hard-fought 1-0 win over debutants Philippines in a Group C encounter of the AFC Asian Cup at the magnificent Al Maktoum stadium on Monday.
Resolute defending from the Philippines challenged the Asian giants for large parts of the match, but in the end Uijo showed his class as his goal from inside the box in the 67th minute denied Philippines what could have been a memorable draw on their Asian Cup debut.
South Korea, looking to end their 59-year Asian Cup title drought, managed to take three points, thanks to Uijo's classy finish as he beat two defenders after receiving a cross from Hwang Heechan.
Sven-Goran Eriksson's Philippines used their defensive formation to frustrate the South Koreans in the first half. Putting eight men behind the ball, Philippines suffocated the Koreans for large parts of the first half.
The 2002 World Cup semifinalists did have the lion's share of the possession, but the tenacious Philippines were equal to the task, giving their goalkeeper Falkesgaard a relatively easy time under the crossbar. Philippines have reached this stage - it's their first appearance at the continental showpiece event - by going unbeaten in their third qualifying round.
They certainly showed that form in the first half. While they lacked the verve going forward, it was while defending the relentless Korean assault on their box that the showed their style of football. Which is defending as though their life depended on protecting the goal.
But keeping the talented Koreans quiet is never an easy task for any team in Asian football. Eriksson's men soon discovered that as the uninspiring first half suddenly came alive when the 26-year-old Uijo finally found some space in the rival box to test Falkesgaard, the 27-year-old goalkeeper.
In the space of eight minutes (33rd, 40th and 41st), Uijo showed brilliant movement on and off the ball, but his three attempts from inside the box were blocked by Falkesgaard.
Uijo eventually showed the composure in the 67th minute, beating Falkesgaard with a superb finish to become the toast of South Korea.
|We showed that this country can play football: Philippines coach Eriksson |
Sven-Goran Eriksson's heart swelled with pride after Philippines came tantalizingly close to earning a memorable draw against South Korea in their Group C opener of the Asian Cup at the Al Maktoum Stadium on Monday.
South Korea's Asian Games hero Hwang Uijo's wonderful goal in the 67th minute eventually broke debutants Philippines hearts, but their Swedish coach had reasons to celebrate.
"We played well today against a very strong South Korean team. I think we showed that this country can play football," the former England coach said at the post-match press conference.
Their defensive organisation not only frustrated the Asian giants for large parts of the match, but it has also given them hope for their next games against China and Kyrgyzstan.
"I think we played one of our best games against ones of the best teams. We created chances against them so that gives us hope," Eriksson said.
"In the next two games in the group, we can do something even better. We may have lost today, but the performance has boosted our confidence. I spoke to the players after the game, the mood is good. They know that they did a good job."
But Eriksson admitted that his team must try to play positive football in their next games.
"Today, in the second half, we went deeper and deeper and deeper and at the end we were just outside our own box. I want to avoid that if it's possible in our next games," he said.
"In the end, we were very tired today. We had to run a lot, so I want to see if we can keep the ball better against China in our next game. It will be good for the heart of the coach as well!"
South Korea coach Paulo Bento was pleased with the hard-fought win. "It was a tough game. We tried to dominate and control the game. But they had a lot of players behind the ball," the Portuguese coach said.
"We had some difficulty to find the space. But after the goal, we had more space. We had chances to score again and at the end, it was an important victory for us."