Sweet 16 for South Korea, China, as Socceroos bounce back

Kim Min-jae of South Korea scores the winning goal in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup group C match against Kyrgyzstan in Al Ain. (EPA)
Updated 11 January 2019
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Sweet 16 for South Korea, China, as Socceroos bounce back

  • The Koreans, runners-up in 2015, squeezed past Kyrgyzstan 1-0 thanks to a Kim Min-jae strike just before half-time
  • A Wu Lei-inspired China comfortably beat a Philippines side led by China coach Marcelo Lippi’s old adversary Sven-Goran Eriksson 3-0

AL-AIN, United Arab Emirates: South Korea and China ensured their places in the Asian Cup last 16 on Friday after continuing their perfect starts as Australia reignited their title defense with a vital win over Palestine.
The Koreans, runners-up in 2015, squeezed past Kyrgyzstan 1-0 thanks to a Kim Min-jae strike just before half-time while a Wu Lei-inspired China comfortably beat 3-0 a Philippines side led by China coach Marcelo Lippi’s old adversary Sven-Goran Eriksson.
South Korea and China are level on six points at the top of Group C ahead of their group-decider on Wednesday and join Jordan in the knockout stages of the Asian showpiece, which features 24 teams for the first time.
South Korea were made to sweat once again by minor opposition following their opening single-goal win over the Philippines.
But they will be glad to be safely through without the services of Tottenham Hotspur star Son Heung-min, who sat out the first two games under a deal with the Premier League club.
Kyrgyzstan caused some anxious moments for South Korea in the first half, especially from corners with Bekzhan Sagynbaev having one effort saved at point-blank range.
At the other end, Lee Chung-yong blazed a glorious chance over and Koo Ja-cheol had a goal-bound shot punched away by goalkeeper Kutman Kadyrbekov — in for Pavel Matiash, who was guilty of a howling own goal in their defeat to China.
From the resulting corner, defender Min-jae lost his marker and was first to the ball at the near post, where he made no mistake to put the Koreans ahead.
After the break, Akhlidin Israilov appealed vigorously for handball after Jung Woo-young’s block, while Hwang Ui-jo twice hit the bar — first with a header that bounced down and off the line, and then a fierce shot that was parried upwards by Kadyrbekov.
There was disbelief when Hwang Hee-chan rattled the crossbar once again for the Koreans, and it could easily have ended 1-1 if Kim Seung-gyu hadn’t blocked Tursunali Rustamov’s stinging shot in injury time.
Earlier in Abu Dhabi, Wu Lei fired the first of his brace for China five minutes before half-time, turning on the edge of the box and whipping a right-foot shot into the far corner.
His second was even better as he swivelled to slam a Hao Junmin free-kick past Philippines goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard on the volley after 66 minutes to effectively end the match.
Substitute Yu Dabao added a third with his first touch 10 minutes from time for China, who are hoping to improve on their quarter-final finish in Australia four years ago.
“If we can continue to play like that we have nothing to fear from any team at this Asian Cup,” said Lippi, who led Italy to the 2006 World Cup and sparred with Eriksson in his Serie A days.
In Dubai, coach Graham Arnold warned Australia would only improve as the defending champions saw off Palestine 3-0 to move within sight of the knockouts.
Goals from Hibernian striker Jamie Maclaren, Awer Mabil and substitute Apostolos Giannou banished memories of the shock opening defeat to Jordan as Australia went second in Group B.
The Aussies will now go into next Tuesday’s final group game against Syria with their confidence fully restored.
“Now it’s all about the Syria game,” said Arnold.
“We’ll go back to the training field, we’ll recover well and we’ll go out for the Syria game with all guns blazing, expecting to win.
“I expect we will get better and better as we go.”


Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

Updated 21 March 2019
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Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

  • Former Saudi Arabia coach wants to guide the Whites to their first World Cup since 1990.
  • "If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here," Dutchman says of his new job.

LONDON: Bert van Marwijk has told the UAE he only has one thing on his mind: Getting the side to the 2022 World Cup. 

The former Saudi Arabia boss was unveiled as the new coach of the Whites before watching his new team beat his former team 2-1 in a friendly in Dubai (see right). While he was in the stand rather than the dugout — interim boss Saleem Abdelrahman took charge — he would have liked what he saw as he set himself the challenge of leading the UAE to their first showpiece since 1990. 

“I’m here for only one thing, and that’s to qualify for the World Cup,” the Dutchman said.  

“It takes a long time and the first thing we have to deal with is the first qualification round. That’s why I’m here.”

Van Marwijk was celebrated after he led the Green Falcons to last year's World Cup before calling it quits. (AFP) 

Van Marwijk guided Saudi Arabia to last year’s World Cup — the Green Falcons’ first appearance at the showpiece for 12 years — during a two-year stint which ended in September 2017.

That was one of the key reasons the UAE fought hard for the 66-year-old and while it is never easy getting through Asian qualifying — 46 teams going for just four direct slots at Qatar 2022 — the Dutchman claimed his experience, combined with his knowledge of the UAE, will stand him in good stead. 

“The Saudis and the UAE are about the same level. With the Saudis we qualified for Russia, so we will do really everything to go to Qatar in 2022,” Van Marwijk said. 

While he is fondly remembered in the Kingdom — only a contractual dispute regarding backroom staff meant he did not stay on as Green Falcons coach for the Russia tournament — it is his time as the Netherlands coach that really stands out on his managerial resume. Van Marwijk coached the Oranje to within minutes of the World Cup trophy, with only an Andres Iniesta extra-time winner preventing him from tasting ultimate glory against Spain in 2010. 

So why did he return to the Gulf for another crack at World Cup qualification in a tough, crowded race? 

“One of the reasons is the feeling. I have to have the right feeling when I sign a contract,” Van Marwijk said. “We analyzed the UAE, we played four times against each other with Saudi, so I can see the potential.

“I have had the experience to go to the World Cup twice. The first time we were second in the world, the second time was with Australia (which he coached last summer) and we were a little bit unlucky — we played very well. 

“So to go to the World Cup for the third time is the goal.”

Van Marwijk is all too aware his task will be difficult. The “Golden Generation” of Emirati footballers, spearheaded by Omar Abdulrahman, tried and failed to make it to football’s biggest tournament, and a lot of the next three years’ work will likely depend on a new generation.

“I heard there were some young talents, so I’m anxious to know how good they are,” the Dutchman said. “I know the team has a few very good players — the UAE has a few weapons. 

“That’s the most important thing. If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here.”