Japanese soccer fans were surprised to see Bahrain move from third place to first place before the match, but also thankful that they will not face South Korea.
The South Korean national football team, led by Jürgen Klinsmann, drew 3-3 with Malaysia in their third Group E match at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) 2023 Qatar Asian Cup at Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, on Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET. With one win and two draws from three matches, South Korea finished second in the group with five points and advanced to the round of 16.
On the day, South Korea deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation. Cho Kyu-sung was up front, followed by Jung Woo-young, Son Heung-min, and Lee Kang-in. Lee Jae-sung and Hwang In-beom formed the midfield, and the back four consisted of Seol Young-woo, Kim Young-kwon, Kim Min-jae, and Kim Tae-hwan. Cho Hyun-woo wore the goalkeeping gloves.
Malaysia countered with a 3-4-3 formation. Halim, Lock, and Ayman lined up in the front three, while Corbin-Ong, Wilkin, Gan, and Ting lined up in the midfield. Tan, Kools, and Saad formed the back three. Hazumi was in goal.
There were some dangerous moments for South Korea early in the match. In the seventh minute, after breaking up a Malaysian attack, Lee Jae-sung sent a pass to goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo. Malaysia’s frontline striker Lok immediately tried to press, and Cho Hyun-woo’s kick hit Lok and crossed the goal line.
From there, however, it was all Korea. They had a great chance in the 15th minute. Son Heung-min shook the defense before unleashing a powerful left-footed shot that was saved by the goalkeeper. As the game progressed, South Korea finally took the lead. In the 21st minute, Jung Woo-young headed in a cross from Lee Kang-in off a corner kick. Goalkeeper Hazumi saved it, but the video assistant referee (VAR) confirmed that the ball had already crossed the goal line.
South Korea threatened a few times in the final minutes of the first half. In the 38th minute, Hwang In-beom sent a sharp pass to Son Heung-min as he cut in from the left. Son’s breakthrough was unfortunately blocked by a defender. In the 44th minute, Seol Young-woo wasted no time in sending in a cross after Jung Woo-young pushed in a ball from the left. Cho Kyu-sung unleashed a threatening header that was saved by goalkeeper Hazumi. The first half ended with South Korea leading 1-0.
In the second half, the defense started to falter. In the sixth minute, Hwang In-beom lost the ball in a dangerous area. Aiman’s shot was blocked by Kim Min-jae. However, Halim, who didn’t miss the rebound, finished from a relatively narrow angle to level the score.
The worst came 11 minutes later. Seol Young-woo kicked Aiman’s foot while trying to block a cross. After a video assistant referee (VAR) and an on-field review, the referee awarded a penalty kick. Aiman stepped up to the plate and converted.
After conceding two goals in a row, Klinsmann made a substitution. In the 18th minute of the second half, Cho Kyu-sung and Hwang In-beom left the field and Hwang Hee-chan and Hong Hyun-seok came on. Hwang Hee-chan immediately made a shot. In the 20th minute, Son Heung-min sent a cutback to Hwang Hee-chan, but his shot was deflected by the defense. Korea then took off Jung Woo-young and Seol Young-woo in the second half and brought on Oh Hyun-gyu and Kim Jin-soo.
At this rate, they would finish third in the group. Luckily, South Korea equalized. In the 38th minute of the second half, Lee Kang-in sent a sharp free kick that hit goalkeeper Hazumi’s hand. It was a comeback. In the fourth minute of the second half, Son Heung-min converted a penalty kick from Oh Hyun-gyu.
However, it was not to be. Malaysia scored a dramatic equalizer in the 15 minutes of second-half stoppage time, and South Korea advanced to the round of 16 as the group’s runner-up. A third-place finish would have put them through the group stage, but they suffered the humiliation of not being able to win against Malaysia, ranked 130th in the FIFA rankings, despite playing their best players.
South Korea will now face the top team in Group F in the round of 16. Saudi Arabia is currently in first place, but it could be Thailand depending on the outcome of the final match. If Korea had advanced to the round of 16 as the top team, they would have faced Japan, but the Japan-Korea match was not organized.
Some Japanese fans reacted to the news by saying, “It’s a good thing we didn’t meet Korea in the round of 16,” and “The only way we can meet Korea now is in the final.” Others said, “Bahrain, who was third in the group, dramatically became first. It’s unexpected,” and “Neither Jordan nor Korea will meet Japan before the final match. It’s unexpected.”