Qatar: In a nail-biting encounter at Education City Stadium, Jo Hyeon-woo emerged as the hero for Korea Republic, guiding them to the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 quarter-finals with a dramatic 4-2 penalty shootout win over Saudi Arabia. The match ended in a 1-1 draw after extra time, with Jo making crucial saves in the third and fourth rounds of spot-kicks against Sami Al Naji and Abdulrahman Ghareeb.
The turning point of the game came when Abdullah Radif gave Saudi Arabia the lead less than a minute into the second half. However, Cho Gue-sung’s header in injury time leveled the score, forcing the game into extra time. With neither team able to break the deadlock in the additional 30 minutes, Hwang Hee-chan converted the winning penalty, sealing South Korea’s spot in the quarterfinals.
The encounter featured a tense opening, with few opportunities for both teams. The first 45 minutes were marked by tight margins, with mistakes or set pieces appearing as the most likely paths to goal. Saudi Arabia came close to breaking the deadlock as Saleh Al Shehri’s header hit the post, and Ali Lajami’s attempt on the rebound struck the crossbar.
Abdullah Radif’s immediate impact after coming on as a substitute gave Saudi Arabia the lead early in the second half. However, Cho Gue-sung’s injury-time header, after a series of Korean attempts, sent the game into extra time.
Despite Korean dominance in extra time, with chances from Kim Min-jae and Cho, the deadlock persisted. The match moved into a penalty shootout after Jo denied Radif’s late effort. The Korean persistence paid off in the shootout, securing their place in the quarterfinals.
South Korea will now face Australia at Al Janoub Stadium on Friday, seeking to continue their quest for the AFC Asian Cup title, last won in 1960. The Saudis, crestfallen by the loss, will have to wait for another three years to reclaim the title they last secured in 1996.