In stunning scenes at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Jordan defeated two-time champions South Korea, 2-0, to book a place in the final. It is the first time Jordan has ever qualified for an AFC Asia Cup final.
Yazan Al-Naimat broke the deadlock and put Jordan ahead at the start of the second half with a clever flick past goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo. The goal occurred in the 53rd minute and came after a number of attempts by Jordan which were kept out by Hyeon-woo.
A second goal by Mousa Tamari followed shortly after in the 66th minute to put Jordan two goals ahead. Tamari produced a brilliant individual effort, curling a strike from a distance into the back of the net.
South Korea struggled to create openings the whole match but had a couple close calls just after the half-hour mark. Lee Jae-sung headed a cross from Hwang In-beom into the post in what was the team’s best chance in 90 minutes.
Despite only having 30% of the ball possession, Jordan was able to get 17 shots on goal compared to the 8 by South Korea. What’s more, of the 17 shots, seven were on target while South Korea weren’t able to get a single shot on target.
It should be noted that Bayern Munich’s Kim Min-jae was absent through suspension for the match with Jordan. South Korea’s defense really looked like they needed him as they struggled to cope with a high-pressing Jordan side in the opening half.
Jordan, which has arguably been the biggest surprise of the tournament, had only advanced to the round of 16 as one of the best third-place teams in the group stage. They finished below South Korea in Group E. Their run in the knockout stage has been nothing short of stunning and could end with the nation’s very first Asia Cup win.
The final test for Jordan will come on Feb 11. where they will face the winner of the Iran-Qatar semi final. Whichever team qualifies, it’s clear that Jordan will be heavy underdogs going into the final. With limited experience in the back end of tournaments the team may find it hard to navigate the big occasion. If Jordan can get it together however, they could pull off one of the greatest underdogs stories in the tournament’s history.
Disappointing Finish For South Korea
Although South Korea have long been one of the strongest teams in Asia, they haven’t been able to translate their strength into tournament wins. The team has been unable to lift the Asian Cup trophy since winning back-to-back titles in the first (1956) and second (1960) tournaments.
This year especially, the team had very high expectations, with one of the most skilled sides they’ve ever produced. The roster held some of Europe’s top players, like Son Heung-min (Tottenham), Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain), and Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich). In the end it wasn’t enough to pull them through the competition.
South Korea’s defense had a poor showing throughout the tournament, conceding a total of 10 goals in their 6 matches. This was a significant difference to their previous performances in 2015, where they allowed 4 goals. They were however able to go one better from 2019, when they were knocked out in the quarter finals.
With a FIFA ranking of 23rd in the world, South Korea is 64 places above Jordan. They have also never lost before to Jordan, having a record of 3 wins and 3 draws in their 6 previous matchups. South Korea had faced Jordan earlier in the group stage of the tournament and the game ended in a 2-2 draw.
With many of the nation’s star players at the end of their career, this Asia Cup might be the end of an era for South Korea. Expect the team to rebuild and bring in a number of young talent which could pay dividends in the long run.
The defeat will also see much attention fall on manager Jürgen Klinsmann, who was appointed a year ago. He has been unpopular with some Korean fans and will likely not keep his job.