It's a battle for Asian Cup glory - or at least the chance to fight in the quarterfinals - between China, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan but not, unfortunately for DPR Korea, who will bow out in the group stage. David Hards reveals five things we learned from the latest round of Group B.
DPR Korea play positive football
Results may not have fallen the right way for DPR Korea but the team won some new fans in their 4-1 loss to Saudi Arabia. DPR Korea started the game with a determined frame of mind and was rewarded with their first Asian Cup goal in 22 years from Yong-Gi Ryang. Unfortunately the team couldn’t play with the same intensity for the entire 90 minutes but the generous Melbourne crowd witnessed a very different DPR Korean team. Coach Jo Tong-sop vows to remain positive taking DPR Korea forward to the next level.
Fifteen seconds of fame
Omani referee Abdullah Mohamed Al Hilali had barely started his watch when DPR midfielder Jong Il Gwan slid in awkwardly to see the fastest yellow card of the tournament. Most fans had barely sat down for the Group B clash when the 22-year-old recklessly challenged for the ball. Gwan had a pretty decent game after the early misdemeanour but has managed to make sure he will be remembered at the duration of the tournament with his 15 seconds of fame.
Sun (Ke) Shines on China
Sun Ke only needed two minutes of game time to change the shape of the game with his first goal of the tournament. He well taken right foot strike sent the pro Brisbane crown into raptures and seeing the Chinese team progress to the final stage for the first time since 2004. Organisers should be happy with the world’s most populous country winning their opening matches, with huge interest expected for the remainder of the cup in China. Expect good luck charm, ball boy Stephan White to be a special guest once again for their quarter final clash at their Asian Cup home of Brisbane.
Sunday Just Got Real
Melbourne sees the first real elimination game of the tournament when Uzbekistan takes on Saudi Arabia. With both teams on three points and DPR Korea out of contention the winner will progress to the quarter finals and possibly face hosts Australia. With goal difference favouring Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan will have to play attacking football lead by Server Djeparov and Igor Sergeev. Uzbekistan was overwhelming favourites to win the group but find themselves on the brink of group stage elimination for the first time since 2000.
Enter the Dragon
At the beginning of the tournament China were rated a 50/50 chance to reach the finals stage and little chance of progressing much further. Fast forward a week and China find themselves as Group B leaders and a genuine threat to take out the tournament. The Brisbane crowd has been a great factor thus far and the Chinese will play three of their first four games at the venue. If South Korea is good enough to beat the Socceroos on Saturday night we could get a very mixed crowd for the Australia vs. China quarter final and many Australian fans scurrying to find out how good China really is.comments