Korea Republic will play Uzbekistan at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium tonight from 6:30pm. DAVID HARDS previews the action.
A massive 4,884 kms separate the two capitals but FIFA rankings can only separate these national teams by five positions.
Finally this tournament could see the first draw after regulation time and give the many neutrals in Melbourne some extra football in their final game of the Cup.
Melbourne will host its third sell out from their allocated seven games, a true reflection of the passion for football among the city’s fans.
Korea Republic topped Group A with three workmanlike 1-0 performances. At no stage did they look as dangerous as the bigger teams in the tournament, but remain one of only three teams not to concede a goal through the group stage.
The 1-0 win over hosts Australia with only 33% possession allowed the Korean Republic to remain undefeated and avoid facing a red hot China.
Uzbekistan’s path wasn’t so clear and they left it until the final 20 minutes of their campaign. Two goals in the space of eight minutes put to bed any chance of another big tournament meltdown for the highly-ranked team.
Controversial Australian referee Ben Williams made two critical decisions against Mirdjalal Kasimov’s men and it appeared their luck may have run out until a classy brace from Sardor Rashidov ensured the White Wolves a final eight appearance for the fourth straight time.
Head to head
Played 11: Korea Republic 8 wins, draws 2, Uzbekistan 1 win
Uzbekistan will be seeking revenge after Korea Republic defeated them in World Cup Qualifying 1-0 in July 2013 to finish ahead of them and qualify for Brazil 2014.
Conflicting styles of football should provide an extra dimension to this game. Uzbekistan plays your more traditional European football with a slow build-up in the midfield to carefully setup attack after attack. Not afraid to move the ball sideways to seek out the better team option the Uzbek midfield has become heavily relied upon during the tournament.
The Taegeuk Warriors haven’t played to their full ability throughout the tournament and have been hit by injury throughout. Koo Ja-cheol and Lee Chung-yong have both been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign robbing the side of more than 100 games of international experience and giving German coach Uli Stielike some selection headaches.
Unable to find a real game winner, the team nonetheless continues to go forward and persevere, knowing someone will step up against a lesser opponent. In reaching the quarter final stage Korea Republic knows they need to find an extra gear if they are to reach the semi-finals of the Asian Cup for the fourth time in five tournaments. Many pundits have already written off this Korean team after their disappointing performance in Brazil last year.
The big issue
With teams playing their fourth game in 12 days we wait and see if the demanding schedule takes its toll. Uzbekistan has the advantage of being based in Melbourne since their final group game against Saudi Arabia, while Korea Republic has 24 hours more recovery on their opponents. The Taegeuk Warriors played a demanding 90 minutes against the highly aggressive Socceroos and were continually pressed throughout.
Uzbekistan could only take their foot off the pedal for the final few minutes of their game and needed to maintain a high intensity for the full match.
And will the substandard Brisbane pitch have an impact on the players?
With the squads so evenly matched these factors will play their part. A moment of brilliance could win the game. This is the beauty of tournament football when it reaches the elimination stage.
Sardor Rashidov: The Uzbekistan-based player found a liking for the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium and will be key to any further progression by the White Wolves. National captain Server Djeparov was left on the bench for the Saudi game and the focused turned towards the Bunyodkor forward. The 23-year-old showed a maturity and composure in the must win game for Uzbekistan and will be called upon again to unlock the Korea Republic defence.
Korea Republic will be tough to beat, but I’m predicting the Uzbekistan team to be too good. Uzbekistan will take their chances when required but will need extra time to eliminate the Taeguek Warriors. Uzbekistan 2-1 Korea Republic.comments