DOHA - South Korea survived a fightback from Uzbekistan to win the Asian Cup third-place play-off 3-2 on Friday and book a place at the next tournament in four years time.
Korea led 3-0 after 40 minutes at the Al Sadd Stadium before Uzbek striker Alexander Geynrikh scored twice to set up a nervy finale to an entertaining match.
"We showed excellent fighting spirit through the Asian Cup... this gave us the possibility to show the world that we can play good football and I want to continue working on this," Korean coach Cho Kwang-rae told reporters.
"We played three matches in a week and two of those were 120 minutes. (The) players have not lost a game, I lost the penalty shootout," Cho added, referring to the 3-0 shootout loss to Japan in their semi-final and the extra time win over Iran in the last eight.
The Koreans, playing without captain Park Ji-sung, who along with Lee Young-pyo retired from internationals after the game, took the lead after a swift counter attack in the 17th minute and some poor defending by the Uzbeks.
Lee Yong-rae was allowed space to break through the heart of the Uzbek midfield and his pass put Koo Ja-cheol clear for the forward to score his fifth goal of the tournament.
The Koreans were 2-0 up 11 minutes later when some neat passing on the edge of the Uzbek penalty area to avoid some lunging challenges found Ji Dong-won in space and he lashed home.
Uzbekistan, thrashed 6-0 by Australia in their semi-final on Tuesday, looked ragged and their attack-minded central defender Odil Akhmedov struggled to contain Korea's creative front three.
More lethargic defending resulted in a third Korean goal when Ji leaped over Viktor Karpenko to plant a brilliant header in to the corner of Ignatiy Nesterov's goal in the 39th minute.
The Uzbeks pulled a goal back on the stroke of half-time when they were awarded a soft penalty following a challenge between Hwang Jae-won and Olim Novkarov just inside the penalty area.
Striker Geynrikh leathered the spot-kick in after his initial cheeky, dinked effort was ruled out following some encroachment.
Geynrikh reduced the deficit further eight minutes after half-time when he expertly pulled down a cross from the left, turned inside Lee Jung-soo and fired a left foot shot past keeper Jung Sung-ryong.
Australia meet Japan in the final at the Khalifa Stadium on Saturday.comments