Jo Hyeon-woo took on the role of the hero as South Korea advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup on Tuesday. They secured a 4-2 triumph in the penalty shoot-out against Saudi Arabia at Education City Stadium, following a 1-1 draw at the conclusion of extra time.
Ulsan HD goalkeeper Hyeon-woo’s stellar performance included crucial saves from Sami Al-Naji and Abdulrahman Ghareeb during the third and fourth rounds of penalties. This paved the way for Wolverhampton Wanderers’ very own Hwang Hee-chan to confidently slot in the winning penalty into the top corner, setting up a meeting with Australia at Al Janoub Stadium on Friday.
Arguably the match of the round from this year’s Asian Cup round of 16 between two giants of Asian football, the game escalated to penalties after Abdullah Radif handed Saudi Arabia the lead less than a minute into the second half. However, Cho Gue-sung’s last-minute header leveled the score, extending the match into extra time. Despite an additional 30 minutes of play failing to separate the teams, Hwang’s decisive penalty, following Hyeon-woo’s pivotal saves, left the crestfallen Saudis waiting for another three years to vie for the title they last secured in 1996.
A frenetic conclusion to regular time sharply contrasted with the cautious start, characterized by few opportunities. The first 45 minutes saw Mohammed Al-Burayk’s corner, Saleh Al-Shehri’s header against the post, and Ali Lajami’s attempt rebounding off the crossbar. The South Korean fortune wavered after the restart, with Radif capitalizing on Roberto Mancini’s decision to substitute the largely ineffective Al-Shehri to give the Saudis the lead.
Fueled by the urgency to secure their first AFC Asian Cup in 64 years, Jurgen Klinsmann’s South Korea intensified their efforts in the dying minutes. Ahmed Al-Kassar thwarted Seol Young-woo twice, and Hassan Al-Tambakhti denied captain Son Heung-min’s goal-bound attempt before Cho’s injury-time header hit the crossbar. Under persistent pressure from the Taeguk Warriors, the Saudi resistance crumbled as Cho headed in from close range, bringing the score level.
In extra time, South Korea appeared more likely to score, with Kim Min-jae’s header saved by Al-Kassar and Cho missing a clear opportunity. Al-Kassar continued his heroics, stopping Lee Kang-in’s goal-bound strike in the 115th minute. Following Hyeon-woo’s denial of Radif’s late effort, the South Koreans emerged triumphant in the shoot-out, booking themselves a date with Australia in the process.