A common theme deepens as thrice-champions Japan approach their fourth final in the last six Asian Cups. Their semi-final passage to that final proved highly uncommon.
Crestfallen after rivals South Korea equalised at defeat’s door and sent their fans delirious, Japan reversed the plot by dominating the penalties thanks to goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.
South Korea, seeking their first final appearance since 1988, instead will seek their third third-place finish since, after leading early when Park Ji-sung sought a hopeless long ball from Hwang Jae-won near the goalline only to have Yasuyuki Konno ram squarely into him and Khalil Al Ghamdi’s pointed to the spot. Ki Sung-yeung’s converted.
In reply, Keisuke Honda hurried a ball toward Yuto Nagatomo overlapping on the left, whereupon Nagatomo centred to Ryoichi Maeda, who connected from inside the box.
Things stayed even until the linesman ruled Hwang’s crash into Shinji Okazaki had occurred inside the box and Hajime Hosogai converted Honda’s saved penalty.
South Korea looked doomed until a frantic melee in the box resulted in Hwang driving home it inside the right post. “We showed how strong we are when it comes to fighting spirit and passion,” said South Korea manager Cho Kwang Rae.
Kawashima parried away the first two Korean offerings in the shootout, before Ho Hong-jeong to hit the third wide, arrangingYasuyuki Konno’s clincher.