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Korea edge past Saudi Arabia in penalty shootout to reach Asian Cup quarterfinals



Korea survived a tense penalty shootout against Saudi Arabia to book their place in the quarterfinals of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup in Qatar on Tuesday.

After a goalless 120 minutes of regulation and extra time, the match was decided by spot kicks at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, west of Doha. Korean goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo emerged as the hero, saving two penalties from Saudi Arabia's Abdullah Al-Hamdan and Salem Al-Dawsari, while the first four Korean shooters all converted their kicks.

Korea will face either Japan or Vietnam in the last eight on Friday.

The match was a tight affair, with both teams struggling to create clear-cut chances. Korea had more possession and shots, but Saudi Arabia defended well and looked dangerous on the counterattack.

Korea's best opportunity in the first half came in the 28th minute, when Hwang Hee-chan's header from a corner was cleared off the line by Saudi defender Mohammed Al-Khabrani. Saudi Arabia's most threatening moment was in the 43rd minute, when Al-Dawsari's curling shot from the edge of the box was tipped over by Jo.

The second half was more open, with both sides pushing for a breakthrough. Korea came close in the 58th minute, when Hwang Ui-jo's volley from a cross by Lee Jae-sung was parried away by Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais. Saudi Arabia responded in the 66th minute, when Al-Hamdan's header from a free kick was saved by Jo.



In extra time, Korea had a golden chance to win the game in the 105th minute, when substitute Lee Dong-gyeong was fouled in the box by Al-Khabrani. However, Hwang Ui-jo's penalty was saved by Al-Owais, who guessed the right direction and dived low to his left.

The miss proved costly, as the game went to a penalty shootout. Korea took the first kick, and Hwang Hee-chan calmly slotted it into the bottom corner. Al-Hamdan stepped up for Saudi Arabia, but his shot was pushed away by Jo. Kim Min-jae then doubled Korea's lead with a powerful strike into the top corner. Al-Faraj scored Saudi Arabia's first penalty, sending Jo the wrong way. Lee Dong-gyeong made it 3-1 for Korea with a low shot into the corner. Al-Dawsari had to score to keep Saudi Arabia in the game, but his shot was saved by Jo, who dived to his right and punched the ball away. Korea celebrated as they secured their spot in the quarterfinals.

Korea coach Jurgen Klinsmann praised his players for their resilience and determination. "It was a very tough game, but we showed our character and spirit. We never gave up, and we fought until the end. I'm very proud of the team, and I'm very happy for Jo, who was outstanding today," he said.

Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard congratulated Korea on their victory, but expressed his disappointment with the result. "We played a good game, we defended well, and we had some chances. But in the penalty shootout, anything can happen. It's a lottery, and today we were unlucky. I'm sad for the players, who gave everything, but I'm also proud of them," he said.

DANISH ROSHAN

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