Tuesday, June 11, 2013

South Korea 1 - Uzbekistan 0; Iran 4 - Lebanon 0

Seoul was the site for the top-of-the-group clash between visiting Uzbekistan and South Korea.  Uzbekistan would qualify for Brasil 2014 with a win, and South Korea would get in with a win coupled with a Lebanon victory later in the day.  South Korea were the better side early on, though a long-distance warning shot from Anzur Ismailov forced South Korea goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong into a diving save.  A long diagonal ball from South Korea right back Kim Chang-soo was won on a header by Kim Shin-Wook, and Son Heung-Min was able to first time a ball into the path of Lee Keun-Ho, though Lee Keun-Ho could not hit the target with the goal at his mercy.  South Korea found themselves with an undeserved corner after a Korean handball was not called inside the Uzbek box.  On the resulting corner, the ball was punched aside by Uzbekistan goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov, but the resulting cross back into the box was well struck by Kim Young-Gwon.  Uzbekistan defender Akmal Shorakmedov, who had been having a very solid game, looped in a powerful header into his own goal, and South Korea would take a 1-0 lead into the half.

From the opening whistle, the second half was completely owned by the visiting White Wolves. Server Djeparov was his usual creative self, and partner-in-crime Odil Ahmedov was dribbling around defenders into space consistently.  Uzbekistan were also employing a much higher line, but their twenty minutes of domination did not lead to an equalizer.  The rest of the half was played slightly more in the Korean, end but save for one turn-around shot from Alexander Geynrikh that was blocked by South Korea's defense, there was not much in the second period.  South Korea win 1-0 and await the second result to see if they have made it to Brasil 2014.

Iran relished the opportunity to play a home match in Tehran against already-eliminated Lebanon.  Abbas Hassan in goal for Lebanon made a save with his trailing leg, one of many Iranian chances to go beggin in the first half hour of the match.  A visibly tired Lebanese side had nine players absent from this match, and eventually the lack of options wore them down.  Mohammad Khalatbari received a pass at the top of the box, ran to his right to evade two defenders, and then swung across his body to put Iran up 1-0.  In stoppage time, a short corner played to Khosro Heydari found a cluster of four Iranian players, and it would be Javad Nekounam whose header would make the halftime score 2-0 in favor of Iran.

Lebanon defender Hassan Daser was literally brought to his knees in the first minute of the second half by the moves of Reza Ghoochannejhad, leaving Ghoochannejhad with just the goalkeeper to beat, which he did for 3-0.  Nekounam finished the scoring with a curling shot from just above the half circle that left the goalkeeper rooted to his spot in disgust.  Iran win 4-0.  The victory pushes Iran into second place with one match remaining, and it condemns Qatar to the status of "eliminated."

The final matchday in Group One pits South Korea against Iran with one ticket to Brasil 2014 at stake and possibly two.  However, a home victory by Uzbekistan against Qatar would send Uzbekistan through if South Korea win their match.  Uzbekistan will need to go for a multiple-goals victory against Qatar in case South Korea fail to win because Uzbekistan would then be caught in a goal-differential battle, as they would be even with another side on 14 points.

South Korea 14 pts +7
Iran 13 pts +5
Uzbekistan 11 pts +1
Qatar OUT
Lebanon OUT

South Korea
Akmal Shorakmedov 42 OG

Mohammad Khalatbari 39
Javad Nekounam 45+1, 86
Reza Ghoochannejhad 46

Match Reports:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYKu49x3i50 (South Korea v. Uzbekistan)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5AQw1QlaxI (Iran v. Lebanon)

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