Iraq reach the finals in their Asian Cup debut after knocking Korea out 4 – 3 in a tense penalty shootout after normal play ended 0 – 0 in their semifinal clash at Malaysia’s Bukit Jalil National Stadium on Wednesday evening.
|Iraq's players celebrate their historic victory over Korea|
Iraq will take on Saudi Arabia, who beat defending champions Japan in their semifinal match at Viet Nam’s My Dinh Stadium on the same day.
The first real scoring chance fell to underdog Iraq in the 16th minute, when the ball broke into the Korean penalty area and reached Younis Mahmoud, who fired a half-volley into the wrong side of the net.
The Iraqi striker then wasted another chance in the 40th minute when he calmly controlled Hawar Mohammed’s through pass and fired a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae narrowly wide of the far post.
Korea rallied strongly after the interval and came close to scoring when Jea Jin’s header from inside the box went over the bar in the 60th minute, shortly followed by Kim Jin-kyu powering a header that was deflected wide two minutes later.
At the other end, Ajeel Mahdi danced his way past two Korean defenders to turn in the box before firing a fierce shot across the face of the goal.
Korea replied soon after with Son Dae-ho chipping a through pass in behind the Iraqi defense to Lee Chun-soo, who sent a fine volley to the wrong side of the net.
Extra time was called for once again at Bukit Jalil National Stadium and after a cagey opening, the Koreans nearly broke the deadlock in the 95th minute when Lee Chun-soo rifled in a low shot from 20 meters, forcing a good diving save out of keeper Sabri.
Iraq missed a gilt-edged chance to take the lead near the end of the first extra period, when Mahdi Karim’s right wing cross was misjudged by keeper Lee Woon-jae and nicely dropped into the path of Hawar Mohammed, who struck the left post before being hacked off the line by Kim Jin-kyu.
In the second period of extra time, Lee Chun-soo sent a free kick from the right edge of the box just over the crossbar while Hawar Mohammed fired a shot across the face of goal.
In the shootout, Iraq’s players made no mistake from the spot in their first four penalties while Kim Jung-woo and Yeom Ki-hun both missed to send the Middle East side through to their first ever Asian Cup final.