Korea, China to Face off in Group-Stage Decider at Asian Cup

  • By Chang Min-seok

    January 14, 2019 11:03

    China is giving Korea a run for its money in the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup, beating its opponents with crushing force.

    China and Korea have both qualified for the next round with two wins each, but the former leads the group with a goal difference of +4, versus +2 for Korea.

    China on Friday routed the Philippines 3-0, while Korea held off Kyrgyzstan 1-0 thanks to a header in the 41st minute by Kim Min-jae despite showing weak finishing ability and poor passing.

    Korean players celebrate after Kim Min-jae (2nd from right) scored a goal against Kyrgyzstan at the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup in the UAE on Friday. /Newsis

    The two nations face off in their final group-stage match on Wednesday in the UAE.

    Wu Lei of Shanghai SIPG has emerged as the star for China, hitting the back of the net twice in the team's win over the Philippines. Korea's top star Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur arrives on Tuesday but is unlikely to play in Wednesday's game as he may need some time to rest after starting for Spurs against Manchester United on Sunday. He has played in 12 games in just over a month with a break of just three to four days in between each.

    Korea needs to beat China if it is to end the first round atop their group.

    Chinese attacker Wu Lei (left) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Philippines at the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup in the UAE on Friday. /Xinhua-Yonhap

    Finishing second could mean a quarterfinal showdown with Iran, which at 29th in the FIFA world rankings is considerably higher than Korea (51). Korea and Iran faced off in the Cup's quarterfinals five straight times between 1996 and 2011 with two wins, two losses and one draw each, and had a tense game every time.

    The Iranians beat Vietnam 2-0 on Saturday, taking their tally to seven goals with none conceded after two games.

    But if Korea finishes the group stage on top, it will be unlikely to face Iran or Japan, both of which are expected to win their groups, until the finals. 

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