A marauding South Korean frontline lead by Kim Dae-won has cut strips through a timid Olyroos defence to seal a 2-0 victory in their AFC U-23 Championship semi-final and deny Australia their first chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
The Olyroos could have qualified for the Games for the first time in 12 years by beating South Korea, but their opponents had other ideas at Bangkok’s Thammasat Stadium on Wednesday night.
After an evenly matched first half at Bangkok’s Thammasat Stadium on Wednesday night, Taegeuk Warriors began to turn the screws on their opponents, with defender Jeong Tae-uk rising to nod past Australia goalkeeper Tom Glover only to be denied by the woodwork.
Eventually South Korea did break the deadlock when midfielder Kim Dae-won scored a fine poacher’s goal in the 56th minute.
Lee You-hyeon’s low effort from the right fizzed past an outstretched Glover and struck the left post, with the unmarked Kim waiting to tap into the open goal.
Shortly after, defender Jeong managed to break away in the Olyroos’ congested 18-yard box to find himself one-on-one with Glover, but he thrashed his panicked shot skywards.
South Korea then doubled their lead in the 76th minute after some deft footwork by substitute Lee Dong-gyeong.
The midfielder received the ball on the edge of the area and cut inside defender Dylan Ryan before drilling a low left-footed effort past Glover and off the post into the net, sparking wild celebrations in the mainly South Korean crowd.
Kim had a chance to make it 3-0 six minutes from full time when he went around Gabriel Cleur on the edge of the area but his low drive was swatted away by a diving Glover.
Australia did try to break out but a relentless South Korea swarmed over quarter-final hero Al Hassan Toure and fellow forwards Trent Buhagiar, Jacob Italiano and Reno Piscopo.
By the dying stages of the match the Olyroos had been reduced to sending searching balls into touch-down both flanks.
In Sunday’s final, South Korea will face Saudi Arabia, who beat Uzbekistan 1-0 earlier on Wednesday night.
The Olyroos can still qualify for the Olympics if they beat Uzbekistan in the third place playoff at 11.30pm (AEDT) on Saturday.