For the third time in the last four editions of the Asian Cup, Australia and South Korea will face each other in the quarter-finals on Friday at Al Janoub Stadium.
In the previous round, Australia had a convincing 4-0 victory over Indonesia, while South Korea advanced after a penalty shootout against Saudi Arabia.
Australia relied on compact and solid defending in the group stage, but they showed their attacking prowess in the last match.
They scored four goals against Indonesia, which is the same number of goals they scored in the entire group phase. This was their second-highest goal tally in an Asian Cup knockout match since their 6-0 win against Uzbekistan in the 2011 semi-finals.
Under coach Graham Arnold, Australia remains unbeaten in eight consecutive matches in all competitions, outscoring their opponents 20-1 during that period.
This match was Arnold’s 50th game as Socceroos boss, and he has only suffered seven defeats in his two stints as the national team coach.
Since their Asian Cup debut in 2011, Australia has conceded only three goals in all of their knockout fixtures, never allowing more than one goal in a single game beyond the group stage.
The last time they defeated South Korea was in the 2015 Asian Cup final, which ended 2-1 after extra time. This is the only time they have won the tournament.
South Korea showed great resilience in the previous round, scoring in the ninth minute of stoppage time and winning the penalty shootout.
Under Jurgen Klinsmann, they faced a partisan crowd in their match against Saudi Arabia. However, they managed to score eight shots on target and eventually break through.
This will be their second consecutive trip to the quarter-finals in this competition. Their only previous defeat at this stage was a 1-0 loss to Qatar, who went on to win the tournament, four years ago.
Four of South Korea’s six goals in the Asian Cup this year have come after the 80th minute, with three of them scored in stoppage time.
Before the start of this tournament, South Korea had kept seven consecutive clean sheets. However, they have conceded seven goals in their four Asian Cup matches.
In their last five competitive matches against Australia, South Korea has lost only once and kept three clean sheets.
Australia Asian Cup form: W W D W
Australia form (all competitions): W W W W D W
South Korea Asian Cup form: W D D W
South Korea form (all competitions): W W W D D W
Gethin Jones sustained a groin strain in the previous round but has been cleared to play in this quarter-final fixture for Australia.
Lewis Miller and Thomas Deng are expected to recover from their illnesses, and Mitchell Duke will be available after missing the last match due to a hamstring injury.
Coach Arnold made two changes to the starting lineup in the knockout victory this week, with Jones and Bruno Fornaroli replacing Nathaniel Atkinson and Kusini Yengi.
Elkan Baggott’s own goal put Australia in front against Indonesia, with Martin Boyle and Craig Goodwin also finding the net. Harry Souttar scored the fourth goal.
Coach Klinsmann made one change to the South Korean starting lineup in their match against Saudi Arabia, bringing in Jung Seung-hyun to replace Cho Gue-sung.
Son Heung-min reached his 121st appearance for South Korea in the previous match. On Friday, he can equal Yoo Sang-chul’s sixth-most all-time caps record. Jeong Woo-yeong now has 20 caps, while Kim Jin-su reached 70.
Gue-sung equalized for South Korea late in the round of 16 match, Jo Hyeon-woo saved two Saudi penalties, and Hwang Hee-chan scored the winning penalty.
Australia possible starting lineup:
Atkinson, Souttar, Rowles, Behich;
Metcalfe, Irvine, Bos, Goodwin;
South Korea possible starting lineup:
Seung-hyun, Min-jae, Young-gwon;
Tae-hwan, Jae-sung, In-beom, Hyun-seok;
Prediction: Australia 1-1 South Korea (Australia advances on penalties)
South Korea has shown great resilience throughout the tournament, but we believe their luck will run out against a disciplined and consistent Socceroos side. Therefore, we lean towards Australia narrowly advancing.