INCHEON, South Korea (AFP) – South Korea have had little time to dust themselves off after a draining 1-0 win over Japan before Tuesday’s Asian Games semi-final against Thailand.
Having come through one politically charged encounter, victory over Thailand could see the host nation take on their cousins from north of the border in the men’s football final, in what would be another emotion-filled evening.
North Korea first have to keep their end of the bargain and they will find no quarter given by an impressive Iraq side who overpowered Saudi Arabia 3-0 in the quarter-finals, sparked by two goals from captain Younis Mahmoud.
Something will have to give when South Korea and Thailand meet as neither side has conceded a goal so far in the competition. Thailand brushed aside Jordan 2-0 in the last eight.
“Thailand are skilful and organised but they haven’t really faced anyone as strong as us yet,” South Korea coach Lee Kwang-Jong told a news conference. “We are not Maldives or East Timor. It will be different for them tomorrow.”
As an added carrot for Lee’s players, they will be excused two years of mandatory military service if they end a 28-year title drought and win the tournament, which is played under the same under-23 format as the Olympics.
The South Koreans dominated against Japan but required a late penalty from Jang Hyun-Soo to break the tension in front of 43,000 fans at the weekend.
“We haven’t won a gold medal at the Asian Games for a long time,” added Lee. “The players are feeling the nerves but hopefully they will go out there and enjoy it.”