Australia and South Korea contested a real slobberknocker in Brisbane on Saturday night, suggesting that the Asian Cup may finally be heating up… (日本語版はこちらです)
Things have all been fairly tepid at the Asian Cup so far, but if the scenes in Brisbane on Saturday night are anything to go by the temperature may be about to rise.
Australia-South Korea was a dead rubber on paper, with both teams already assured of their places in the knockout stage, but nobody seemed to have told the players, with the challenges flying in and tempers flaring throughout a breathless 90 minutes at a hot and humid Brisbane Stadium.
Park Joo-ho was the first casualty, being stretchered off the pitch with a bloody nose after Nathan Burns had led with his elbow in an aerial challenge. The former Jubilo Iwata man returned to the field after a lengthy period of treatment, but was ultimately unable to continue and was substituted before the break.
That wasn’t the only change Ulrich Stielike was forced to make, and the Koreans also lost Koo Ja-cheol in the second half, when he landed awkwardly after contesting a header with Matt Spiranovic.
The Taeguk Warriors’ coach is beginning to get a little exasperated with the number of men he is losing to battle wounds.
“We have now had to take out in each game one or two players by injuries, so in the moment it’s a little bit heavy for us,” Stielike said in the mixed zone post-match.
“The big problem can be Koo Ja-cheol, because we have to take him to the hospital tomorrow to make an x-ray. [It’s] a problem in the elbow but we cannot say more at the moment.”
Spiranovic expressed regret that his opponent ended up in such a bad way, but didn’t feel that the game had been especially dirty.
“I think both sides were up for the game tonight and showed a lot of aggression, but that’s expected. I thought the challenges were fair and hard, and that’s the main thing. Unfortunately one of their players came off worse for wear, but that’s just an accident.”
The Western Sydney Wanderers centre-back – who picked up a caution later in the game and is suspended as a result for Thursday’s quarter-final with China – believes that a more robust approach will be needed to lift the title.
“You’ve got teams like Japan and Korea and ourselves, we’ll all back ourselves in the way we play our football. But it’s a competitive sport and every game’s going to be a tough contest. Bodies are going to be put on the line and that was no different tonight.”
Tim Cahill also relished the physical nature of the game, and congratulated the South Koreans on the way they stood their ground.
“Oh, it’s brilliant. Good on them. It’s brilliant because I think Korea have added a different element to their game, the physicality. Technically they’re a great team, they’ve got great players. And they’re going to cause people problems, the next team they play.”
Like Spiranovic he didn’t feel that any of the clashes in the game had overstepped the mark – especially in comparison to some of the comings-together he had experienced in the Premier League – and predicted another fiery encounter with China in the next game.
“I don’t know about getting into a fight because technically Korea are very good and the challenges are nothing [compared to] what I’ve had in the past, but it’s definitely a nice marker to where the tournament’s going.
“I know that [China] deserve to be there – I don’t really want them to go under the radar. There’s a big Chinese community in Australia and it’s great for the Asian Cup and Australia. It’s going to be a sellout, so there’s definitely going to be fireworks come the quarter-finals.”