Korea dug deep into its reserves to become the last and the lowest-ranked side to reach the quarterfinals of the World Cup with a dramatic 3-2 shootout win in the crossover match against 2016 Olympic champion Argentina. The teams were tied 5-5 in regulation time in a game that saw honours constantly shifting before the Koreans prevailed to keep the Asian challenge alive in the competition.
Having missed the previous edition and finishing 10th before that, Korea threw everything it had into the game, desperate to stay in the competition. With Argentina not conceding any quarters either, the result was arguably the best match of the tournament so far. Argentina looked determined but it had to contend with a nippy Korea that relied on counter-attacks and managed to accelerate a notch every time it got the ball.
Having run out of fuel towards the end in its previous matches, Korea caught Argentina by surprise with a clean defence and turning it quickly into attack. Argentina still took an early lead, thanks to a sloppy clearance by Korean goalkeeper Jaehyeon Kim tapped in by Maico Casella in the eighth minute. Kim would eventually become Korea’s hero, bringing off two spectacular saves in the shootout to deny Argentina.
Korea kept up the pressure and the 2nd quarter saw a goal spree with both teams scoring twice. Korea was rewarded in the 18th minute when Jungjun Lee put Taeil Hwang who reverse passed it to an unmarked Sunghyun Kim. Two minutes later, Junwoo Jeong doubled the lead only for Nicolas Keenan to level again, deflecting a free hit in and Nicolas della Torre making it 3-2 three minutes later.
The match continued to be in balance and when Argentina took a two-goal lead with 13 minutes to go and in control of the game, it looked like Korea would falter again near the finish line. But Yong Nam Lee and his boys had other ideas, pushing hard and earning two PCs, converting both to level scores.
Their reward is a clash for a semifinal spot against last edition’s runner-up Netherlands on Wednesday while Argentina will travel to Rourkela and take on Chile on Thursday in the classification match.
The result: Korea 5 (Jonghyun Jang 2, Junwoo Jeong, Sunghyun Kim, Yong Nam Lee) bt Argentina 5 (Nicolas Keenan 2, Nicolas della Torre 2, Maico Casella).
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