South Korea beats Japan to retain Asiad men's football title

(Xinhua) 14:10, October 08, 2023

HANGZHOU, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- South Korea came back to overcome Japan 2-1 in the men's football final here on Saturday, taking their third consecutive Asian Games title.

Kotaro Uchino gifted Japan an early lead before Jeong Woo-yeong headed to equalize in the first half. Cho Young-wook hit the winner for South Korea just before the hour mark.

"Today we played for the gold medal, we tried our best and got a good result. I am grateful that so many fans were supporting us late in the night, I also want to thank all the team staff for their effort. Without any of them, this glorious moment wouldn't have been realized," South Korea coach Hwang Seon-hong said after the match.

South Korea had beaten Uzbekistan 2-1, while Japan had eased past Hong Kong, China 4-0 to reach the final.

Japan enjoyed a dream start as Uchino hit Kein Sato's cross into the back of the net just two minutes into the game.

South Korea equalized in the 27th minute as Jeong headed Hwang Jae-won's pinpoint pass home. Jeong scored seven goals in the competition to win the Golden Boot award for top goalscorer.

South Korea maintained their momentum in the second half. Hwang dribbled through the middle to cause chaos in Japan's box, and Cho picked up the loose ball and sent it home in the 56th minute.

Victory in the Asian Games means that South Korea's players are now exempt from the country's mandatory military service, ensuring that their professional careers will not be interrupted, though Hwang said this was not uppermost in his players' minds.

"It is actually unrelated [the military service exemption]. If a player puts on the national team jersey, he has the responsibility to play for the country," Hwang said.

Japan lost the final against South Korea as they had done at the 2018 Asian Games, but coach Go Oiwa said the team had gained a lot from the competition.

"We've been able to play a lot of young players and they improved a lot after these matches. Now we are a much more united and better team. It is very important for the preparation of the Olympic qualifiers up next," Oiwa said.

In the bronze medal match, Khusain Norchaev scored twice as Uzbekistan beat Hong Kong, China 4-0.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)


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