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(LEAD) S. Korea draw Iraq, top group in Olympic football qualifying tournament

All News 04:38 January 20, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS comments at bottom)

DOHA, Jan 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea drew Iraq 1-1 but still topped their group in the Olympic men's football qualifying tournament here on Tuesday.

South Korea were nursing their slim lead on forward Kim Hyun's first-half header, until Amjed Hussein netted the equalizer in the dying moments of the final Group C match at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship in the Qatari capital.

The result left both nations tied at seven points on two victories and a draw, but South Korea finished in first place thanks to their goal difference edge, plus-6 to plus-3.

The competition is also serving as the Asian qualifying tournament for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. The top three nations will advance to the Olympics, and South Korea are gunning for their eighth consecutive appearance in the quadrennial event.

As the Group C winner, South Korea will face the runner-up from Group D in the quarterfinals at 4:30 p.m. Saturday (10:30 p.m. Saturday in Korean time) at Suhaim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha.

Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Australia all have a chance to win Group D, and their final group matches will take place on Wednesday.

Both South Korea and Iraq had secured knockout berths prior to the match, with only the top spot in the group at stake. South Korean head coach Shin Tae-yong inserted seven new starters into the lineup compared to the squad that defeated Yemen 5-0 last Saturday, and Kim Hyun, in his first start of the tournament, came through with the opening score in the 22nd.

Lee Chang-min sent a sharp cross from the left wing and Kim, the tallest South Korean attacker at 190 centimeters, deftly redirected it with his head past goalkeeper Karrar Ibrahim.

Iraq barely put up any fight in the opening half, though Amjed Waleed Hussein fired a low shot in the 40th that forced goalkeeper Kim Dong-jun to make a diving save to his left.

Iraq upped the pressure to open the second half, though their superior ball possession didn't translate into dangerous opportunities.

South Korea then tried to turn the tide. At the hour mark, South Korean substitute Kwon Chang-hoon, who scored a hat trick against Yemen, found himself in alone on Ibrahim but fired one well over the net.

Kim Hyun soared for another header in the 67th but his effort sailed over the crossbar. Two minutes later, the lanky forward set up midfielder Yu In-soo with a low cross from right, only to see the shot go wide of the net.

Iraq kept knocking on the door over the final 15 minutes and finally got on board in injury time. Mohannad Abdul-Raheem took control of the ball on the right wing and sent a cross to the charging Hussein, whose redirection rolled past Kim Dong-jun in net.

South Korea coach Shin Tae-yong said he was disappointed with the way his players blew the lead, but the result will eventually serve as a good learning experience.

"I think we made a mistake of trying to protect the lead without adding more goals," Shin said. "After the match, I told the players in the locker room to learn from this. We will make sure something like this won't happen again in the knockout stage."

Shin tried to look on the bright side and said the reserves who finally got a chance to play made strong contributions.

"Hwang Ki-wook (holding midfielder making his first start of the tournament) was our best player today," the coach said. "And I think Kim Hyun must have grown more confident after scoring the goal. He will get his share of chances to play."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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