Two goals either side of half-time were enough to give Korea Republic a place on the podium at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament and send Japan home empty-handed following a keenly contested encounter in Cardiff.
Prior to this match, the South Koreans had only won one of their five games at the tournament, a 2-1 win over Switzerland in the group stages, with their quarter-final against Great Britain having been decided on penalties.
Arsenal forward Park Chuyoung and Augsburg midfielder Koo Jacheol were on target for the Taeguk Warriors who claimed Asia’s first medal in the men’s tournament since 1948, when Japan picked up bronze.
The first half was a niggly, if not bad tempered, affair short on goalmouth incident, until Japan had a couple of chances in quick succession several minutes before half-time. Korea Republic goalkeeper Jung Sungryong had to be alert to punch a Keigo Higashi header over the bar and from the resulting corner Horoki Sakai went close with a header.
It was Korea Republic who took the lead in the 38th minute. Park Chuyoung showed a great deal of class when he received the ball just inside the Japan half, ran at the defence before firing just inside the near post from the edge of the box.
It could have been more for the South Koreans had Gonda not been in such excellent form. He superbly stopped a fine shot at full stretch from Kim Bokyung, which seemed destined for the top corner.
Japan put everything into attack, but Korea Republic refused to panic and saw out the game in some style. At the final whistle, the Blue Samurai, who topped Group D, were disconsolate, while the victors can now look forward to a trip to Wembley tomorrow to collect their bronze medals.