Paraguay edged a step closer to an Olympic gold medal this evening, despite almost squandering a three-goal lead in their eventual 3-2 victory over Korea Republic which saw the Asians fight their way back into the game in a whirlwind five-minute spell in the closing stages. Paraguay will meet Iraq in the semi-final in Thessaloniki after the tournament's surprise package dispatched Australia in their quarter-final clash.
Korea Republic made the better start to the game. KIM Do Heon provided the first highlight when his 25-yard free-kick shaved the right-hand post with Paraguay goalkeeper Diego Barreto emphatically beaten (4).
Paraguay took a little more time to register their first shot in anger, Diego Figueredo unleashing a 20-yard effort which Korean keeper KIM Young Kwang palmed over the crossbar with his right hand (10). Suddenly, the South Americans stepped up the pressure, YOO Sang Chul making a last gasp tackle on Jose Cardozo who was poised to shoot (14). Julio Manzur went close with a header from 10 yards just moments later (15). However, Paraguay's increased efforts were soon rewarded: Libertad striker Fredy Bareiro skipped past YOO before driving the ball over Kim and into the net from a tight angle (1-0, 19).
The South Koreans had completely lost the initiative of the opening exchanges, with Paraguay now dictating the play. An Emilio Martinez cross found its target in Cardozo who headed the ball over (25).
|Action from Paraguay v. Korea|
KIM Do Heon had the first opportunity of the second half, but was wide of the target (46). Lee whipped a free-kick just wide of the goal four minutes later, and an equaliser at this stage would not have been undeserved for coach Kim Ho Kon's men (50). An inch-perfect pass from CHO handed LEE another good chance on goal (52), but it was Paraguay who gave a lesson in converting opportunities after going 30 minutes without a real sight of goal. A Bareiro cross picked out Cardozo perfectly, who headed past the helpless KIM in the Korean goal (2-0, 61). Bareiro added his second ten minutes later courtesy of a dream assist from Aureliano Torres to give the South Americans a comfortable cushion (3-0, 71).
Could the Koreans claw back a three-goal deficit again as they did against Mali? It certainly looked possible when LEE found the target from an incredible 35 yards, giving his team renewed hope at 3-1 (74). LEE added a second from the spot just five minutes later after a Torres handball (3-2, 79), guaranteeing a pulsating conclusion. Korea surged forward, forcing Barreto into a desperate save from a KIM Dong Jin drive (82). However, the Asians' powers began to diminish towards the final whistle, and Paraguay held out for a narrow victory.
Paraguay coach Carlos Jara admitted: "It was a difficult, very intense game against a strong team. We had a big a advantage but then ran into problems at the end. We are lucky to have won a game like that for Paraguay. We are happy and proud that we did it."
Korean coach Kim Ho Kon summarised: "Both teams played a good game. We were always optimistic that we could do it, but we conceded easy goals just as we did against Mali. Our defenders were off the pace when it came to stopping quick and clever strikers."