The Mexicans drew first blood in the Round of 16 affair, scoring through Guillermo Madrigal in the fading moments of the first half. The Koreans, though, roared back to level 1-1 in second-half stoppage time and, after a goalless extra-time period, the east Asians hit home all five of their spot kicks to eliminate the 2005 world champions.
The first half began with both sides in tentative mood and unwilling to push too much forward into the attack. The first half-chance came in the 26th minute, Kim Dong-Jin looping his header at the near post just over Jose Rodriguez's crossbar from a well-taken corner-kick. Ten minutes later, the Koreans looked like scoring again with the first clear chance of the contest. Some devilish wing play from Nam Seung-Woo out on the right ended in a superb cross to the back post, where Yun Il-Lok should really have done better. With no Mexican defender within five yards of him, and with the goal at his mercy, he headed off the pitch and against the crossbar.
Four minutes before the break, Son Heung-Min tried his luck from 30 yards and forced Rodriguez into a fine save at his near post. But the Koreans were eventually punished for their profligacy with a minute to go in the opening period. Pachuca playmaker Victor Manon took on two defenders near the edge of the penalty area and slipped a fine through ball to his left, which was duly dispatched into the back of the net by Madrigal from an acute angle.
The Koreans came out from the changing rooms in search of a leveller, and they caused the Mexican rearguard headaches straight away. Amid a flurry of attacks, Kim Jin-Su grazed the post with a well-taken free-kick from 25 yards that had the Mexican keeper beaten. Park Sun-Ju then tried a tricky, looping shot from long-distance in the 53rd minute that Rodriguez managed to hold, with Korean attackers bearing down on him and hoping for a rebound.
The pressure was mounting on Mexico, who were happy enough to protect their slim lead and hit out on the occasional counter-attack up the other end. As the clock ground ever closer to 90 minutes, the action became a little more frenetic, with chances at both ends. After 73 minutes, Manon rattled the Korean crossbar with a vicious free-kick. With just seconds left on the clock, captain Kristian Alvarez looked to have settled the affair to make it 2-0 for Mexico, nodding home a free-kick from close range, but it was whistled back for offside.
Just when it looked like the game was beyond the wasteful Koreans, they conjured an equaliser at the death and forced extra time, substitute Kim Dong-Jin hitting home his first-ever goal for his country from close range two minutes into stoppage time.
Both sides began the extra-time first-half session cautiously, but the Koreans had a decent chance near the end of the first period. A long throw-in fell to Son Heung Min, but his firm volley went straight into the waiting arms of Rodriguez. The second period produced very little of note in the attacking third and the contest was decided by a shootout, the first at these Nigerian finals.
The Koreans edged out the penalty lottery, scoring all five of their spot kicks to win the day and move on to the quarter-finals, where they will take on Nigeria.