Three-time champions Korea Republic dealt another bodyblow to Chinese football with an impressive 3-0 win in the Asian Games last 16 today. After struggling into the knockout stages, China PR were no match for the cultured and talented Koreans.
They will now face Uzbekistan who beat defending champions Qatar thanks to an extra-time winner, taking advantage of an unbelievable open-goal-miss from Qatari-teenager Fahad Khalifan.
"We scored an early goal which meant we were going to win," said Korea Republic coach Hong Myung-Bo. "The Chinese fans who were supporting China PR before the match began to support us towards the end."
Korea Republic had dominated the first half and could have gone in at the break at least three goals up. They had taken the lead after 19 minutes when a swift break down the left forced the stretched Chinese defence to furiously back-pedal. Cho Young-Cheol was left in plenty of space to gather the cross and slot the ball across to Kim Jung-Woo to score past Zhang Shichang in the China PR goal.
Zhang then saved well from Park Chu-Young and Kim Bo-Kyung to keep the deficit down to one goal at the interval. But even Zhang was powerless to keep out the second goal, scored by Monaco's Park Chu-Young with a curling free-kick around the defensive wall four minutes into the second half.
By this point Korea Republic were unstoppable and Kim Jung-Woo scored his second of the night after 57 minutes when he nipped between two defenders to slot home Ji Dong-Won's smart pass. China PR searched for a way back in vain with both Wang Xuanhong and Li Kai seeing efforts going wide, but a comeback never materialised.
The defeat comes at the worst possible time for China PR whose national team failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup and whose U-23 team here had failed to win a single match before home fans at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Howler foils champions
Qatar's Fahad Khalfan joined the ranks of football's greatest blunders when he missed an open goal from one yard out as the defending champions crashed out of the Asian Games 1-0 to Uzbekistan.
The 18-year-old Khalfan had pounced on Uzbekistan goalkeeper Timur Juraev's error after he air-kicked an attempted clearance in the first period of extra-time of their last 16 tie. The Qatari striker then smartly dribbled the ball to the front of the goal, before incredibly stabbing his left-foot shot against the post, leaving his teammates stunned and the teenager completely bewildered.
Uzbekistan made the most of their lifeline with Ivan Nagaev grabbing the winner in the 23rd minute of extra-time to reach the quarter-finals.
Meanwhile, four-time champions Iran beat a depleted Malaysia 3-1 to make the quarter-finals where they will face Oman who trounced Hong Kong 3-0. The Iranians are seasoned Asiad campaigners, having won the competition in 1974, 1990, 1998 and 2002.
They used the experience to good effect against a Malaysian side making its first appearance in the second round since 1978. Malaysia came into the game in crisis after three players were sent off in their stormy 3-0 defeat to China PR in their final group game.
The Iranians got the breakthrough in the 53rd minute when Karim Ansari Fard picked the ball up on the edge of the box and rifled it past the diving goalkeeper.
Seyed Hosseini made it 2-0 seven minutes later before Amir Sharafi added a third as Iran ran their opponents ragged. Malaysia got a consolation penalty four minutes from time but it was too little too late.