Tom Danicek looks at how some players performed for both sides in the semi final.
South Korea have broken their own semi final hoodoo and you can check here how exactly they did it. But how about individuals? Who coped well and who did otherwise? Here are our 10 stand-out performers from the first 2015 Asian Cup semi final; for both good and bad reasons:
Kim Jin-su (South Korea)
Praising Kim Jun-su is turning into a regular habit, but what other options do we have than keep banging on about the revelation of the tournament? The 22-year-old South Korean left back was simply back at it offensively – showing his expectional ball technique not only when delivering an assist via a free kick, but also as well as defensively. He still seems to be never wrong when attempting to win the ball, and what more, he has a serious knack for producing some spectacular & just as important sliding tackles. Therefore, he’s the SFGP Man of the Match. Once again.
Cha Du-ri (South Korea)
Fullbacks can be absolutely crucial to your potential success in modern football and this Stielike side delivers a clear testament to that. Since Cha Du-ri’s last ditch tackles or blocks – supplemented by some smart offensive support – also contributed massively to the South Korean semi final win. The 34-year-old veteran is still the same beast as he was at the last Asian Cup and it’d be no overstatement to say Iraq have been “Cha Duri-ed“ here in Sydney.
Lee Jung-hyup (South Korea)
Isn‘t he a “South Korean Ryoichi Maeda” in the making? He easily could be, as he’s only a younger version of the Japanese target man who was also a somewhat unsung hero of that 2011 Asian games gold winning team. Lee Jung-hyup was vital to South Korea today particularly when it came to hold up play and his willingness to absorb almost all hard tackles from the opponents. We probably won’t see him at any other Asian Cup, yet even if this was his sole appearance at the biggest continental stage, he’s already left his mark. And he can add some more in the final.
Kim Young-gwon (South Korea)
Another South Korean goalscorer whose fine half volley from 50th minute very much put the game to bed for the favourites. Otherwise though, Kim Young-gwon hasn’t been at his finest, especially right at the beginning of the match. He somewhat forced Ki Sung-yueng to see an early yellow card while his trademark long-distance passing was way too risky and generally inaccurate. But hey, he’s scored. And how!
Kim Jin-hyeon (South Korea)
One of the best goalkeepers at the tournament – if not the best – kept his 4th clean sheet here in Australia, yet he was on the receiving end of some stick from BeIn pundits as well as Twitter users. Which is, to some extent, justifiable. He wasn’t his reliable self; not 100% when facing mid-range shots and had an almost calamitous moment coming way out of the box. But still, do you really want to slam a custodian who hasn’t been beaten in all 390 minutes of his game action? I wouldn’t dare, personally.
Nam Tae-hee (South Korea)
It’s kind of hard to put a finger on why exactly Nam Tae-hee was voted the official Man of the Match, as there were some bigger heroes without a doubt, but let’s at least try to do so. Above all, Nam has put in his most confident performance at the tournament. He used the ball pretty efficiently and while sitting rather deeper, he was contributing significantly to the whole South Korean ability to dictate in the first half. His fantastic drive will be crucial for Stielike’s side in the final, I’m sure.
Younis Mahmoud (Iraq)
One of the 2015 Asian Cup prominent faces has failed to deliver in the semi final. For the first time since the opening Iraq match Younis Mahmoud didn’t even come up with a single shot on target. He was constantly bullied by Kwak Tae-hwi in the air while remaining his usual animated self throughout the match. This time around, though, he didn’t get an opportunity to make up for it with a lovely Panenka.
Alaa Abdul Zahra (Iraq)
Alaa Abdul Zahra was by far the most distinct figure of the whole build-up to this semi final, but was he noticeable throughout the game itself? Very much, yes. His style of movement may not be very aesthetic, but nonetheless, the Iraqi attacking midfielder has been a key link between the midfield and the front line; connecting well with Amjad Kalaf in particular.
Amjad Kalaf (Iraq)
The biggest regret for Iraq in this game has to be that Amjad Kalaf lacked that quality final touch; otherwise he could’ve been the difference maker they lost earlier in Yaser Kasim. The right winger made some fine vertical runs and somehow finished the whole 90 minutes with the highest pass completion rate of all Iraqi starters (92%), yet he couldn’t make it count. Anyway, he’s put in a hell of an effort overall; the kind of an effort Radhi Shenaishil was perhaps looking for when restoring him back into the line-up in place of Justin Meram.
Mahdi Kamil (Iraq)
One of the Iraqi substitutions and also the only one that has somehow managed to up his team’s game. Mahdi Kamil was much more proactive than Osama Rashid, accelerating build-up for the Lions of Mesopotamia and always looking for a vertical pass. For a guy who’s just turned 20, he showed some promise in his first minutes at the Asian Cup.