Men’s soccer’s much-talked-about story ends with a happy ending
The Korean Asian Games Men’s Pursuit Team, led by Hwang Sun-hong, won the gold medal after defeating Japan 2-1 in the men’s football final at the Huanglong Sports Center Stadium in Hangzhou, China, on Sunday (July 7).
It was the third consecutive men’s football title for Korea, following the 2014 Incheon and 2018 Jakarta-Palembang editions. It is the first time a team has won three titles in a row in men’s football since the inaugural Asian Games in New Delhi in 1951.
South Korea won all seven games they played in the group stage, from the first round to the final, to record their second overall victory at the tournament after the 2014 Incheon edition.
South Korea deployed Cho Young-wook (Gimcheon Commerce) up front in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Jung Woo-young (Stuttgart), Ko Young-joon (Pohang Steelers), and Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain) formed the second line, while captain Baek Seung-ho (Jeonbuk Hyundai) and Jung Ho-yeon (Gwangju FC) partnered in the midfield. The defense consisted of Park Kyu-hyun (Dynamo Dresden), Park Jin-seop (Jeonbuk Hyundai), Lee Han-beom (Meatwillan), and Hwang Jae-won (Daegu FC), with Lee Kwang-yeon (Gangwon FC) in goal.
In the early stages of the match, Japan pushed hard against Korea, and in the second minute of the first half, Japan struck first. The crisis came when right-back Hwang Jae-won failed to stop Sato Kane from entering the penalty box from the flank. Japan created space with two passes, and Uchino rattled the net with a strong shot.
Down early, South Korea was unable to change the momentum as they were unable to win the midfield battle. Then, in the 27th minute of the first half, South Korea finally broke through. After a scuffle in the penalty box, Hwang Jae-won sent in an early cross that was finished by Jung Woo-young. It was Hwang’s eighth goal of the tournament, making him the tournament’s leading scorer.
With the momentum in their favor, South Korea pushed hard for an additional goal, but were unable to find it and went into halftime tied at 1-1.
The tense balance was broken in the 11th minute of the second half.
Hwang Jae-won made a bold overlapping pass to the front, where Jung Woo-young was surrounded by Japanese defenders and couldn’t get a shot off. Cho Young-wook, who was on the sideline, picked up the loose ball, beat the defender with a flick, and slotted it home with his right foot to open the scoring for Japan.
After taking the lead, Korea kept the pressure on. Hong Hyun-seok (KAA Gent), Song Min-gyu (Jeonbuk Hyundai), Uhm Won-sang (Ulsan Hyundai), and Ahn Jae-joon (Bucheon FC) took the field as substitutes. With the change in the second line, South Korea changed their attacking style.
South Korea was unable to add another goal. Lee Kang-in’s mid-range shot from a free kick in the 26th minute was saved by 안전놀이터 the goalkeeper, while Ahn Jae-joon’s shot in the 37th minute and Uhm Won-sang’s shot in the 38th minute were also unsuccessful. On the counterattack in the 48th minute, Ahn Jae-joon’s shot was also saved by the goalkeeper.
Japan stepped up their attack in the extra time, but Korea was able to hold on to the game and secure the gold medal.