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Asian Cup: Socceroos need to take a step up

Having reached the Asian Cup quarter-finals by conceding just one goal, Australia will need to find another level if they are to defeat South Korea and progress to the last four.

The Socceroos defeated India 2-0 and Syria 1-0, before drawing 1-1 with Uzbekistan to secure top spot in Group B, then dismissed Indonesia 4-0 in the last-16 in Qatar.

Now Graham Arnold's side face a showdown with the Taegeuk Warriors in a repeat of the 2015 Asian Cup final, which Australia won 2-1 after extra-time thanks to a James Troisi goal.

That is the only title the Socceroos have to their name, while South Korea have not triumphed since winning the first two Asian Cup tournaments back in 1956 and 1960.

WhatAustralia v South Korea
WhereAl-Janoub Stadium, Qatar
When02:30 (AEDT), Saturday 3rd February 2024
How to watchNetwork 10, 10 Play & Paramount+
OddsAustralia 3.25, Draw 3.25, South Korea 2.30

Socceroos solid if not spectacular

Arnold certainly has his side well-drilled and they have effectively stifled their opponents in Qatar so far, while only being clinical in front of goal against Indonesia.

Even in that game, two of their four goals came in the final couple of minutes and they will need to show more of a cutting edge if they are to make the semi-finals.

Striker Mitch Duke is hoping to earn a starting spot after recovering from a hamstring strain to feature as a second-half substitute in the comfortable victory over Indonesia.

However, neither he nor fellow frontmen Bruno Fornaroli and Kusini Yengi have yet scored in the competition.

Craig Goodwin also made a late impact off the bench in the same game, producing a goal and an assist, having missed the previous two games due to injury, although Arnold has hinted that the versatile forward will start among the substitutes again.

And Arnold says his side will stick to their usual approach in a bid to overcome the Taegeuk Warriors, telling AAP: "Our strength is our physicality, our intent of pressing and counter-pressing, not giving your opposition time on the ball and working hard and playing with high intensity.

"We'll go out there and put pressure on them and make sure that we get our gameplan and mindset right."

Arnold is almost certain to have to plan without defender Gethin Jones, who was forced off in the 68th minute of the quarter-final success due to a groin injury, with Australia 2.10 to see off the Koreans and make the last four in Qatar.

Taegeuk Warriors show fighting qualities

While Australia were comfortable winners in their quarter-final tie, South Korea were thankful for a last-gasp Cho Gue-Sung equaliser against Saudi Arabia, before they prevailed 4-2 in a penalty shootout.

They had also been far from impressive in group draws with both Jordan and Malaysia, but head coach Jurgen Klinsmann expects his side to have benefitted hugely from having edged past Saudi Arabia.

He told reporters: "This win gives the team an enormous amount of energy, it gives the team even more spirit."

And Socceroos head coach Arnold will no doubt have taken note of the fact that the Koreans scored injury-time equalisers against both Jordan and Malaysia, before their late, late show in the quarter-finals.

Korean skipper Son Heung-min has netted twice during the tournament to date, but both of those have come from the penalty spot, meaning that he is somewhat surprisingly yet to strike from open play.

The Tottenham superstar is 2.87 to score at anytime against Australia, with the Tigers of Asia the 1.66 fancies to secure a spot in the semi-finals.

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