AL RAYYAN, Qatar -- Jordan upset South Korea 2-0 in their Asian Cup semi-final on Tuesday at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium where Yazan Al-Naimat and Musa Al-Taamari scored second-half goals to guide them into the final for the first time.
The result was a stunning upset for Jordan, who are ranked 87th in the world but played with nothing to lose against South Korea who are the third-best team in Asia, 64 places above them.
South Korea had made a habit of scoring late goals in the tournament but there was no comeback this time as Jordan kept them at bay to book their place in the final, where they will face either Iran or hosts and defending champions Qatar.
|Soccer Football - AFC Asian Cup - Semi Final - Jordan v South Korea - Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan, Qatar - February 6, 2024 Jordan's Yazan Al Naimat scores their first goal. Photo: Reuters
"The players delivered a heroic performance. The X-factor was we didn't need to give South Korea more respect than needed," Jordan's Moroccan coach Hussein Ammouta said.
"Based on their record in their last few games, they conceded goals and we knew it was possible to score against them, that was the turning point."
Al-Naimat had scored in the 2-2 draw when the two teams met in the group stage and the 24-year-old was once again the tormentor-in-chief with his nimble footwork while Al-Taamari's tireless running also bore fruit.
|Soccer Football - AFC Asian Cup - Semi Final - Jordan v South Korea - Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan, Qatar - February 6, 2024 South Korea's Son Heung-Min in action with Jordan's Yazan Al Arab. Photo: Reuters
In a goalless first half, Al-Naimat had the best opportunity to score for Jordan when he skipped past three defenders in the box, but his shot was hit straight at goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo who made a reflex save.
At the other end, Lee Jae-sung nearly opened the scoring for South Korea when Son Heung-min sent a cross into the box but the midfielder's header came off the post to give Jordan a reprieve.
Yet Jordan finally found the breakthrough when Al-Taamari intercepted a poor back pass in midfield and found Al-Naimat with a defence-splitting pass for the forward to chip the ball over the keeper and score his third goal of the tournament.
Jordan celebrated the goal just as they did against Iraq in the last-16, with Al-Naimat's team mates sitting around him as he pretended to hand them cups of tea.
|Soccer Football - AFC Asian Cup - Semi Final - Jordan v South Korea - Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan, Qatar - February 6, 2024 Jordan's Mohammad Abu Hasheesh in action with South Korea's Lee Kang-In. Photo: Reuters
Al-Taamari had been the busiest player on the pitch and he picked his moment to shine when he made a solo run past a static defence and curled his effort past the keeper to send Jordan's fans among the 42,850 in the arena into raptures.
"This victory started with the fans but I should say the coach said this was a match where we should have fun. We would like to dedicate it to the people of Morocco," Al-Taamari said.
"I dreamed about this Asian Cup one month ago, I started to train with that mentality when I was in France (with Montpellier). It means everything to me that we're in the final."
South Korea coach Juergen Klinsmann had no answer to Jordan's press and fluid attacks as the German stood on the touchline stone faced, watching his team exit the tournament without a single shot on target in the semi-final.
|Soccer Football - AFC Asian Cup - Semi Final - Jordan v South Korea - Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan, Qatar - February 6, 2024 Jordan's Abdallah Nasib with South Korea's Son Heung-Min after the match. Photo: Reuters
"Obviously we're disappointed. We had the big goal of playing in the final but Jordan deserves this win, they deserve to play in the final," Klinsmann said.
"They played more aggressively, they won almost every one-v-one battle and they got better."
The German said he accepted responsibility for South Korea's exit but did not offer to resign.
"I'm not planning to do anything, I will analyse this tournament, go back to Korea with the team and talk with the federation about what was good and not so good in the tournament."