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S. Korea advances in Olympic football qualification

June 24, 2011 - 09:50 By 이우영
South Korean national football team celebrates winnning against Jordan on Thursday in the regional Olympic football qualification. (Yonhap News)

AMMAN, (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Thursday advanced to the third and final round of the regional Olympic football qualification, despite a 1-1 draw against Jordan here.

Substitute Hong Chul scored the second-half equalizer for South Korea and gave the visiting side a 4-2 advantage in the aggregate score in the home-and-away series. South Korea had taken the first leg in Seoul 3-1 last Sunday.

South Korea is trying to reach its seventh straight Olympics next year in London, and make its ninth overall appearance at the quadrennial competition.

For the second straight game, Jordan opened the scoring as Hamza Ali Khaled Aldaradreh found the net just before half time, with South Korea once again sloppy and careless on the defensive end.

South Korea created more opportunities in the opening half.

Forward Kim Dong-sub, who scored in the first leg as a second-half substitute, missed two chances from point-blank range.

Kim was replaced by Hong to begin the second half, and it turned out to be a shrewd move by head coach Hong Myung-bo.

In the 70th, Hong took a pass from Kim Min-woo and dribbled to just inside the box, before curling one past Abdallah Fayiz Abdallah Al Zubi to the far side.

Each team had chances to go ahead later in the match. In the 74th, Ji Dong-won, who's about to join Sunderland in the English Premier League, launched one from the top of the arc and forced Al Zubi to make a diving save.

Three minutes later, Mohammad Saeed Hasan Almurjan nearly gave the home team a lead, but his header went off the crossbar.

In a press conference afterward, coach Hong said the team was "fortunate" to walk away with a draw in the second leg.

"We didn't think we'd have an easy game today," he said. "We had a lot to prepare for because our players weren't experienced.

The guys were shaken after giving up the first goal, but fortunately it all ended on a good note."

Hong admitted that he became concerned about missing the Olympics when Jordan took the 1-0 lead. Jordan would have advanced if it had won the second leg 2-0 and made the aggregate score 3-3.

If teams end up with the same number of goals, the first tiebreaker is the "away goal" rule, in which the team with more goals on the road gains the upper hand.

"I trusted my players to come through," the coach said.

Twenty-four teams competed in the second round. The 12 winners of the second round will be paired into three groups of four in the third round.

Only the top-ranked countries from those three groups will secure automatic berths to the London Games, while the winner of a three-way playoff among No. 2 seeds will enter an international playoff for a final chance to qualify.

South Korea has never won a football medal at the quadrennial competition. It has made it out of the first round only twice in eight appearances overall.

North Korea was knocked out of the second round after managing a 1-1 draw against the United Arab Emirates on the road. The UAE had beaten North Korea 1-0 in Pyongyang last Sunday and reached the next round with the 2-1 aggregate advantage.

North Korea has played in the Olympics once before, at the 1976 Games in Montreal, and reached the quarterfinals there.

The draw for the third round will be held on July 7 at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Teams will be seeded based on their performances at Asian qualifications for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and at the Olympic tournament. South Korea was eliminated in the first round at the Beijing Games.