“We were up 1-0,” Arnold said. “We had chances [for] 2-0, 3-0. That gets down to the individual to put the ball in the back of the net. If you don’t take those chances, you get punished – and that’s exactly what happened.”
One feels especially for Lewis Miller, who was lively off the bench but ended up conceding the penalty and the free-kick which led to both goals.
“For him it’s just a learning curve,” Goodwin said. “For anyone – it’s not just him, anyone in that position. Giving away the penalty, it’s trying to keep your head. He was unlucky to give away that penalty because it was one I thought could have gone the other way.
“We were one minute away from going through. We had chances to put the game away in the second half a few times. We should have scored the second goal.
“We know Korea are a very good side, but there’s nothing but disappointment in the moment … we gave them some opportunities from set pieces we didn’t need to.”
The irony was that Australia lost this match admirably, having won and drawn their previous fixtures despite a lack of attacking creativity. In the first half, South Korea had 70 per cent possession yet finished the opening stanza without a single shot on goal, while the Socceroos dared their star-studded opponents to open up and then hit them on transition.
South Korea awoke almost as soon as the second half began, when Keanu Baccus was beaten one on one and an under-pressure Lee Kang-in sent his side’s first shot straight into the grateful arms of Ryan. Minutes later, the steely resolve of Aziz Behich was all that stood between Seol Young-woo’s cross and the dangerously hovering Cho Gue-sung goal.
Steely resolve is a good way of describing Australia’s defence, the foundation of this continental campaign and of this second half, during which they repelled persistent pressure on the overlap in transition and inside their own third. Harry Souttar was a human wall on multiple occasions, despite being booked somewhat harshly for catching Cho Gue-sung with his arm as he leapt for a header. Ryan, without his protective face mask for the first time, was quick off his line when required at one point stretched his gloves above the crossbar to expertly handle a fizzing shot from Seol.
The Socceroos could – should – have doubled their lead not long before the hour when a triple chance went begging. Goodwin picked out an unmarked Boyle at the far post and the latter cracked a header straight at Jo Hyeon-woo who, in his scramble to repel it, pinged the ball straight back at the winger. Boyle took a second stab which was also blocked before Duke, at a tricky height but with an open goal beckoning, skied his shot.
They had another courtesy of Miller, a substitute on a mission and a counter-attacking run which finished with a pinpoint cross and Duke in a full dive as he tried in vain to control his goalmouth header.
In extra-time, Ryan was superb, making a critical save to deny Son as South Korea bore down on goal and continued to suffocate the Socceroos, who were so close and then so very far. Once O’Neill’s initial yellow card was upgraded to a straight red following a VAR referral, Australia finally lost their legs.
“Individually, their players play in top leagues around Europe with a very fast tempo, and they can keep that up,” Arnold said. “They play a lot of football – whether it’s Bayern Munich, Tottenham Hotspur or Wolverhampton Wanderers – against top-level players. That’s why I think they can run the legs off teams, and then they punish at the end.”
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