Bahrain faced off against the Korea Republic at the Rashid Stadium in Dubai today in their Round of 16 match of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
The east Asian teams have been performing relatively better than their western Asian counterparts in this edition.
Teams like Vietnam, China, and Japan had already booked their slots in the last eight of the competition. South Korea was looking to be the fourth proper east Asian team to reserve their quarter-final spot.
On paper, the tie shouldn't have been a contest with 60 FIFA Ranking spots dividing the teams. Korea qualified for the Round of 16 by collecting full 9 points from the three group games. Bahrain, on the other hand, left it late to be eligible for the Round of 16 as a late Penalty against India helped them qualify as one of four best third-placed teams.
Bahrain had the first good chance of the game and was dangerous on the counter while Korea had the lion's share of the possession and chances.
Korea finally broke the deadlock when Hwang Heechan slotted home after a Son Heungmin cross fell nicely for the striker after the keeper parried it away. The scoreboard read 1-0 in favour of South Korea at the halftime break.
Bahrain kept up their physical approach and defending deep in the second half too. Their persistence finally came good as Mohamed Saad Al Romaihi scored for Bahrain in the 77th minute to level the scores. At the end of regulation time, the scoreboard read 1-1.
Kim Jinsu scored in the first period of Extra Time to give Korea the lead. The Korea Republic managed to keep their lead intact in the second half of extra time to win the game 2-1 and secure their spot in the quarterfinals.
On that note let us take a look at three reasons why Korea beat Bahrain.
#3 European experience of Korean Players play a big part
South Korea has seven players in their squad who play their club football in Europe. Bahrain, on the other hand, has only three players who play outside Bahrain with only one of them playing in Europe. While most of the Korean (foreign-based) players play in the Bundesliga, one of them plays in the Serie A in Italy while captain Son Heung Min is a star for Premier League side Tottenham Hotspurs.
In an all-important clash like today's game the experience of playing in some of the best leagues in the world helped Korea control the game at crucial stages and do the right things at the right moments. The way Korea moved around the ball to break open a resolute Bahrain defence was admirable.
Apart from European experience a lot of the Korean players also play in different top-level Asian leagues as well as the J-League, the Chinese Super League and the Qatar All-Stars League.