The Olyroos' Tokyo dreams were dealt a reality check on Thursday morning, after they were comprehensively outplayed on their way to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of South Korea in the semi-finals of the 2020 AFC U23 Championships.
But quickly as the chance had been created, Dae-won went even closer up the other end seconds later when, demonstrating brilliant control of the ball, he ducked and weaved around several Australian markers before launching a shot that, although it beat Glover, flashed wide of the post.
In a madcap stretch, Dae-won forced Glover to turn a shot out for a corner seconds into the second stanza before an attempted fast break by the Australians moments later was snuffed out when Toure was unable to thread a pass through to Buhagiar.
A corner won by Dae-won somehow didn’t produce the first goal of the contest in the 51st after a headed effort from 195cm central defender Jeong Tae-uk’s crashed off the post and back to Dong-Jun Lee.
The substitute's poor first touch, however, enabled the Australians to desperately scramble back and clear the danger.
But Australia couldn’t push their luck forever and in the 56th minute they were punished after the Koreans purposely moved from defence to attack and created a shot from You-Hyeon Lee that crashed off the post and fell perfectly for an open Dae-won to slide home.
The contest was then sealed in the 76th minute when, running onto a bouncing ball knocked back towards the Australian goal after a half-hearted clearance, substitute Dong-gyeong cut inside Ryan to buy himself a yard of space before slotting an effort inside the near post.
South Korean Supremacy
While Australia hadn’t been spectacular at any point during the Championships, so far they hadn’t, aside from a poor first half against the host-nation, ever looked like the clearly second-best team on the park in Thailand.
That changed against South Korea, who stamped their authority on the game almost from the opening kick-off.
With every Korean attack looking capable of rippling the back of the net, the back four of Gersbach, Ryan, Mourdoukoutas and Gabriel Cleur were forced to operate on the edge of a knife.
Korea's wingers constantly threatened to break containment on their way to the byline and even though their delivery from wide areas could have been a lot better targeted, their central targets – led by Se-hun – demonstrated an ability to find space and the touch to create chances within it when the ball did for them.
Conversely, coming up against a well-organised and disciplined Korean press, the Olyroos struggled to get anything close to something resembling insightful play when forced to build up from the back and all too frequently opted to play long balls forward in search of an onrushing forward.
Though he had looked dangerous when introduced as an extra-time difference-maker against Syria in the quarterfinals, Buhagiar quickly bursting into space a more difficult against a fresh and tactically astute defence.
The contest, therefore, exposed Australia’s lack of creativity in the midfield as an industrious trio of Keanu Baccus, Connor Metcalfe and O’Neill struggling to establish any sort of proper link between the Australian’s defence and attack.
When the ball did eventually make its way to the Korean defensive third, a lack of proper penetrative play from the Australians meant that they were forced to settle for half-looks on goal at best - the Olyroos failing to register a single shot on target during the contest.