21-year-old Yoon Bit Ga Ram became South Korea's hero as the creative forward scored the winner in extra time to narrowly down a tough Iran side 1-0 and sealed the last semifinal ticket at the AFC Asian Cup here on Sunday.
Yoon, who replaced best goalscorer of the tournament Koo Ja Cheol in the 81st minute, showed his class with some tricky dribblings, before breaking the stalemate in the injury time of the first extra half with a bullet left-foot shot from the edge of the box after cutting in from the right flank.
Iran could have levelled at the second half of extra time if substitute Masoud Shojaei's lob went a little bit lower of the crossbar. The Taeguk Warriors didn't allow Team Mellis to revenge from their 4-2 defeat after the penalty shootout four years ago, and will meet Japan on Jan. 25 in the semifinals.
South Korean coach Cho Kwang Rae maintained the 4-2-3-1 formation and the complete starting lineup like the group stage, featuring a versatile midfield with star players Park Ji-Sung, Lee Chung-Yong, Koo Ja-Cheol, Lee Yong-Rae and Ki Sung-Yueng. Iran boss Afshin Ghotbi used a 4-3-2-1 formation to restrict the Taeguk Warriors with Javad Nekonam, Anderanik Teymourian and Pejman Nouri a tough trio to battle in the center area.
The Persians fought very hard from the beginning to contain the South Koreans, leaving little room for them to think and breathe. And as the Taeguk Warriors also adopted a fierce style in defense, the first half was very physical but lacked good chances.
Iran's best chance in the first period came in the 27th minute when Mohammad Khalatbari's left wing freekick almost led to the opposite striker Ji Dong-Won back head an own goal at the near post, but keeper Jung Sung Ryong saved it with a reaction dive.
Ji curved a nice small angle shot wide of the far post from the left flank before the the break.
South Korean rightback Cha Du-Ri made an unimaginable solo run from the midfield in the 25th minute, the rocky defender dribbled past six Iranian defenders with lightening paces into the box before cutting in a threatening cross, only to find no teammates touch the ball.
South Korea strengthened their attacks after the interval and gradually controlled the midfield. Ji Dong-Won wasted another chance in the 60th minute with his close-range header denied by Iran keeper Mahdi Rahmati following Cha Du-Ri's center from the right.
Midfielder Khalatbari had a shot in the dangerous part of the box to be blocked by three South Korean defenders and Jung Sung- Ryong following Nouri's wrong-taken shot at the far post and create a medley. Leftback Haji Safi also drove a sharp shot wide of the post on 70 minutes.
The two sides kept the same situation in the extra time as regular with little space for their rivals and had a few chances. Shojae chipped a cunning ball to fly over the bar a little in the 106th minute, and the Iranians missed their last chance to bring the game into the penalty shootout.