Korea will play Saudi Arabia in their first knockout match of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup in Qatar next week.Their round of 16 clash will kick off at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, west of Doha, at 7 p.m. Tuesday (local time), or 1 a.m. Wednesday (Seoul time).Korea, the third-highest ranked AFC side at No. 23, finished as the runner-up in Group E with five points from a win and two draws, while Saudi Arabia, No. 56, won Group F with seven points, thanks to two wins and a draw.In pursuit of their first Asian Cup title since 1960, Korea began the tournament with a 3-1 win over Bahrain on Jan. 15. Five days later, they eked out a 2-2 draw against Jordan, thanks to a late Jordan own goal. Then on Thursday, Korea settled for a 3-3 draw against 130th-ranked Malaysia, after blowing a pair of one-goal leads.Saudi Arabia defeated Oman 2-1 and then Kyrgyzstan 2-0. With the top seed in the group at stake, Saudi Arabia played Thailand to a goalless draw Thursday, hours after the Korea-Malaysia game, and that set up a date with the Taegeuk Warriors.
Korea have so far had five wins, eight draws and five losses against Saudi Arabia. Their most recent meeting came in September last year in a friendly in Wales, where Korea prevailed 1-0 on a goal by Cho Gue-sung. It was Korea’s first victory under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann in his sixth match.Korea have some fond memories of Education City Stadium, where in December 2022, they beat Portugal in the final group match of the FIFA World Cup to grab a knockout berth. Son Heung-min set up Hwang Hee-chan’s late go-ahead goal then.Son is tied for the team lead at the Asian Cup with two goals. Hwang missed the first two contests with a left hip injury before coming off the bench Thursday.By finishing second in their group following the Malaysia draw, Korea avoided a round of 16 match against Japan, the top AFC team at No. 17.Japan became the victim of the first major upset of the tournament last Friday when they lost to Iraq 2-1 in Group D. Japan won their two other matches but still finished as the runner-up.Korea will now be on the opposite side of the bracket from Japan, and the two archrivals can only meet in the final.Korea also stayed away from 21st-ranked Iran, 슬롯게이밍 whom Korea have defeated only once in their past eight meetings, dating back to 2012