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'Devastating', 'painful', 'punished': Socceroos OUT of Asian Cup after Miller's moments of madness

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2nd February, 2024
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The Socceroos have crashed out of the Asian Cup in heartbreaking fashion, suffering a dramatic 2-1 extra-time loss to South Korea after throwing away a 1-0 lead.

The irrepressible Craig Goodwin had given Australia the lead on Friday (Saturday AEDT) when he volleyed home in the 42nd minute in front of 39,632 fans at the Al Janoub Stadium.

Australia then spurned multiple chances to double their lead before a nightmare stint off the bench from right-back Lewis Miller, and two big moments from Son Heung-min turned the game in the favour of Jurgen Klinsmann’s side.

With Graham Arnold’s charges up 1-0 deep into stoppage time, Miller needlessly dived in late on South Korea’s superstar captain Son, giving away a penalty.

Hwang Hee-chan coolly slammed the spot-kick into the top corner in the sixth minute of injury time to take the game to extra-time.

In the 104th minute, Miller was the culprit again, bringing down Hwang on the edge of the area, only for Spurs’ Son to lift a wonderful free kick into the top corner to put South Korea in front.

Australia’s hopes of a comeback all but evaporated minutes later when they were reduced to 10 men.

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Aiden O’Neill lunged in on the ball and caught Hwang with his studs, with his initial yellow card upgraded to a straight red after a VAR referral.

“I put my arm around him and gave him a hug and told him that these things are lessons in life and you learn from these type of things and you move forward,” Arnold said when asked about Miller.

“These boys will be on the plane in the next five or six hours to get back to their clubs and he’s got to get back to his club and obviously it’s a different environment to here and he’ll be fine.”

Miller, 23, wouldn’t stop to speak to media in the mixed zone, but his senior teammates went in to bat for the Hibernian defender.

“It’s quite devastating, quite emotional for the players and staff how we finished the game. We played well for the first 90 minutes till we conceded the penalty,” said Arnold.

“South Korea’s players play in top leagues with a fast tempo and they can keep it up. They’re playing for teams like Tottenham, Wolves – they can run the legs off teams and punish us in the end.”

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Goalscorer Goodwin was crestfallen to have come so close to progressing.

“It’s just disappointment at the moment, you know?” he said.

“We were one minute away from going through. We had chances to put the game away in the second half. We should have scored a second goal.

AL WAKRAH, QATAR - FEBRUARY 02: Son Heung-min of South Korea shoots under pressure from Cameron Burgess of Australia during the AFC Asian Cup quarter final match between Australia and South Korea at Al Janoub Stadium on February 02, 2024 in Al Wakrah, Qatar.

(Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

“To be honest I don’t really know what to say. Korea’s a great side, and we gave them opportunities from set pieces that we didn’t need to. When they’ve got quality like that, they punished us.

“For him (Miller), it’s just a learning curve. For anyone in that position it’s about trying to keep your head, stay present in the moment and in the game.

“He’s been unlucky to give away that penalty because I feel it was one that could have gone the other way, but it’s done now. We’re all just disappointed.

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Keeper Mat Ryan was equally downbeat.

“It’s painful,” said the keeper.

“It’s hard not to get caught up in the emotions. The chances were there but we just couldn’t get that extra goal to give us a little bit of a buffer. Moments decide matches, you know? Not to blame one particular moment, there’s 120 minutes in the game where we could have done better.

“All we can do is use this adversity to spur us on to bigger and better things.”

Centre-back Harry Souttar said: “We win as a team, we lose as a team. 

“We’ve got to learn from it. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes in games … everyone makes mistakes and that’s one of them.

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“We’re not going to sit and criticise him and point him out because we can’t let it get to that moment. 

“Can we defend it better when he (Son) comes inside first and foremost? For me personally, probably.”

South Korea comfortably saw out the game to send Australia packing and tee up a semi-final against Jordan, who beat Tajikistan 1-0 earlier on Friday.

It is Australia’s second consecutive Asian Cup quarter-final exit and until Miller’s error, the Socceroos would have arguably deserved progression.

South Korea had the bulk of possession but Australia pressed with purpose from the opening whistle, were disciplined defensively and patient in attack.

Goalkeeper Mat Ryan, without his protective face mask for the first time all tournament, made multiple big saves.

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Goodwin and Mitch Duke started after returning from injury via the bench against Indonesia, replacing Jordy Bos and Bruno Fornaroli respectively among four changes.

Hwang tapped home in the 32nd minute but it was ruled offside and Australia took the lead 10 minutes later.

Goodwin pounced on a loose pass then worked the ball to Duke, who found Connor Metcalfe, who slipped through Nathaniel Atkinson out wide.

Atkinson lofted the ball to the back post where Goodwin drilled a skidding volley home.

Harry Souttar was carded just before halftime after catching Cho Gue-sung high and would have missed the semi-final through suspension had Australia progressed.

In the 53rd minute, Jo Hyeon-woo saved a seemingly goal-bound header from Martin Boyle, then his follow-up shot, before Duke hooked the rebound over the bar.

Then, in the 84th minute, Bos lofted the ball across goal to Duke, but he turned his diving far post header wide.

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Australia attempted to close out the game, but it all blew up in smoke when Miller dived in on Son.

“Obviously it was another drama, we’re extremely happy and thrilled to go through. It was a hard fight with Australia, we expected it. But to go 120 minutes again, I’m proud of this team and their spirit,” Klinsmann said.

(with AAP)

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