Big guns blaze into Asian Cup quarters, but not China

July 19, 2007 - 0:0

JAKARTA (AFP) -- Big guns Iran, Saudi Arabia and South Korea blazed into the Asian Cup quarterfinals Wednesday, but China failed yet again to live up to its billing, crashing out at the hands of Uzbekistan.

South Korea, the 2002 World Cup semifinalists, kept their heads in front of 90,000 rowdy Indonesian fans to win 1-0 and sneak into the knockout rounds, but it was an easier ride for the Saudis who thrashed Bahrain 4-0. In Kuala Lumpur, China suffered another huge setback to its footballing development when Uzbekistan beat them 3-0 to end their tournament, but heavyweight Iran made no mistakes with a comfortable 2-0 win over Malaysia. Malaysia coach Norizan Bakar paid the price for his team's atrocious showing when he was sacked. It means Iran remain in Malaysia and play South Korea for a place in the semifinals while Uzbekistan travel to Jakarta to face Saudi Arabia. In the other quarterfinals, decided on Monday, Iraq take on Vietnam in Bangkok and defending champions Japan have a grudge match with Australia in Hanoi. South Korea rode their luck and had Kim Jung-woo to thank for a victory that could have gone either way. Good work on the edge of the box from Lee Chun-soo, linked this week with Reading, teed up Kim who's shot took a deflection to leave goalkeeper Markus Rihihina rooted to the spot. ""We spoke to the players before this game and told them that every game from now on would be a final,"" said Korea's Dutch coach Pim Verbeek. ""We played well, we scored a good goal and created many chances. We're ready for the next match."" Indonesia's Bulgarian coach Ivan Kolev was not too disappointed by his side's failure to make the knock-out phase for the first time ever. ""They fought to the death, until the end of the game. I'm proud of my players for what they did from the first to the third match,"" he said. In Pelambang, Saudi Arabia look to be getting back to their best under Brazilian coach Helio dos Angos and were simply too good for Bahrain, surprise semifinalists at the last tournament in China three years ago. Goals from Ahmed Al Mousa and Abdulrahman Al Qahtani and a brace by Taisir Al Jassam brought redemption for the ""Sons of the Desert"" after their disastrous campaign in 2004 when they finished bottom of their group. That dreadful showing was the first time since 1980 that the three-time champions had failed to make the final. ""It's very important for us to finish at the top of the group because psychologically it is good for the players and we will be also staying in Indonesia which is also an advantage for us,"" said Dos Angos. While the major teams progressed China failed to reach the knockout rounds for the first time in 27 years. Uzbek captain Maksim Shatskikh blasted in a rebound from his own header on 72 minutes before Timur Kapadze capitalized on an error from stand-in 'keeper Yang Jun. Substitute striker Alexander Geynrikh finished from another rebound in injury time to pile huge pressure on embattled coach Zhu Guanghu, who is facing the sack. ""I'm sorry we failed to get through. Today our fitness wasn't too good and we had several key players absent but my team did their best,"" said a distraught Zhu. ""I'm responsible for the result and I apologize to the fans. I hope the players will learn from this. This is a good lesson for the future."" Iran made certain of their place in the last eight by heaping more misery on Malaysia, who have been the only team out of their depth in the tournament. They coasted to a 2-0 win. Javad Nekunam struck a 29th-minute penalty by and a classy bit of work from Bolton Wanderers midfielder Andranik Teimurian in the 77th minute sealed the win