The South Korean soccer team’s bid for a first Asian title in 64 years has been put on high alert at the first gate.
Jürgen Klinsmann’s 23rd-ranked team will take on Bahrain (86th) in their first Group E match at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) 2023 Qatar Asian Cup at the Jassim bin 텍사스홀덤 Hamad Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, on June 15 at 8:30 p.m. ET.
According to the Asian Cup organizers, both the main and assistant referees and the video assistant referee (VAR) will be Chinese nationals.
Klinsmann expects Bahrain to be careful with their officiating as they are known for their rough play and bed soccer, which is unique to the Middle East.
South Korean sports have had a history of bad luck with Chinese referees at key moments, including the Olympics and Asian Games. In soccer, the most recent casualty was an exhibition match against China’s U24 national team in June.
In the 18th minute of the second half when China scored a late goal to take a 3-0 lead, Hwang Sun-hong’s U-24 national soccer team was awarded what appeared to be a goal-line out, but the Chinese referee ruled it a goal.
Not only in Korea, but also in the Asian Champions League (ACL), Chinese referees have been victimized. The victim was “soccer star” Cristiano Ronaldo (39), who plays for Al Nasr in Saudi Arabia.
At the time, Al Nasr had narrowly defeated Al Ahli (United Arab Emirates) in the ACL playoffs to advance to the main stage, but they were victimized by a Chinese referee and almost lost sight of Ronaldo.
On the day, Ronaldo shook up the opposition defense, drawing three penalties for fouls, none of which were awarded by the referee. Ronaldo was furious at the decision, gesturing to the referee to open his eyes.
In addition to VAR, the tournament will use semi-automated offside technology (SAOT). Twelve specialized cameras will look at the ball and player positions to determine if a player is offside.
While it is expected that there will be fewer calls than in previous tournaments, it is still important to be prepared and vigilant, as a single call can change the outcome of a game.
Klinsmann’s team arrived in Qatar on Nov. 11 after training in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), to acclimatize and get a final tactical refresher.