South Korea keeper credits wife for penalty shootout heroic

By Hieu Luong   February 1, 2024 | 07:23 am PT
South Korea keeper credits wife for penalty shootout heroic
South Korea goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo gestures to his teammates during the Asian Cup round of 16 match with Saudi Arabia, Jan. 30, 2024. Photo by AFP
South Korea goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo said his wife's advice helped him save two penalties in the shootout against Saudi Arabia to send his team through to the Asian Cup quarterfinals.

Having drawn 1 - 1 after 120 minutes of their high-profile round of 16 clash on Tuesday, South Korea and Saudi Arabia headed to the penalty shootout. Keeper Jo Hyeon-woo emerged as South Korea’s hero when he saved two consecutive penalties by Sami Al Najei and Abdulrahman Ghareeb by diving to the right side.

The Man of the Match-winning goalie later revealed that his wife had played a big part in his shootout heroic.

"Before the game, my wife had told me to go for the right side when facing a penalty, and it turned out to be right today. I thank her a lot," Jo said.

Jo is famous among South Korean footballers as a husband who is very affectionate towards his wife. In his 100th match for Daegu FC in 2016, Jo proposed to his wife Lee Hee-young in the stand and made headlines all over the country.

The 33-year-old goalkeeper often shares about his family, rather than career, on social media and also has a portrait of his wife tattooed in his right arm. "It gives me the feeling that my wife is always with me in every match."

Asian Cup round of 16: South Korea 1-1 Saudi Arabia (penalties 4-2)

Jo had practiced similar situations in training for penalty shots, and the coaching team gave him accurate analysis of opposition players’ shooting side.

Jo was originally not South Korea’s number one choice in goal, until Kim Seung-gyu tore his ligament in their 3 - 1 win over Bahrain in the group stage. There were doubts when Jo conceded five goals in the two remaining group stage games, as South Korea drew 2 - 2 to Jordan and 3 - 3 to Malaysia.

However, his outstanding performance against Saudi Arabia has silenced his critics and earned South Korea a spot in the quarterfinal of the 2023 Asian Cup. They face Australia on Feb. 2.

Jo had wanted to be a goalkeeper since he was seven, as he was inspired by his predecessor Kim Byung-ji’s stellar performance at the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. The Sport Chosun reports that Jo’s penalty-saving talent had been evident since his primary school days when he managed to help his school team win several shootouts.

The Seoul-born keeper played for Daegu FC from 2013 to 2019 before moving to Ulsan Hyundai in 2020. He won the AFC Champions League in his first season with the club and won two consecutive K-League 1 titles in 2022 and 2023. Jo has also won the Golden Gloves award seven seasons in a row - a K-League 1 record, starting from 2017.

Jo Hyeon-woo began to be noticed internationally at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Although coach Shin Tae-yong’s side was ousted from the group stage, Jo managed to leave his marks with many sensational saves against Sweden and Germany.

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