South Korea became the first nation to win three EAFF East Asian Cup titles on Sunday night after tournament hosts China left two points on the table against a stubborn Japan squad.
The Taeguk Warriors lifted their first trophy under coach Uli Stielike in a rainy awards ceremony despite having drawn 0-0 with rivals DPR Korea earlier in the evening. That result left the 2003 and 2008 champions with five points, giving China control of their own destiny.
But Team Dragon tactician Alain Perrin failed to seal the deal against the Samurai Blue, despite taking the early lead on Wu Lei’s 10th-minute goal. Japan responded four minutes before halftime through Urawa Reds striker Yuki Muto’s close-range strike, and neither team managed a deciding goal in the second half.
The title could be considered redemption for South Korea, who came agonisingly close to winning the 2015 Asian Cup in January before falling to hosts Australia in extra time.
It was the sixth time in six editions of the regional tournament, which featured players based in domestic and other Asian leagues, that the host nation has failed to win.
In the women’s tournament, DPR Korea celebrated a successful title defense on Saturday after finishing with a perfect three wins.