World Cup draw imminent for in-form South Korea

After securing a place in the 2022 World Cup with two games remaining, South Korea’s remaining matches were dominated by two objectives. While there is much to accomplish in terms of performance, organization, analyzing players and strategies, and so on, it was very simple in terms of numbers. The first objective was to end Iran’s current dominance over the Taeguk Warriors, and the second was to finish first in the group.

The first of those objectives is crucial for the fulfillment of the second, and thus far, so good. Last Thursday in Seoul, fans – around 64,000 of them – were let back into the stadium to watch Korea’s 2-0 victory over its west Asian foe. Since the 2011 Asian Cup, when the Taeguk Warriors upset Team Melli 1-0 in the quarter-finals, the two teams have met seven times, five times in World Cup qualification and twice in friendly matches, with Iran winning four and drawing three. Iran’s win over South Korea last week puts a stop to that losing streak and eliminates Iran’s psychological advantage over South Korea.

South Korea's national football team manager Paulo Bento, center, celebrates with his staff after beating Iran 2-0 during a World Cup qualification match at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, March 24 / Yonhap

Son Heung-min and Kim Young-gwon scored the game-winning goals, though in a different order than they did in the memorable 2-0 victory over Germany at the 2018 World Cup. Korea now leads Group A with 23 points from nine games, one point ahead of Iran. There is only one game remaining.

All that remains is for the team to win in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday. The host team in Dubai requires victory to finish third and earn a home playoff against Australia.

This should make for an entertaining encounter and the type of test Korea desires as it begins its preparations for the World Cup in Qatar. Korea deserved to win over Iran, but the first half performance was sluggish, even though the home team generated multiple chances and truly should have won by a larger margin, albeit Iran created some opportunities as well.

“We came up against a really solid team that caused some issues during our buildup. We made a few unforced errors in the first half “Paulo Bento, Korea’s coach, stated. “However, we improved in the second half. In the second half, our game management and ball possession were significantly improved.”

Another reason Korea hopes to win in Dubai is that victory will boost the country’s FIFA position, which is now 29th. On March 31, new rankings will be established and used to assist determine which teams are placed in different pots ahead of the following day’s draw. In short, the top-ranked teams have the best chance of meeting inferior opponents during the World Cup.

By the end of the week, Korean fans, players, and coaches will learn who their World Cup opponents will be. The competition, which begins in November in Qatar, is ready to take on a life of its own.

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