September 01, 2017 11:13
Korea's hopes of playing in the 2018 World Cup in Russia are even more delicately poised following the team's 0-0 draw with Iran on Thursday in the final round of Asian qualifiers.
It was one of two crucial remaining qualifiers in which Korea could secure a ticket to the quadrennial football event. The last game will be held against Uzbekistan next week.
Despite Iran being reduced to 10 men in the second half, the Koreans failed to pierce their opponents' defenses, dashing the high hopes of fans in their first game under Shin Tae-yong. Shin replaced Uli Stielike in July, tasked with salvaging the team's World Cup hopes.
Korea went on the offensive from the start, but were unable to penetrate Iran's defenses and score. Iran had already booked a berth in the World Cup, but were determined to preserve their unbeaten streak in the final round.
The Iranians were reduced to 10 men in the 52nd minute when Saeid Ezatolahi was sent off for stamping on the head of Kim Min-jae, but Korea failed to take advantage. The draw followed four consecutive losses to Iran by Korea.
With China defeating Uzbekistan 1-0 on the same day, a win would have guaranteed Korea a World Cup berth, as it was in second place in its group, 1 point ahead of Uzbekistan. The group also includes Syria, China and Qatar.
Iran now leads the group with 21 points, followed by Korea with 14 points. Thursday's loss saw Uzbekistan drop to fourth place with 12 points, while Syria rose to third with 12 points and a 1-goal advantage after a 3-1 win over Qatar.
Korea can still secure a ninth consecutive World Cup appearance by defeating Uzbekistan next Monday. Otherwise it will have to negotiate a series of playoff matches.
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