COVID Mars Korea's Preparations for World Cup Qualifier Against Iran

  • By Song Won-hyung

    March 22, 2022 10:44

    Korea will face Iran on Thursday in the final round of Asian qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar slated for November.

    Korea will host Iran in Seoul, hoping to earn its first win over the Middle Eastern country in 11 years since it secured a 1-0 victory in a quarterfinal match at the Asian Cup in January 2011.

    National team footballers started to gather at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province on Monday for training, but only 15 of 25 joined the training camp on the first day as many K-League players have been infected with COVID-19 amid the current wave.

    Jo Hyeon-woo and Kim Tae-hwan of Ulsan Hyundai and Yoon Jong-gyu of FC Seoul are to join it on Tuesday after finishing their self-quarantine period.

    Hwang Ui-jo of FC Girondins de Bordeaux, Kim Min-jae of Fenerbahçe S.K. and Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur are also arriving late on Tuesday from overseas after finishing their duties at their clubs.

    National team footballers train in Paju, Gyeonggi Province on Monday. /Yonhap

    National football team manager Paulo Bento said he cannot control the coronavirus issue and will have to wait and see before he can decide on the final roster. "But we will do our utmost to win both of our remaining two qualifiers and finish at the top of [our] group," he said.

    Korea, which is grouped with Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and the UAE, has already secured a berth at the World Cup, ranking second in its group with six wins and two draws. Iran is leading the group. Korea will play its last qualifier against the UAE in Dubai on March 29.

    Hwang Hee-chan of Wolverhampton Wanderers said, "We gained confidence as we put in a good performance in an away match against Iran last year. We've already secured a spot at the World Cup, but we will do our best to play a good match in front of home fans."

    Hwang missed the two recent qualifiers due to an injury to his left buttock during a match in the English Premier League. "I recovered a couple of days later as it was just a bruise. I'm totally fine now," he said.

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