March 24, 2022 11:29
Korea faces Iran in a match in Seoul on Thursday. The match is part of the final round of Asian qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar slated for November.
Korea, which is grouped with Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and the UAE, has already secured a berth at the quadrennial event, ranking second in its group with six wins and two draws, behind Iran with seven wins and one draw.
Korea is determined to beat Iran and uphold its reputation as the first Asian country to make a 10th consecutive appearance at the World Cup.
At a virtually held press conference in Paju, Gyeonggi Province on Wednesday, Son Heung-min of Totenham Hotspur, who is rejoining the national team as captain after an absence of about four months due to injuries, said, "Iran is one of the toughest opponents, but it would be great to win the match in front of Korean fans."
If Korea wins, it would give coach Paulo Bento the record for the most wins under his belt. Since he took the helm of the national team in August 2018, Korea has won 27 matches with 10 draws and four losses, compared to former coach Uli Stielike's record of 27 wins, five draws and seven losses. Expectations are high, as Korea has remained strong in home matches, recording zero losses in 19 matches with 15 wins and four draws.
Bento hinted at an aggressive lineup, saying he will "take some risks." He added, "I am confident we'll be able to take those risks and reach the victory, and make our fans happy."
But the situation is not favorable for Korea, as Hwang In-beom of FC Rubin Kazan is unable to play due to a toe injury while four players including Paik Seung-ho and Kim Jin-kyu of Jeonbuk Hyundai have to skip the match as they tested positive for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, about 60,000 fans are expected to gather for the match as some 55,000 tickets were sold after the Korea Football Association's website crashed due to being overloaded as soon as bookings began last Thursday.
Iran's request to the Asian Football Confederation that Thursday's match be played at an empty venue due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Korea was denied.
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