The Korea Herald – TEHRAN, South Korea will face their biggest challenge yet in the final Asian qualifying round for the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Tuesday, when they visit Iran in their first away match of the ongoing phase.
With Iran being the highest-ranked Asian team at No. 22, 14 spots above South Korea, this may call for some adjustments for the Taeguk Warriors.
But South Korea head coach Paulo Bento isnât about to change the teamâs overall approach.
âWhat we know is that it will be a different game with a different, strong opponent,â Bento said in his prematch press conference from Tehran on Monday. The kickoff between the two sides is 5 p.m. Tuesday at Azadi Stadium in Tehran, or 10:30 p.m. Tuesday in Korean time. âBut our style and our way, weâre going to keep with that. Our idea is to play as well as we can, respect our opponent, but of course, try to play with our style, even if we know that itâll be a different game if we compare it with the last three we played.â
The last three matches havenât exactly gone the way Bento and aggrieved South Koreans had hoped. They had a scoreless draw with Iraq to open the final round, and then beat Lebanon 1-0 and Syria 2-1 — both highly unsatisfying results against heavy underdogs.
These results leave South Korea in second place in the group with seven points. Iran sit atop the group with nine points from three consecutive victories.
The top two teams from each of the two groups will punch tickets to next yearâs World Cup in Qatar. The two third-place teams will meet in a playoff match, and the winner will then advance to the last-chance intercontinental playoff.
South Korea have never defeated Iran in Tehran, with two draws and five losses so far. But Bento said he wonât worry about past results and will keep the teamâs focus on the match at hand.
âWe know that we are going to face a very good team that achieved a very good result in the last three games, a team with very good players and experienced players, very good organization in all the moments of the game,â Bento said. âWhat we think in every game is to reach three points. In order to reach our goal, we must be able to play a very good game and not make too many mistakes.â
Accompanying Bento to the press conference, defensive midfielder Jung Woo-young predicted a tight contest between the rivals Tuesday.
âI think this match will likely be determined by one goal,â Jung said. âThis match is important for us not because weâre facing Iran, but because we could reach top of the group in this match. Iran are a strong team, but I think we can still exploit some part of their game.â