Iraq, who won the trophy in 2007, will join their great rivals Iran in the knock-out stages if they can avoid defeat against 2010 FIFA World Cup™ participants Korea DPR. Wolfgang Sidka's Iraq needed an injury-time own goal to squeeze past United Arab Emirates 1-0 in their last game, with that unconvincing performance coming on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Iran.
"Our position is good after the late goal in the last match and we have it all in our hands," said the German coach. "We are in a good situation and the atmosphere in our team is excellent. North Korea are under more pressure than us."
The former Werder Bremen player singled out prolific striker Jong Tae-Se as the dangerman. The 26-year-old, who averages a goal every other game for the North Koreans, sealed a move to German club Bochum after the World Cup in South Africa, and has again been scoring regularly. "He plays in the German second division and has scored a lot of goals and they have two players who played a lot in Switzerland," said Sidka. "We know their style and we've been able to see them in two games here."
After drawing 0-0 with UAE in their opener and failing to find the net in a 1-0 defeat to Iran, asked if they would go out to attack, coach Jo Tong-Sop said: "The most important thing for my players is psychologically. They need to display all their skills. But this is a very critical game for Iraq as well. We didn't get a good result in the last match but we have experience and we need to win this vital last match."
Jo, who took over after the World Cup - where Korea DPR lost all three games - said they had worked on Jong's movement in the lead-up to the game as they must go for goals to qualify. "As a team member we try to use his best qualities - he's a very good finisher and goal scorer and we try to make it so he can fit with our tactics, to encourage more movement from him to get the best out of the player."
The coach said they had changed from a theoretically more defensive 3-5-2 formation at the World Cup to 4-4-2. "We made this small change in tactics so we get the balance between attack and defence. The players understand and accept this system."
Key midfielder Mun In-Guk, who played in South Africa, admitted: "We are in a difficult position but all the players are optimistic about the final match and we want to satisfy the people of Korea."