Korea Republic have fond memories of the two Middle Eastern countries in Group B, namely Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The South Koreans have secured their passage to the FIFA World Cup™ finals twice via crucial away matches against the duo. In June 2005, they defeated Kuwait 4-0 in their penultimate group match to reach Germany 2006, before booking their ticket to South Africa four years later with a 2-0 victory over UAE with two games to spare. In fact, the South Koreans may have a sense of déjà vu against Lebanon as well, having got off to a winning start in their qualifying campaign against the Lebanese in February 2004.
Meanwhile, Kuwait and UAE are no strangers to the world stage having reached the finals in 1982 and 1990 respectively. Although the Gulf nations are tied at 14 wins and seven draws in their 35 previous encounters, UAE have the edge in Asian Zone qualifying with three wins out of four meetings between the sides. For their part, Lebanon have yet to claim a win against any of their current Group B opponents over the course of three qualifiers for the 1994, 1998 and 2006 FIFA World Cups.
The revamped Taeguk Warriors will hope to make their eighth consecutive appearance at the finals but will take nothing for granted against the strong challenges from the West.
United Arab Emirates: Despite their poor outing at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, where UAE finished bottom of their group without scoring a goal, Abdulla Mesfer’s men will be eager to bring the glory days of 1990 back to their country.
Kuwait: Although the 2010 Gulf Cup winners could not translate their regional success into the continental championship the following year, the Kuwaitis are no pushovers for any opponents when it comes to Asian Zone qualifying.
The crunch match
Kuwait-United Arab Emirates
If Korea Republic are strong favourites to win the group, the evenly matched duo are likely to contest for the remaining ticket to the next round. Kuwait beat UAE 3-2 in their first meeting in January 1989 but it was UAE who bounced back to grab a ticket to Italy 1990. Most recently, UAE defeated Kuwait twice at this stage to reach the final qualifying round for South Africa 2010.
A look back
Kuwait 2-0 Korea Republic, 29 April 1981, Kuwait City
In the first round of qualifying for Spain 1982, the Kuwaitis stunned the South Koreans to win their group before going on to reach the finals for the first time.
10 – The combined number of appearances at the FIFA World Cup finals between the countries in this section. Korea Republic have qualified for the showpiece event eight times, with Kuwait and UAE following the South Koreans with one each.