- *Korea Republic’s proud World Cup record is on the line this week *
- *Failure to beat Iran could set up a winner-takes-all match against Uzbekistan *
- *The Taeguk Warriors are battling injury and poor recent form *
Korea Republic are chasing a ninth successive FIFA World Cup™ appearance. The streak, which stretches all the way back to Mexico ’86, would be the envy of many an Old World football power. Indeed, aside from former World Cup winners, no nation has a better current unbroken run.
A win against old foes Iran on Thursday would shore up another qualification, provided third-placed Uzbekistan fail to claim three points in China. Anything less from the Taeguk Warriors will set up a potentially treacherous winner-takes-all tie in Uzbekistan next Tuesday.
Even though Korea Republic could qualify for Russia 2018 with a match to spare, it has been anything but plain sailing for the East Asians. FIFA.com takes a look at the campaign to date and Korea Republic’s hopes for the coming week.
*The background *
Korea Republic’s youthful new-look side shone brightly at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup under Germany coach Uli Stielike and it took an extra-time goal for Australia to edge victory in the final. Their campaign for Russia 2018 started brightly with eight straight goal-laden wins in the previous round. The third round also started well, but three defeats in the past five outings spelt the end for Stielike and left Korea Republic’s proud World Cup record imperilled. Former national team midfielder Shin Taeyong recently took the reins.
The players *
Korea Republic’s star personnel come into the match under an injury cloud, walking a suspension tightrope, or both. Powerful Tottenham striker *Son Heungmin *and Swansea City midfielder *Ki Sungyueng have both battled injury of late. Son is expected to play after a serious arm injury suffered in the defeat against Qatar in June, but captain Ki is a major concern following recent knee surgery.
*The numbers *
Iran have proven to be Korea Republic’s nemesis in recent years, most notably with two crucial 1-0 wins on the road to Brazil 2014. The Taeguk Warriors have beaten Team Melli just once in World Cup qualifiers and that was way back in 1993.
“We know Iran are good at counterattacking, and our defenders have been practicing to stop their attack" Korea Republic captain Kim Younggwon.