Kuwait may pose headache for Korean World Cup dreamsSaudi Arabia and Kuwait, which are in the same group as Korea for the final round of preliminary qualifying matches for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, are producing unexpected results.
The two countries participated in the preliminary matches for the Gulf Cup on Saturday, and Saudi Arabia, an expected soccer powerhouse, failed to produce. On the other hand, Kuwait, often overlooked in the region, surprised commentators with its unexpected progress to the semifinals.
In the group phase, Kuwait took first place in Group B, while Saudi Arabia ended up in third place and failed to qualify for the sudden death matches.
On match day, Kuwait defeated Yemen 3-0, while the Saudis lost to Bahrain 0-3. Consequently, Saudi Arabia, which recorded one win and two losses, yielded second place to Bahrain.
The results are hard to imagine when considering the team evaluations made early this month. On Dec. 9, at the drawing of seedings for the World Cup qualifying matches, Saudi Arabia was placed second after top seed Korea, while Kuwait was placed fourth, being considered one of the weaker teams. Uzbekistan, the third seed, rounds out qualifying Group A.
The evaluations seem to be somewhat in doubt, however, after Kuwait beat Saudi Arabia 2-1, effectively ensuring its elimination in the Gulf Cup.
Some commentators say Korea should worry more about Kuwait’s growing strength rather than Saudi Arabia’s poor performance. “The Saudi team seemed to be temporarily unstable at the Gulf Cup since its coach was changed recently,” said Lee Yong-su, soccer commentator for the Korea Broadcasting System. “But the team will settle down soon.”
Mr. Lee did agree, however, that Korea should feel more threatened by Kuwait. “Even though Kuwait lost a match to Korea 0-4 in August, the entire team lineup was changed after that, and their ability went up dramatically,” he said.
by Chang Hye-soo