Korea to face Iran, UAE, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon in qualifiers
The Taegeuk Warriors join Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon in Group A for the third round of Asian qualifiers for the FIFA Qatar World Cup.
FIFA announced the results of the group draw on Thursday, with 12 teams drawn from six pots. Group B consists of Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, China, Oman and Vietnam.
Based on FIFA Rankings released for Asian teams on June 18, top seeds Japan and Iran were placed in Pot 1, with Australia and Korea in Pot 2, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Pot 3 and Iraq and China in Pot 4, Oman and Syria in Pot 5 and Vietnam and Lebanon in Pot 6.
The top two teams from each group will qualify for the World Cup, while the two third-placed sides will square off for a place in the intercontinental play-offs.
Group A promises some dramatic action with Korea, ranked at No. 39 in the FIFA rankings, and No. 31 Iran. This will be the fourth time in a row that Korea and Iran have faced off in the qualifying round for the World Cup since 2010.
While both countries have qualified for the last two World Cups, Korea's recent history goes a lot further, taking fourth-place as one of the host countries at the 2002 tournament.
Iraq ranks at 68, the United Arab Emirates at 73, Syria at 79 and Lebanon at 93, but the apparent different in world ranking doesn't mean the three teams should be underestimated.
At the Brazil 2014 preliminaries, Korea drew 1-1 with Lebanon. Even in the second round of qualifiers for this World Cup, Korea had to settle for a 0-0 draw with the middle eastern side.
"We should not compare with our opponents” head coach Paulo Bento was quoted as saying by FIFA. “The most important thing we should do is to develop our players further. We should think it's a difficult and balanced group and we will try to do our best and achieve our goal which is to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”
BY YUN SO-HYANG [firstname.lastname@example.org]