Qatar hosts South Korea in WC qualifier today
IKOLI VICTOR DOHA
QATARhas an opportunity to consolidate its position in Group A when it hosts South Korea in Asia’s final qualifying round for the 2014 FIFA World Cup at the Al Sadd Stadium. Group A top seed South Korea arrived in Doha facing a confident and rejuvenated Qatar after its 1-0 opening victory against Lebanon.
Qatar and South Korea’s played a World Cup qualifier match 23 years ago which resulted in a goalless draw.
While the Qatari team will look to its home support, the South Koreans can count on their exposure to Qatar. AS many as three South Koreans play in the Qatar Stars League. To make the best of their knowledge of the rivals, the Korean manager has even handed the captain’s armband temporarily Lee Jung-Soo, who plays for Al Sadd. Also shoring up the Taeguk Warriors defence is Al Rayyan centre- back Cho Yong-Hyung while Qatari champions Lekhwiya’s recent signing Nam Tae-Hee could feature in midfield.
Speaking at press conference ahead of the match on Thursday, Qatari coach Paulo Autuori said, “There is good atmosphere in the team and they are ready to face the South Korean challenge.” Responding to insinuations by the Koreans that the weather conditions are not in favour, Autuori said, “This issue is just an excuse to the South Koreans as we visited them in Korea and we played our football.” South Korean coach Choi Kang- Hee said, “The weather would affect the team negatively, but I think that the team is strong enough and they are capable to overcome Qatar.” According to the Korean coach, matches played in the Middle East are always hard because of time and climate differences. He feels it’s going to be a hard game, since its away match but still expects the best from his squad.
The other group match pits together two losing sides from the opening round, with both hosts Lebanon and Uzbekistan hoping to bounce back after a disappointing start. The Central Asians have a clear psychological edge having defeated Lebanon by four goals over two legs on the road to South Africa 2010. Despite losing to a late goal against Iran, the Uzbeks’ have boosted their strength with the return of five suspended players, notably captain Server Djeparov.
Asian champions Japan faces Jordan seeking to maintain its leading place in Group B with a second home win.
Another fixture in the group is Australia’s star-studded side pitted against Oman.