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scouting

South Korea Look to Inch Closer to Qatar

South Korea face a tricky test as they travel to meet Iraq in the second of two November World Cup qualifiers, knowing that three points will take them closer to their goal of punching their ticket to Qatar next year.  KLU's Branko Belan looks ahead to the clash.
(Photo Credit: The Korea Herald)


Match: Iraq vs South Korea
Venue: Thani Bin Jassim Stadium
Kickoff: Wednesday November 17th, 2021; 24:00 KST

Recent Form

Six Points Separate Second and Third

For the moment, there is a bit off a gap in the standings with Korea considerably ahead of Lebanon who sit in third place.  Hwang Hee-chan scored the only goal of the match against the United Arab Emirates from the penalty spot and while Korea had some good spells going forward, they came up short in the final third, spurning several chances to widen their advantage.

It is an area they will have to improve on if they want to finish the current qualifying cycle in convincing fashion.  It also must be remembered that Iraq took points off of them in the first match back in September, so getting off to a good start could give them a much-needed confidence boost.

A Loss Could Spell the End for Iraq

Iraq have struggled in these qualifiers with four draws and a loss in their first five matches.  They have only scored three goals at the halfway point, but their defensive record is admirable, so they should not be taken lightly.

However, there is little optimism that things will turn a corner for the better.  Their chances of qualifying for the playoff are still there, but Lebanon has been much a better side on form since the third round began.  They would need a win to restore faith, but against Korea, who have only conceded twice in the section, it is unlikely to happen.

Team News

South Korea

Paulo Bento realizes that the first meeting between the teams did not go as planned, and expressed his wish that Korea dominate the match this time around.  

"We'll try to play as well as possible against a team that is a tough team, a difficult team that reached a good result in the first game (in September).  We'll try to improve our performance from the first game and reach (a different) result.  We should try to dominate and control the game," he said.

He also stressed the need to pay attention to attacking play, but that there is still reason to be wary, considering Iraq have lost just once in the section.  

Iraq

Iraq fought back for a point against Syria in their last qualifying match, scoring a late equalizer in the 86th minute, but will face a much stiffer test against Korea.  They are winless in their past six matches across all competitions, so getting their first win in qualifying will be a daunting task.

If their last match is any indication, they will play five in the back to counter Korea's attacking options, also meaning they are unlikely to foray forward much, rather looking to see if they can steal a goal through the counter-attack.

What to Watch

How Will Korea Break Down Iraq in Open Play?

Korea failed to score from open play against the UAE and also failed to score in their first match against Iraq despite playing at home.  Indeed, Korea has looked lackluster in front of goal, and with the absence of Hwang Ui-jo due to injury, the attacking options, at least at the striker position are thin.

Cho Gue-sung did not impress in the last match, so there may be a chance for first time callup Kim Gun-hee to start in his place.  Son Heung-min missed several scoring opportunities last time out and still is looking to find his stride with the national team.  If Hwang In-beom can dictate the midfield, Korea's options could open up.

Who to Watch

Kim Min-jae - South Korea

Kim Min-jae is the most critical piece in the Korean back line but is also a target man from set pieces.  His aerial ability to attack corner kicks and free kicks could prove useful should Korea be able to penetrate deep into the attacking third and create chances for themselves from dead ball situations.

With goals not coming from the front, he is a definite option as a second resource.  Not only would a goal add to his stature for the national team, it would put Korea one step closer to qualifying for their tenth consecutive World Cup. 

FNR

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