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South Korea Face Lebanon For Chance to Clinch a Spot in Qatar

South Korea had a successful camp in Turkey and now looks ahead to a pair of important matches, the first against Lebanon on Thursday.  They then face Syria next Tuesday.  A win against Lebanon would clinch their tenth consecutive World Cup appearance.  They have qualified for every final tournament since Mexico '86.  KLU's Branko Belan looks ahead to the important encounter.
(Photo credit: The Korea Times)


Another Good Showing Against Moldova

South Korea made short work of Moldova in their second friendly of the month last Friday night, winning by a final score of 4-0.  Goals from Kim Jin-kyu, Paik Seung-ho, Kwon Chang-hoon, and a penalty from Cho Young-wook in the third minute of second half injury time rounded out a solid performance for Paulo Bento's men, who know they now have the chance to qualify for Qatar with a win over Lebanon.

The first three goal scorers made it two from two as each of them also found the back of the net in the match versus Iceland, and all three have kept their squad places as a result.  The inclusion of Kim is a just reward for his recent strong performances.  There is a sense he really wanted to show that he belongs with the senior team and he certainly has given the coaching staff reason to believe he can be a player the national team can count on going forward.  Will it make him a candidate for the World Cup?  Time will tell, but the signs are positive at the moment.

Squad Reinforcements Ready

Cho Gue-sung has kept his national team spot following a strong winter camp. Photo credit: The Korea Times.
The additions of Kim Min-jae, Lee Jae-sung, Jung Woo-young, Jeong Woo-young, Hwang In-beom, and Hwang Ui-jo will bolster the team as they look to take care of business in short order when they face Lebanon.  Even without Son Heung-min and Hwang Hee-chan, there is enough quality in the side to get over the finish line.

Kim Gun-hee and Cho Gue-sung both played well in the friendlies and will have the opportunity to grow their presence with the national team in this short window.  Hwang scored a hat trick over the weekend and became the leading Asian scorer in the French league for his efforts.  With so many players on good form at the moment, it is only customary to expect a win to put minds at ease, but these two sides have already faced off during this qualifying cycle and, as such, nothing should be taken for granted.

Lebanon Still With Something to Play For

Iran and South Korea will most definitely qualify from Group A, but that doesn't mean that all is lost for Lebanon.  They currently sit fourth in the section, just one point behind the United Arab Emirates.  Finishing third would ensure them at least one more match in this qualifying cycle.  That is where things would get considerably more difficult for them, as they would be drawn against one of Saudi Arabia, Japan, or Australia for the fourth round playoff.

The way things stand in Group B at the moment, Saudi Arabia looks to be the favorite to finish top of the group with a four point lead over Japan, but there is still time for that to change.

It's a long shot for them to go much further than they already have, but if any of the other teams in the group think they are just going to go lightly at this point, they would be sorely mistaken.  That is something that Korea should have in the back of their minds and preferably aim to put an end to any hopes for the Cedars early.

"We Need to Finish the Job": Kim Min-jae

Kim Min-jae, South Korea's top defender, currently playing for Fenerbahçe S.K. in Turkey, is aware that winning against Lebanon would make everything easier.

"We have to get the job done while we can, and it will make our life easier for the rest of the qualification round," he said in an interview on Monday.

"After our last match (in November), we all talked about how we should try to book our World Cup spot as soon as we can.  We have to score early or we're going to be in for a long night.  I am going to have to hold down the fort on the back end.  And, if the guys on the field can communicate and stay on the same page, we shouldn't have any problem," he concluded.

Previous Meetings

Players jostle for possession of the ball in the meeting between the sides last September. Photo credit: The Korea Times.
The two sides met in the second round of qualifying, with the first match between them finishing scoreless in November 2019.  When they met the second time, Korea came away 2-1 winners.  Soony Saad gave Lebanon an early lead, but a second half own goal five minutes after the restart from Maher Sabra and a 65th minute penalty from Son Heung-min were enough for three points.

In the first meeting between them in the third round in September of last year, Kwon Chang-hoon's strike just before the hour mark gave Paulo Bento's men another critical win, keeping Iran within touching distance.  This time around, there is something at stake yet again - victory sends them to Qatar.
   
FNR

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