South Korea take on China against a tense background

South Korea will be able to call on Swansea City midfielder Ki Sung Yueng, seen here keeping the ball away from Crystal Palace midfielder Yohan Cabaye in an English Premier League match.
South Korea will be able to call on Swansea City midfielder Ki Sung Yueng, seen here keeping the ball away from Crystal Palace midfielder Yohan Cabaye in an English Premier League match.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SEOUL • South Korea coach Uli Stielike said that his players will try not to be influenced by the growing tensions between their nation and China, and will focus on what is happening on the pitch during the two sides' World Cup qualifier today.

South Korea face China amid tensions between their governments over the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence battery. In what appear to be retaliatory actions over South Korea's decision to install the US anti-missile system, China has banned sales of South Korea-related tour packages and cracked down on business operations of some South Korean companies.

"The match against China will probably be our second most pressure-packed match in this qualifying round after Iran," Stielike said.

"I will try to make sure our players won't be influenced by the stadium atmosphere or other off-the-field factors."

The South Korean embassy in Beijing had also issued a safety warning ahead of the match.

"South Koreans staying in or visiting China must ensure they cheer on the national team in as orderly a fashion as possible," the embassy's message read. "Please take extra caution not to cause trouble with the Chinese people with unnecessary words or actions."

The South Koreans are in second place on 10 points in Group A of the Asian Football Confederation World Cup qualifiers but could leapfrog Iran (11) with a win, should the Iranians lose against Qatar.

South Korea will be without key forward Son Heung Min of Tottenham Hotspur, although another English Premier League star, Swansea City's Ki Sung Yueng, has recovered from injury and is available.

"China will obviously move forward aggressively," Ki said. "If we start to move backwards, they will gain confidence."

China coach Marcello Lippi was a World Cup-winning coach with Italy in 2006 but is facing the difficult task of securing qualification for the Chinese after taking on the role in October.

China are bottom of Group A with only two points from five games.

"We know that the game will be a tough one and we hope that the fans will get behind us," Lippi said of the match at Changsha, China.

ASIA NEWS NETWORK/THE KOREA HERALD, REUTERS


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2017, with the headline 'South Korea take on China against a tense background'. Print Edition | Subscribe