SEOUL • South Korea's captain has apologised for upsetting his team's fans when he blamed them for disrupting on-field communications during a home draw with Iran that left their World Cup hopes in the balance.
The 0-0 qualifier result against 10-man Iran leaves the Koreans having to win in Uzbekistan on Tuesday to be certain of a place at a ninth successive World Cup Finals.
Any other result will leave their fate in the hands of third-placed Syria, who will be facing hosts Iran, the Group A winners.
On Thursday, Iran played most of the second half at the Seoul World Cup Stadium a man down after Saeid Ezatolahi's red card, but South Korea could not find a way through, despite being roared on by a noisy crowd of 63,000.
But Kim Young Gwon said after the match that the raucous support had made the team's job harder.
"It was quite difficult to communicate with the guys because it was noisy out there," he said.
"We could yell all we wanted and still couldn't hear one another well.
"We prepared ourselves for a situation like this, but it was still frustrating that I couldn't hear the guys."
South Korea have had a bumpy qualifying campaign, losing coach Uli Stielike after a run of poor results including defeats by China, Iran and Qatar, and Kim's comments infuriated fans.
"I've never seen a player who blames the crowd for a lacklustre match," one wrote on the Naver web portal. "Shame on you."
Another added: "Do you really think you would have performed better if we remained quiet? I don't think so."
As anger mounted, Kim issued an apology yesterday through a team official over what he called a "slip of the tongue".
"I apologise to all the fans who came out to cheer us on," Kim said.
"I didn't mean to say those things. There were so many things going through my head, and I made a mistake. I deeply regret that."