Koreans eye flying start against Iran

SEOUL • Shin Tae Yong takes charge of South Korea for the first time today, knowing failure to defeat Iran in front of some 60,000 fans in Seoul could lead to his side missing a World Cup Finals for the first time since 1982.

The Korean replaced the fired Uli Stielike in July in the wake of shocking defeats by China and Qatar and, while his side occupy Group A's second automatic qualification spot for the 2018 Finals, there is no room for error. Unbeaten Iran (20 points) have already booked their tickets to Russia as group winners, while Korea (13) have Uzbekistan (12), who play China today, breathing down their necks.

A win over Iran would mean the Koreans need only draw against Uzbekistan in Tashkent - should the Uzbeks beat China - in their last game to secure qualification.

"We can't allow Iran to score first," Shin said. "We have to get the opening goal."

Iran have been Asia's top team over the last year, racking up six wins and two draws without conceding a goal, and rising to 24th in the Fifa world rankings.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2017, with the headline 'Koreans eye flying start against Iran'. Print Edition | Subscribe