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Korea fall to Qatar; World Cup hopes in limbo

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Published : 2017-06-14 09:18
Updated : 2017-06-14 10:00

DOHA -- South Korea suffered a stunning 3-2 loss to Qatar in their World Cup qualifying match here on Tuesday, as their hopes of advancing to the quadrennial tournament remained in limbo.

Hassan Al Haydos scored twice and set up another at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, where South Korea submitted yet another listless effort at both ends.

Ki Sung-yueng and Hwang Hee-chan got a goal apiece for South Korea in the second half to erase a 2-0 deficit before Al Haydos broke the tie in the 74th.

South Korea are still winless away from home, with three losses and a draw.

South Korean players (in white) react to their 3-2 loss to Qatar in the teams' World Cup qualifying match at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on June 13, 2017. (Yonhap)

With two matches remaining in the final Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, South Korea are in second place in Group A, the last spot for automatic qualification, with 13 points from four wins, a draw and three losses.

Iran have clinched a World Cup spot with 20 points after beating Uzbekistan 2-0 Monday. Uzbekistan are just one point back of South Korea.

Only the top two nations from each of the two groups in this stage earn automatic World Cup berths, while third-place teams must go through playoffs.

South Korea will next face Iran at home on Aug. 31, and travel to Tashkent to close out the qualification stage against Uzbekistan on Sept. 5.

Against the 88th-ranked Qatar, South Korea, No. 43, had only one shot through the opening 20 minutes. Midfielder Lee Jae-sung then had what turned out to be South Korea's most dangerous first-half chance in the 21st minute, forcing Saad Al Sheeb's diving save with a left footed shot.

Al Haydos then put Qatar on the board in the 25th on a free kick, set up after a South Korean turnover.

Defender Kwak Tae-hwi slipped while trying to control the ball in midfield, and Rodrigo Tabata sprung Akram Afif with a deft pass.

Choi Chul-soon then got a yellow card at the top of the box for impeding Afif's progress.

Al Haydos fired his free kick over the South Korean wall, and goalkeeper Kwoun Sun-tae stood frozen in the middle of the net as he helplessly watched the ball sail past him.

South Korea head coach Uli Stielike (right) reacts to a play during a World Cup qualifying match against Qatar at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on June 13, 2017. (Yonhap)

South Korea's hopes for a comeback were dealt a major blow at the half-hour mark, when winger Son Heung-min left the game with an apparent hand injury. He fell awkwardly on his right forearm after an aerial duel and stayed down on the pitch in visible pain. Lee Keun-ho replaced him in the 34th.

Son was later diagnosed with a broken forearm. He'll be in cast when he returns home later Wednesday for further examinations.

Lee had a decent opportunity in the 40th on a breakaway but Al Sheeb turned aside the shot from the left side of the box.

Qatar doubled their lead six minutes into the second half, taking advantage of a porous defense.

Afif engaged in a nifty give-and-go with Al Haydos, with multiple South Korean defenders caught watching the play develop.

Afif had all the time and space in the world as he fired one past Kwoun.

South Korea cut the deficit in half in the 62nd, as Ki stepped into a shot at the top of the box, thanks to a perfect cross by Lee Jae-sung from the right wing. It was South Korea's first goal away from home in this qualifying round.

Hwang, the youngest member of the team at 21, then tied the score with a volley in the 70th. Lee Keun-ho sent a cross from the right side, and Hwang Il-su headed it down for Hwang, who scored his first international goal in his sixth match.

Al Haydos, though, gave Qatar the lead again in the 74th, converting a Rodrigo Tabata pass after finding open space behind the defense.

Al Haydos nearly had a hat trick two minutes later, as his right footed effort curled just wide of the left post.

South Korea kept pushing for an equalizer in the final 20 or so minutes, but Qatar held their ground and earned only their second win of this qualification round.

South Korea head coach Uli Stielike has been on the hot seat since last fall, when a string of uninspired matches began. The Korea Football Association  gave him a vote of confidence in April despite growing calls for Stielike's head, and in light of this loss, the KFA will be under even more pressure to sack the German-born bench boss.

Stielike said after the match his job status is "not in my hands" and added he will talk further about the situation after he returns to South Korea.

"We had hope and worked hard, but it's a pity that we got this result," he said. "The coach decides the players and tactics, so I should take the responsibility. We struggled from the start and since we had a hard time securing the ball, we had a tough match." (Yonhap)