After drawing Australia 1-1 in its second Group C action at the ongoing Asian Cup, South Korea will need some help to get the top seed in the group and avoid facing an old nemesis in the quarterfinals.
South Korea and Australia both have four points after two matches. But Australia stands atop the group because it has the goal difference edge of plus-4 to South Korea’s plus-1. Bahrain is third with a win and a loss after routing India 5-2 after the South Korea-Australia game on Saturday.
For their final group stage games next Tuesday, South Korea will take on India and Australia will face Bahrain.
South Korea is expected to easily beat India, which is the lowest-ranked country in the Asian Cup at 144th on the FIFA rankings. A combination of a South Korean victory and a draw between Australia and Bahrain or a Bahrain victory will put South Korea at the top of Group C.
But Australia is favored against Bahrain. Wins by both South Korea and Australia will give the two nations identical records of two wins and a draw.
The first tiebreaker at the Asian Cup is the head-to-head record, followed by goal difference and goals scored in the head-to-head meeting. But since South Korea and Australia tied Saturday, they will need a fourth tiebreaker, which is the goal difference in all group matches.
Australia currently has a three-goal edge over South Korea in that category. That means even if Australia beats Bahrain by only a goal, South Korea would have to beat India by five goals to finish first in Group C.
Finishing as the top seed has significant implications for South Korea and its bid to end a 51-year drought at the Asian Cup.
In the quarterfinals, the top Group C team takes on the No. 2 team from Group D, which includes Iran, Iraq, North Korea and United Arab Emirates. The second-ranked team from Group C meets the top Group D nation.
If South Korea ends up in second place, it will most likely face Iran, a favorite to top Group D. South Korea has not beaten Iran in the past six meetings, with four draws and two losses. Most recently, Iran edged South Korea 1-0 in a friendly in Seoul last September.
South Korea and Iran have squared off in each of the past four Asian Cup quarterfinals. In 2007, they held each other scoreless in regulation and extra periods, before South Korea eked out a 4-2 penalty shootout win.
South Korean captain Park Ji-sung said in a recent interview he’d like to avoid Iran in the quarters. Cho Kwang-rae, his head coach, told reporters Saturday that his players will “play with confidence” regardless of their opponent. (Yonhap News)
“No matter who we face in the quarters, it won’t be the same as the past,” Cho said. “It’s not as though we want to avoid Iran.
Whether it’s Iran or (defending champion) Iraq, we will be confident.”