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Korea sets sights on 2014 WC

National team gearing up for final Asian qualifying round


The 2014 World Cup still seems a long way away, but the South Korean national football team is already gearing up for the final Asian qualifying round.

Korea, aiming to qualify for its eighth consecutive appearance in the world’s most prestigious football event, is grouped with Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates in Asian qualifying for the 2014 Brazil World Cup.

Manager Cho Kwang-rae’s side has already secured four points after beating Lebanon 6-0 and tying with Kuwait 1-1 last month, and they are currently standing atop Group B. 
Korea captain Park Chu-young scored both goals against Poland. (Yonhap News)
Korea captain Park Chu-young scored both goals against Poland. (Yonhap News)

The Taegeuk Warriors will play the UAE at home on Tuesday and are expected to secure three more points against the Middles Eastern side that has lost all their previous matches.

Cho revealed his confidence ahead of the Tuesday’s match after a 2-2 draw against Poland in a friendly last Friday.

Cho’s side started sharp but fell behind in the first half, when Blaszczykowski fired a fierce long-range shot against the bar from 30 meters and Lewandowski headed in the rebound.

But Park Chu-young scored for Korea after 65 minutes when debutant Seo Jung-jin crossed the ball from the sideline to the Arsenal striker to blast home from close range.

Ten minutes later Park scored again to put the hosts ahead before Blaszczykowski leveled the score with eight minutes remaining.

“We played a good game. If we can keep up playing like this, the game against the UAE will be no problem,” Cho said.

But the manager added that the Tuesday’s game would be a crucial part Korea’s preparation for the World Cup qualifying campaign.

The national team lost its most influential player, Park Ji-sung of Manchester United, after he retired from international duty in January.

Its international left-back Lee Young-pyo also retired from the team earlier this year, and Cho seems still unable to fill the void left by the two veterans.

Cho, who took the helm of the national team in late 2010, has brought many young talents aboard, including Hamburger SV striker Son Heung-min and Ji Dong-won of Sunderland. But they still looked immature and young against Poland, and the team’s defense, in particular, looked fragile.

Cho admitted that his team was still in a transition period, but noted he would determine his starters on Tuesday.

“I’ll make three or four changes in our starting lineup for UAE, and will pick our best 11 starting players,” he said.

There are five groups of four teams in the third round of Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

Teams play each other twice until early next year, and the top two teams from each of the groups will reach the fourth and the final round. Korea plays the UAE on Tuesday for its third group tie at home at the Suwon World Cup stadium at 8 p.m.

By Oh Kyu-wook (596story@heraldcorp.com)
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