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S. Korea held by Thailand in World Cup qualifying match at home

By Yonhap

Published : March 21, 2024 - 22:53

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Son Heung-min of South Korea (left) celebrates after scoring against Thailand during the teams' Group C match in the second round of the Asian World Cup qualification tournament at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul, Thursday. (Yonhap) Son Heung-min of South Korea (left) celebrates after scoring against Thailand during the teams' Group C match in the second round of the Asian World Cup qualification tournament at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul, Thursday. (Yonhap)

South Korea settled for a 1-1 draw against Thailand in their latest World Cup qualifying match at home Thursday, a disappointing result coming on the heels of off-field controversy for the national team.

Captain Son Heung-min scored in the 42nd minute but Suphanat Mueanta had the answer for Thailand in the 61st minute at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Group C action of the second round in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) qualification for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

South Korea, world No. 22, stayed atop their group with seven points, while 101st-ranked Thailand remained in second place with four points.

The two countries will meet again Tuesday at Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok. The kickoff is 7:30 p.m. local time, or 9:30 p.m. in South Korean time.

This was South Korea's first international match on home soil this year, and also their first match since losing to Jordan 2-0 in the semifinals of the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar in February.

With South Korea failing to end their Asian title drought at 64 years, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was fired last month. Hwang Sun-hong, head coach of the under-23 men's national team, was brought in as caretaker boss and he will only coach the senior squad for the two matches against Thailand.

In the aftermath of the elimination, it was belatedly revealed that two of the team's key players, Lee Kang-in and captain Son Heung-min, had gotten into a scuffle over a game of table tennis. Son, also captain of Tottenham Hotspur, suffered a dislocated finger during the altercation. Lee, midfielder for Paris Saint-Germain, later flew to London to apologize to Son in person. Then after reporting to the national team camp this week, Lee apologized to the rest of the team during a meeting and then did so again in front of cameras and microphones Wednesday.

Lee received a warm reception during player introduction and began the match on the bench.

Son opened the scoring with a left-footed shot from the center of the box, set up by Lee Jae-sung. The goal came after a long stretch of sloppy play by South Korea in their own end.

Mueanta had the equalizer for the Thais just past the hour mark, with a left-footed effort from close range.

There are nine groups of four in the current round. The two best teams from each group will advance to the third round.

South Korea have played at every World Cup since 1986. (Yonhap)

Lee Kang-in of South Korea (left) dribbles the ball against Thailand during the teams' Group C match in the second round of the Asian World Cup qualification tournament at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul, Thursday. (Yonhap) Lee Kang-in of South Korea (left) dribbles the ball against Thailand during the teams' Group C match in the second round of the Asian World Cup qualification tournament at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul, Thursday. (Yonhap)