With one field checked, Paulo Bento has rapidly shifted his focus to the following objective to realize.
Below his tutelage, South Korea have already booked a ticket to Qatar for this 12 months’s FIFA World Cup with two qualifying matches left. Few would have batted a watch if Bento had chosen to take his foot off the pedal for the remainder of the present qualifying marketing campaign.
As an alternative, Bento on Monday known as up most of his common suspects in a bid to win his crew’s remaining two qualifying matches this month. South Korea will host Iran in Seoul on March 24 and wrap up the ultimate Asian qualifying spherical by visiting Dubai to play the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on March 29.
Paulo Bento, head coach of the South Korean males’s nationwide soccer crew, speaks at a press convention on the Korea Soccer Affiliation (KFA) Home in Seoul on March, 14, 2022, on this picture supplied by the KFA. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)
With 20 factors after eight matches, South Korea are in second place in Group A of the continued spherical, two factors again of Iran. The highest two groups from every of the 2 teams on this spherical will earn computerized berths. Iran and South Korea are already in, whereas Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia are nonetheless duking it out for the 2 tickets in Group B.
As an alternative of taking part in it secure this month, Bento has taken useless purpose at Iran for the highest seed in Group A. Successful the group and rising within the FIFA rankings must also assist South Korea’s place within the World Cup draw, permitting them to keep away from some robust nations, although Bento mentioned he wasn’t but pondering forward to the draw.
“Now we have two video games. We should always suppose how we’re going to face the following opponents and the way we are able to do our job and attempt to finalize this qualifier in the very best method,” Bento mentioned at his on-line press convention Monday. “And that’s to get the six factors and end within the first place. After that, we are going to see what’s coming and see the place we’re going to be within the draw. I feel we now have a very good problem earlier than that.”
Going through Iran has been a problem for South Korea for years. South Korea’s final victory towards the Center Japanese foe got here in January 2011. Of their most up-to-date assembly, held in Tehran in October, the groups resulted in a 1-1 draw, with South Korea blowing a 1-0 lead within the second half.
South Korea have managed simply 9 wins towards 10 attracts and 13 attracts all time versus Iran.
“Within the bodily facet in addition to within the tactical one, Iran have gamers that may break steadiness in our crew, gamers which have expertise,” Bento mentioned. “I’ve little doubt about their high quality. We’ll attempt to attain the victory so as to attain the primary place within the group. I’m certain that it is going to be a troublesome sport however on the similar time, I’m satisfied that we are able to do this and we’re going to strive to try this with none doubt.”
To that finish, Bento went again to the likes of Son Heung-min, who leads Tottenham Hotspur in objectives this season, and Hwang Ui-jo, FC Girondins Bordeaux ahead and certainly one of Bento’s most trusted offensive choices.
However the coach additionally made a few shock decisions on protection, with Suwon FC defender Park Min-gyu and Seoul E-Land again Lee Jae-ik.
That is Park’s first senior nationwide crew callup. Lee had been introduced in through the earlier World Cup qualifying spherical in October 2019 however didn’t play in any matches then.
With the beginning heart again Kim Younger-gwon taking part in with a yellow card — one away from computerized suspension — and one other veteran Kwon Kyung-won apparently not one hundred pc, Bento mentioned he wished further choices on his again line. He reserved significantly excessive reward for the 26-year-old Park, who had appeared in 12 matches for the under-20 nationwide crew.
“Park is an effective participant within the technical facet. We all know he has good defensive rules,” Bento mentioned. “It’s a very good alternative to see him in our context.”