Paulo Bento predicts 'difficult game' against Iran

March 14, 2022 - 12:22

TEHRAN – South Korea coach Paulo Bento predicted a difficult match against Iran in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification.

Bento on Monday called up most of his usual suspects in a bid to win his team's final two qualifying matches this month. South Korea will host Iran in Seoul on March 24 and wrap up the final Asian qualifying round by visiting Dubai to play the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on March 29.

With 20 points after eight matches, South Korea are in second place in Group A of the ongoing round, two points back of Iran. The top two teams from each of the two groups in this round will earn automatic berths. Iran and South Korea have previously qualified for the World Cup.

Instead of playing it safe this month, Bento has taken dead aim at Iran for the top seed in Group A. Winning the group and rising in the FIFA rankings should also help South Korea's position in the World Cup draw, allowing them to avoid some tough countries, though Bento said he wasn't yet thinking ahead to the draw.

“We have two games. We should think how we're going to face the next opponents and how we can do our job and try to finalize this qualifier in the best possible way," Bento said at his online press conference Monday. “And that is to get the six points and finish in the first place. After that, we will see what's coming and see where we're going to be in the draw. I think we have a good challenge before that.”

Facing Iran has been a challenge for South Korea for years. South Korea's last victory against the ‘Persian Leopards’ came in January 2011. In their most recent meeting, held in Tehran in October, the teams ended in a 1-1 draw, with South Korea blowing a 1-0 lead in the second half.

South Korea have managed just nine wins against 10 draws and 13 losses all time versus Iran, Yonhap reported.

“In the physical aspect as well as in the tactical one, Iran have players that can break balance in our team, players that have experience,” Bento said. “I have no doubt about their quality. We will try to reach the victory in order to reach the first position in the group. I am sure that it will be a difficult game but at the same time, I am convinced that we can do that and we're going to try to do that without any doubt.”

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