SEOUL– Chasing the top seed in South Korea’s group in the final Asian World Cup qualification round, head coach Paulo Bento on Wednesday called on his players to “take some risks” in their next showdown against Iran.
South Korea will host Iran at Seoul World Cup Stadium at 8 p.m. Thursday. It will be the penultimate match in the current World Cup qualifying phase for the two countries, both of which have already secured spots in the big tournament.
With Iran leading Group A at 22 points and South Korea sitting in second place at 20 points, Bento has repeatedly talked about wanting to overtake the Middle Eastern powers for first place. South Korea will have to play out of their comfort zone to accomplish that, Bento said.
“A draw for them (Iran) is a result that can make them stay in the first position. On the other side, there will be a team (South Korea) that wants to reach three points and first position, and, of course, should take some risks during the game,” Bento said at his online press conference from the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province. “I am confident we’ll be able to take those risks and reach the victory, and make our fans happy.”
South Korea last defeated Iran in January 2011. Iran won their next four meetings by 1-0, and the two have had three consecutive draws since, including a 1-1 tie in October last year in Tehran.
Things will be quite different this time around. Both countries have lost a few players to COVID-19 infections, but Iran, minus their two leading scorers in Mehdi Taremi and Alireza Jahanbakhsh, have suffered a bigger blow.
But Bento remained wary of Iran’s quality.
“We should play as we played before during this phase of qualifying; trying to control and dominate the game through ball possession, and trying to play in opponent’s midfield as much as we can,” Bento said. “And of course, we should take into consideration that we’re going to play against a strong team. We need to attack as much as we can. At the same time, (we should) respect the opponent. When the moment dictates that we should defend, we should be able to do that as well.”
As for South Korea’s own absences, which include young, useful midfielders Paik Seung-ho and Kim Jin-gyu, Bento said he will just have to find ways to beat Iran with the players he has.
“(Paik and Kim) are players that, due to their features, allow the team to play with a different way. They adapt themselves to many tactical systems,” Bento said. “We need to find the right tactical system to play tomorrow. We will play with a strong starting XI. We will have options on the bench to use during the match. And of course, all of the coaches like to have all the players available, but it’s not always possible to have all of them available. We need to find the solutions and make the team compete in the best possible way.”
Source: Yonhap News Agency