Korea meets Lebanon in the resumption of Qatar qualifiers

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The Korea national soccer team trains in Turkey on Tuesday before flying to Lebanon today. [NEWS1]

The Korea national soccer team meets Lebanon in the second leg of the third round of Asia qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Thursday.

The slightly reformed Taeguk Warriors will take to the field at the Saida Municipal Stadium in Sidon, Lebanon, with regular captain Son Heung-min and forward Hwang Hee-chan both injured.

The two Premier League stars have both been out for a few weeks with injuries – Son with a muscle injury and Hwang with a hamstring injury – and are unable to join the national team. The pair, along with Gwangju FC’s Um Won-sang, are the three changes in midfield since the last qualifying round in November last year. Their places were filled by the return of Gimcheon Sangmu regular Kwon Chang-hoon, Busan iPark’s Kim Jin-gyu and Ulsan Hyundai’s Lee Dong-jun.

Up front, Bordeaux FC’s Hwang Ui-jo returns to the national team after missing the last two qualifiers with an ankle injury. The only other change in the national squad from the November games is in defence, with Gimcheon Sangmu’s Jung Seung-hyun replaced by Ulsan’s Kim Young-gwon.

With the exception of Son and Hwang Hee-chan, Korea’s international stars are back in full force. Joining the squad days after his phenomenal hat-trick that made him the all-time leading Asian footballer in France’s Ligue 1, Hwang Ui-jo is joined by Hwang In-beom from Rubin Kazan and Jeong Woo-yeong from SC Freiburg, Al Sadd’s Jung Woo-young, Mainz’s Lee Jae-sung, Gamba Osaka’s Kwon Kyoung-won, Kashiwa Reysol’s Kim Seung-gyu and Fenerbahce’s Kim Min-jae.

Korea enter Thursday’s game in a strong position as second in Group A, two points behind first-place Iran and eight points ahead of the United Arab Emirates in third. With the top two teams progressing straight to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Korea would need a spectacular collapse in the remaining four games to miss out on a spot.

Even if Korea somehow managed to lose every remaining game and slip behind the United Arab Emirates, the third-placed team will move up for the final World Cup spot in the fourth-round playoffs.

Korea defeated Lebanon 1-0 in the first leg on September 7 at the Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, Gyeonggi, with Kwon Chang-hoon scoring the winning goal in the 59th minute. The result was disappointing for world No. 33 Korea, while Lebanon No. 95 should be an easy target for the Taeguk Warriors.

That first-leg result was representative of Korea’s slow start to the third qualifying round – five days earlier they had drawn 0-0 against world No. 75 Iraq – but the side appear to have calmed down since then.

In the second leg of the qualifiers, Korea beat Syria 2-1 and Iran 1-1, surpassing Korea at 21st place in the world. In their last games in November, Korea beat the United Arab Emirates 1-0 and Iraq 3-0.

But how Korea will deal with the loss of Son and Hwang Hee-chan remains to be seen. In their six games so far, the Premier League duo have been responsible for four of the Taeguk Warriors’ eight goals. Kwon Chang-hoon, Hwang In-beom, Lee Jae-sung, and Jeong each have one, while Hwang UI-jo is yet to score in the third round.

Korea have an advantage going into this game that they didn’t have in the previous games. Due to the timing of the Korean and Japanese leagues, players resident in these leagues were able to join the national team early this time and take part after two successful friendly matches on Thursday: against Moldova 4-0 on January 21 and against Moldova Iceland 5-1 on January 15 . January.

Korea meets Lebanon on Thursday at 2pm or 9pm in Korea at the Saida Municipal Stadium in Sidon, Lebanon.

BY JIM BULLEY [[email protected]]

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