S. Korea coach wants to secure World Cup berth ‘as soon as possible’

DUBAI-- With his team on the verge of an early qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, South Korea head coach Paulo Bento said Monday he wants to get the job done "as soon as possible."

South Korea will take on Syria in Group A action Tuesday during the final Asian qualifying round for the Asian Cup. Though Syria are the home team, they haven't been able to host qualifiers due to civil war. Tuesday's match will be played at Rashid Stadium in Dubai as the neutral venue, kicking off at 6 p.m. local time, or 11 p.m. in Seoul.

A win will send South Korea to the World Cup in Qatar. South Korea are holding down the second spot in the group with 17 points from five wins and two draws, two points behind Iran. The top two teams from each of the two groups in this phase will grab automatic spots for the World Cup. Iran got one last week with a win over Iraq, and South Korea can join them Tuesday.

South Korea have played at every World Cup since 1986.

"We have a good opportunity to reach our goal tomorrow," Bento said at his prematch press conference. "For sure, we're going to do everything we can in order to reach the goal as soon as possible."

South Korea had a COVID-19 scare after traveling from Lebanon, where they'd picked up a 1-0 win over the home team, to Dubai last week. Defender Hong Chul tested positive for the virus Friday and forced the rest of the team into quarantine while they awaited their test results. No one else got infected with the virus, and Bento has been able to run training sessions as usual, minus Hong. The coach said he will get his charges to play extra hard for their ailing teammate.

"The preparation has been good since we arrived in Dubai, even if we had some problems," Bento said. "It's a pity that we don't have all the players available to play in this important game. But the most important thing is the player who got infected is well. Tomorrow, we'll try to play for him as well."

South Korea beat Syria 2-1 in their previous meeting at home on Oct. 7. Syria are in last place with two points from two draws and five losses so far.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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