Korea, Uzbekistan football coaches renew rivalry in decisive World Cup qualifier
Published : Sep 5, 2017 - 16:12
Updated : Sep 5, 2017 - 16:13
South Korea and Uzbekistan will play their last qualifying match in the final Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup at Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Both teams have a shot at qualifying for the top FIFA competition with a win.
With Iran already qualified as the group winners, South Korea are currently in second, the last automatic qualification spot, with 14 points, just two points above Syria and Uzbekistan. Syria are third with a better goal difference than Uzbekistan, but they will face undefeated Iran in Tehran on Tuesday.
South Korea`s national football team coach Shin Tae-yong listens to questions during a press conference at Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent on Sept. 4, 2017, one day ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying match between South Korea and Uzbekistan. (Yonhap)
Shin, who took the helm in July, and Babayan, who has been leading the Uzbeks since June 2015, have already faced each other at the under-23 level.
In January 2016, both coaches were then leading their respective U-23 national teams, and Shin got the last laugh with a 2-1 win in a Group C contest at the Asian Football Confederation U-23 Championship in Qatar. The competition also doubled as a qualification tournament for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
South Korea later won the group and finished runners-up in the AFC competition, while Uzbekistan finished third in the group. Shin's side then reached the quarterfinals at the men's Olympic football tournament.
Shin is not the only one familiar with Babayan's Olympic football team. Forward Hwang Hee-chan and midfielder Kwon Chang-hoon also played against the Uzbeks at the AFC U-23 Championship and the former picked up an assist in South Korea's 2-1 win.
Uzbekistan`s national football team coach Samvel Babayan (R) speaks during a press conference at Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent on Sept. 4, 2017, one day ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying match between South Korea and Uzbekistan. (Yonhap)
Both Hwang and Kwon started in Shin's senior coaching debut last Thursday against Iran. The two players are also expected to feature against Uzbekistan here.
On Babayan's side, their threatening forward Igor Sergeev was then team captain of the U-23 team, but he couldn't score against the South Koreans.
At the senior level, South Korea and Uzbekistan last met in their World Cup qualifying match in November in Seoul, where the hosts beat the visitors 2-1. Shin, however, wasn't in charge since Uli Stielike was leading the team back then.
"We met each other last year at the Olympic qualification tournament," Shin said Monday during the press conference. "I remember we had sincere talks after the match. This time, I will also try to collect a win." (Yonhap)