Confident Korea seeks third straight win in World Cup qualifier in Uzbekistan
TASHKENT (Yonhap) -- Korea is looking to win its third straight match in the final round of the 2014 World Cup qualification Tuesday against Uzbekistan.
Pakhtakor Stadium in the Uzbekistan capital will be the site of the match between the two Group A countries at 10 p.m. Tuesday, Korean time. South Korea leads five nations in the group with six points after beating Qatar 4-1 and Lebanon 3-0 in June. Uzbekistan is in fourth place with one draw and one loss.
South Korea enters the match as the favorite. It is 27th in the world in the latest FIFA rankings, while Uzbekistan is ranked 70th. South Korea won seven of the nine previous matches against the Central Asians.
For this match, South Korean head coach Choi Kang-hee recalled World Cup veterans and young guns who helped the country win a bronze medal at the London Olympics in August. The lineup will feature some Europe-based players, including midfielder Ki Sung-yueng of Swansea City in English Premier League and forward Park Chu-young, who recently joined Celta Vigo in the top Spanish competition, La Liga.
Lee Dong-gook, one of the top scorers in the domestic K-League, will be the national team's striker.
Choi said South Korea has finished analyzing Uzbekistan's tendencies and he is confident of an away victory.
"Our players are peaking at the right time," the coach said. "I think our players are clearly more talented and skilled than the Uzbeks.
Whether the opponents play aggressively or tentatively, our players are capable of reading the flow and adjusting accordingly."
Korea has lost key midfielder Koo Ja-cheol to an ankle injury. The captain of the Olympic squad in London, Koo suffered the injury in a game in Germany's Bundesliga earlier this month, and has been ruled out for up to a month.
South Korea has not named a replacement for the crafty midfielder, but still has an abundance of talent in the middle.
Lee Chung-yong of the Bolton Wanderers in England's second division is back on the national team for the first time in more than a year. He missed most of last season after suffering a double fracture in his right leg in preseason action.
Kim Bo-kyung of Cardiff City, also in English second division, will handle the offense on left wing. He has netted two goals in the final qualification round so far, as has fellow midfielder Lee Keun-ho, who plays for the Ulsan Tigers in the K-League.
Lee Jung-soo, who scored twice for South Korea at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, will man the defense, alongside captain Kwak Tae-hwi, who has recovered from a right ankle injury.
Uzbekistan features three players with K-League experience. Midfielder Server Djeparov, a two-time Asian Footballer of the Year, played for FC Seoul in South Korea's K-League from 2010 to 2011. Forward Aleksandr Geynrikh spent the 2011 season with the Suwon Samsung Bluewings, while captain Timur Kapadze played for the Incheon United.
Ten countries have qualified for the final Asian round of the World Cup and have been divided into two groups of five. In Group A, Iran and Qatar trail South Korea with four points apiece. Two other nations in the group, Uzbekistan and Lebanon, each have one point.
Group B includes Australia, Iraq, Japan, Jordan and Oman. Japan leads the group with seven points after three games, while Iraq, Australia and Oman each have two points.
The top two countries from each group will qualify for the 2014 World Cup. The two third-place nations will enter a playoff for an extra chance to qualify. The ongoing round will wrap up in June next year, after teams have each played two games against each other within their group.
Korea has played in every World Cup since 1986 and reached the semifinals in the 2002 tournament it co-hosted with Japan.