Connect to share and comment
South Korea's coach spiced up next week's crunch World Cup qualifier with fellow Asian giants Iran when he promised to "make life painful" for the visitors following a series of grievances.
Choi Kang-Hee was speaking after the 2002 World Cup semi-finalists edged Uzbekistan 1-0 to claim a one-point lead in Group A, ahead of Iran who will make the journey to Ulsan for their final game on Tuesday.
South Korea suffered problems ranging from visa issues to poor training facilities and dangerous tackles during their trip to Tehran last October, when they lost 0-1 in a bad-tempered clash.
Choi said memories of such treatment were still fresh in the minds of his players, adding they would be seeking revenge as they target an eighth successive World Cup berth.
"Nothing has been determined yet, and we will play hard until the end," he told reporters after Tuesday's game in Seoul. "Our players all remember the poor treatment they got (in Tehran). I think we must make life painful for Iran."
According to local reports, visas for players, coaches and media were cleared only on the day of departure last year, and the team was then given a training ground with a poor pitch.
When they asked for a different venue, the second facility had no floodlights, meaning they could not train in the evenings. The Koreans were also told they could not use the national training centre because it was under construction.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the game was also ugly with Masoud Shojaei sent off for a two-footed challenge on Oh Beom-Seok and Iran coach Carlos Queiroz ordered to the stands for arguing with the referee.
At the time, an irate Choi said Iran should be made to train at a public park beside Seoul's main river when they visit South Korea.
Next week South Korea can settle scores by claiming a win which could deny Iran a top-two finish and automatic qualification for their fourth World Cup next year in Brazil.
Uzbekistan, just two points behind Iran and playing already eliminated Qatar at home next week, are also rooting for South Korea as they bid for second spot and the first World Cup berth for any Central Asian country.
"I hope South Korea play a good match against Iran so that both of us can advance to the World Cup," said coach Mirjalol Kasimov.
In Group B, Australia are in the box seats following their 4-0 win over Lebanon. They can seal their fourth World Cup berth, and third in a row, when they take on out-of-contention Iraq in Sydney next week.
Australia are second in the group, behind already qualified Japan and a point ahead of Oman who will play their final game against Jordan, who are two points back in fourth.
With the third-placed team going into a play-off, all three teams have much to play for and coach Holger Osieck was quick to remind his players that the job was not yet done.
"We made a big step forward but we haven't crossed the finish line," said the German. "That's a fact and I made it perfectly clear in the dressing-room to the players that the preparation for next Tuesday has started already."