South Korea will look to take a huge step closer to booking their World Cup 2022 place on Thursday, when they travel to take on Lebanon in Asian Qualifying.
After an unbeaten start to the third qualifying round, the visitors sit second in their group, while their hosts still hold a chance of progressing through the playoffs with third-placed United Arab Emirates just a point ahead.
After scraping through round two of Asian World Cup Qualifying as one of the best runners-up, Lebanon have somewhat struggled in the third round, winning just one of their six games so far and earning five points.
That lone victory came against Syria, with Mohamad Jalal Kdouh hitting a brace alongside a Hassan Ali Saad goal in a 3-2 win, but they have since suffered back-to-back defeats at the hands of Iran and United Arab Emirates.
However, given the nature of the group, with two runaway sides, Lebanon’s hopes are far from lost, with third-placed UAE sitting just a point ahead, meaning an upturn in form could see them enter a playoff with a place at this year’s World Cup at stake.
Now on the back of an Arab Cup campaign that saw them exit the group after defeats to Egypt and Algeria and a win over Sudan, Ivan Hasek’s team will look to correct their form with what would be a surprise win to boost their claim for a spot in the top three of the qualifying group.
They welcome a South Korea side in contrasting form, with the visitors sitting comfortably in the top two thanks to their strong start, earning 14 points from the opening six outings.
In that time, the Tigers of Asia did not fall to a defeat, with draws against Iran and Iraq coming alongside four victories, seeing South Korea move closer to earning a 10th straight World Cup appearance.
After most recently thrashing Iraq 3-0, Paulo Bento’s side sit second with an eight-point lead over the United Arab Emirates, meaning they need just four points from the last four games to achieve guaranteed qualification, with that potentially coming sooner depending on how UAE fare against Syria on Thursday.
With half an eye on this year’s global tournament, and on the back of two dominant showings against Iceland and Molova in friendlies this month, producing 5-1 and 4-0 wins respectively, the Tigers of Asia will look to put another notch in their wins column and take a huge step towards qualification.
Lebanon World Cup Qualifying – Asia form:
Lebanon form (all competitions):
South Korea World Cup Qualifying – Asia form:
South Korea form (all competitions):
We say: Lebanon 0-2 South Korea
Even without two of their attacking stars, South Korea are a dangerous proposition, and we expect them to continue their fine run with another victory on Thursday.
On the back of two confidence-building victories, and with a World Cup place in their sights, Bento’s side will be tough to stop and should take all three points.