Two matches remain in the final round of World Cup Qualifying and Iran have already booked their ticket to next year’s showcase in Russia. South Korea, on the other hand, are feeling the pressure and know they must defeat their Iranian nemesis if they want to book a spot in the 2018 World Cup.
From the perspective of Iran and their supporters, this is an unfamiliar feeling because Iran are accustomed to making things suspenseful while in the past it was always the South Koreans qualifying to the World Cup with ease.
The roles have been reversed, and many are wondering how this game will go. Apparently, it appears that South Korea should emerge victorious hosting Iran at Seoul World Cup Stadium on 31 August due to the fact that Iran have already clinched qualification and South Korea will be fired up with everything to play for in front of their home supporters.
However, regarding World Cup Qualifying history, it is the Iranians who have the upper hand as South Korea have not defeated them in a World Cup Qualifier since 1993.
Both matches for 2010 qualifying ended in 1-1 draws. Four years later, Iran defeated South Korea 1-0 in both legs, and surely nobody will forget the buildup and war of words that ensued between Iran Head Coach Carlos Queiroz and then Head Coach Choi Kang-hee before the crucial clash in June 2013.
South Korea were the better side, but it was Iranian striker Reza Ghoochannejhad who took advantage of a defensive blunder to score the decisive goal just after the hour mark.
The Koreans were unable to find the equaliser but both teams qualified to Brazil, and at the final whistle Carlos Queiroz had words for his counterpart.
Will the Iranians field their top side or will they travel to South Korea without some of their top players? This may be unfamiliar territory for the Iranians, but in the sport of football, there is no mercy to be shown for your opponent.
Anything less than a victory for South Korea coupled with a win by Uzbekistan over China would be disastrous for the South Koreans.
Realistically, the Iranians have nothing to play for but the bottom line is that this is a rivalry, and the Iranians would love to put a dent in South Korea’s mission to qualify for Russia.
Time will tell if Iran plans to bring a top side to Seoul in nearly one week, but one sure thing is that we can expect another entertaining match in one of the best rivalries in Asian football.