QATAR look to pile on South Korea’s miserable final-round away record when they host them in a Group A match of the 2018 World Cup qualification at the Al Sadd Stadium on June 13.
Qatar have only a slim chance of making it to the Russia World Cup, that too through play-off if they finish third in the five-team group. A win, however, could give something to rejoice for coach Jorge Fossati, who has announced his intention to step down after the game.
With three games to go, South Korea (13 points) are second behind Iran (17), with Uzbekistan (12) breathing down their neck. Qatar, at the rock bottom with four, will need a miracle to make it to the finals. Qatar’s last two matches are against Syria (away) and China (home).
The top two teams from Group A and B will directly make the cut. The third-placed sides will fight it out over two legs, with the successful nation taking on CONCACAF play-off winners for a possible fifth spot from Asia.
Fossati has announced a tried-and-tested squad, mostly consisting of players from Lekhwiya and Al Sadd, who both did impressively well towards the end of season. Yet, putting it past Korea is easier said than done, considering that the Taeguk Warriors have a star-studded line-up, spearheaded by Son Heung-Min, who has netted 21 goals in all competitions this season for Premier League runners-up Tottenham Hotspur.
Captained by Swansea midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng, South Korea consist of several Europe-based players. Yet, they have not won an away game in the final round, something coach Uli Stielike is criticised for. The German is quite familiar with Qatari players, having spent time at Al Arabi and Al Sailiya, but knows that his wards would find it tough to cope with the hot Doha weather.
To get acclimatised to the Gulf conditions, Stielike and his men have been camping at Ras Al Khaimah since last Sunday. He believes it will give them the necessary toughness to put it past Annabi. His men had come from behind to defeat Qatar in Suwon last October and if they can repeat the good work, it will take them closer to the final round. And it will also set right their poor away record.