SOUTH Korea missed a chance to seal their World Cup qualification as they drew 0-0 with Iran in Seoul – and captain Kim Young-gwon blamed the noise of the crowd for some of his team’s struggles.
Korea will guarantee their place at next summer’s World Cup in Russia if they beat Uzbekistan in Tashkent on Tuesday. They may not even require a win if other results go their way.
But their inability to get the job done against 10-man Iran could nag at them if they fail to score an early goal against Uzbekistan, who retain an outside chance of qualification themselves – despite yesterday’s defeat against China.
Rather than feeding off the energy of the near-capacity crowd of 63,124 at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, Korea’s players struggled to communicate with each other due to the noise.
The vast majority of the crowd were South Koreans, and the players were greeted with screams virtually every time they touched the ball.
“It was quite difficult to communicate with the guys because it was noisy out there,” said Kim.
“We could yell all we wanted and still couldn’t hear each other well.
“We prepared ourselves for a situation like this, but it was still frustrating that I couldn’t hear the guys.”
The crowd was the ninth-largest for a game at the venue, which hosted 2002 FIFA World Cup matches.
To accommodate a bigger crowd, the Korea Football Association moved the kick-off time from 8.30pm to 9pm, allowing more people to get to the stadium after work.
But while the KFA achieved its target of drawing 60,000 fans, it probably did not expect the captain to then complain about the noise in the stadium.
There could be a similar wall of noise at Bunyodkor Stadium on Tuesday for what has become a crucial fixture in the race to reach Russia.
“We have to be prepared in a way that we’d be able to tell what we’re thinking just by looking each other in the eye,” said Kim.
“The defence has to do a better job of communicating. That’s the most important thing.”
Japan secured their place in Russia with a 2-0 win over Australia, while China kept their faintest of faint hopes alive by beating Uzbekistan 1-0.