Iran won 1-0 at South Korea on Tuesday in a result that secured both teams a spot at next year’s World Cup, but the hosts only just scraped through and had to wait until after the final whistle to know their fate.
Iran finished top of Group A in the final stage of Asian qualifying, while South Korea finished second, level on points with Uzbekistan but holding second place by virtue of goal difference. Uzbekistan came from behind to win 5-1 at home against Qatar in a simultaneous game. The storming finish ultimately came up short, leaving the Uzbeks on a plus-five goal difference while South Korea was plus-six.
The winning goal came in the 60th minute. Kim Young-gwon failed to clear a speculative ball forward and Reza Ghoochannejad robbed him of possession, sprinted clear and sent a well-placed curling left-foot shot beyond goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryeong.
South Korea, not wanting to put its fate in the hands of the game in Uzbekistan, pressed forward strongly for the remainder of the game but could not equalize.
Kim almost made up for his mistake, but his close-range shot in the 86th minute produced a reflex save from keeper Rahman Ahmadi and Jang Hyun-soo’s follow-up was also blocked.
As Iran players, coach Carlos Queiroz and officials celebrated wildly on the pitch, the South Korean squad and fans were kept in suspense while the last couple of minutes of the Uzbekistan game were played out, before they knew they were also through to next year’s tournament in Brazil.
South Korea’s trip to Brazil will be its eighth-straight World Cup appearance including one as co—host in 2002 while Iran qualified for the World Cup for the fourth time, having missed out on South Africa 2010.
Keywords: Soccer world cup qualifier