SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea’s new coach Shin Tae-yong says securing three points against Iran in their World Cup qualifier next week is more important than avenging a string of four defeats with a big win over their Asian rivals.
Iran have already qualified for next year’s finals and a win for South Korea in Seoul on Aug. 31 would probably leave them needing only to avoid defeat in Uzbekistan the following week to claim the second direct ticket to Russia from Group A.
Shin, who took over from German Uli Stielike last month after embarrassing losses to China and Qatar, said he would be focusing on bolstering South Korea’s defence ahead of his first match in charge.
“If we were meeting Iran in a friendly, I would make the team play attacking football,” he told Yonhap news agency at the team training camp in Paju.
“Of course, I want to pay back for the humiliation that we’ve suffered, but these matches are important. My goal is not to beat Iran by a big score, but to go to the World Cup with a win.
“Even though we called up the players early, we don’t have the full squad, so we won’t able to see the big work. But we will build up our chemistry and organise our defence.”
South Korea have not beaten Iran since the 2011 Asian Cup, the last of five successive quarter-final clashes at the continental championship that have contributed to their fierce rivalry.
The ‘Red Devils’, who are bidding for a ninth straight appearance at the World Cup finals, lead Uzbekistan by a single point with two matches remaining in the third round of Asian qualifying.
Uzbekistan face China in Wuhan next Thursday before hosting South Korea in Tashkent on Sept. 5.
Writing by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Peter Rutherford