With World Cup berth booked, South Korea coach still sees final qualification as ‘very important’

SEOUL, March 29 (Yonhap) — Although South Korea have already secured their place at this year’s FIFA World Cup, head coach Paulo Bento believes that his side’s final qualifier against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will remain “a very important game.”

South Korea will enter Tuesday’s game against the United Arab Emirates as the top seed in Group A of the final qualifying round for the Asian World Cup. And wanting to see his team finish in exactly the same spot, Bento said he wouldn’t give everyone the same playing time just because some players were less on the pitch than others.

“We will choose the best starting XI in order to achieve our objective: that is to finish the qualification in the best possible way and reach the three points,” Bento said during his pre-season press conference. match at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai on Monday afternoon. The Korea Football Association (KFA) released the video clip on Tuesday morning.

The match will start at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday (local time) or 10:45 p.m. Tuesday (Seoul time).

“For us it’s a very important game because in my opinion just winning this game will keep us in first place in the group,” added Bento. “What we’re going to do is pick the best starting XI to compete the best.”

South Korea topped the group by beating Iran 2-0 at home last Thursday. South Korea now have 23 points, while Iran follow them by one point, Tuesday being the last day of the group. Iran will face Lebanon.

“In the last game, we went through Iran and we reached the first position. And now, of course, we would like to stay in the position at the end of this phase,” Bento said. “It’s something that hasn’t happened for a long time. We are motivated and focused for the game (on Tuesday).”

South Korea have a checkered recent history when it comes to surviving the last regional World Cup qualifier. They have barely survived the final stages of each of the last two World Cups. The last time South Korea won their group in the final World Cup qualifying round was in the summer of 2009, a year before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

South Korea beat the United Arab Emirates 1-0 at home in their previous meeting in November. Bento said the key this time was for his players to recover “as quickly and as well as possible” after their game on Thursday, which was followed by a long trip to Dubai with little rest time in between.

Also at the press conference, Bento regular centre-back Kim Young-gwon stuck to his coach’s mantra that South Korea won’t let their guard down.

“Even though we have already qualified for the World Cup, we are a team that always gives our best in every game,” Kim said. “Since we won’t have so much pressure on our shoulders, I think we should be able to play with confidence. We all understand what we have to do.”

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