Good draw for Korea, hard work starts now

A screen shows the results of the final draw during the drawing ceremony for the round of top 18 Asian qualifying teams in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the FIFA World Cup 2026, Thursday. Xinhua-Yonhap

Whoever the next head coach of South Korea turns out to be — and the appointment should not take too long now — he will be happy with the draw for the third round of the 2026 World Cup. That’s no disrespect to the other five teams in Group B. However, given that South Korea could have been grouped with Australia, Saudi Arabia, China, Bahrain and Indonesia, the actual opposition does not look quite so daunting.

Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Palestine and Kuwait will present plenty of challenges but they should all be surmountable ones for the Taeguk Warriors. The top two teams from each of the three groups of six will qualify for the World Cup — which will be held in North America. The half-dozen teams that finish in third and fourth will go on to a further stage where there will be two more places up for grabs.

After the draw, South Korea will feel it has a great chance for an 11th successive appearance on the global stage.

“We are aware of each team’s abilities and every game will be tough but we will try our best to achieve our target,” said Lee Lim-saeng, the Korea Football Association’s Technical Director, in Kuala Lumpur where the draw took place. “I won’t say 추천 we are completely happy with the draw because we have a lot of tough games. We respect the qualities of all the teams in our group but we have to be confident that we can make it.”

Playing five teams from the Middle East does make things difficult logistically. It means five long trips for South Korea but then the opposite is true. The opponents won’t enjoy flying over to Seoul for their games either.

Yet the Asian Cup in January and February was a reminder that any complacency will be punished. Korea struggled to a win over Bahrain in the opening game which was followed by a 2-2 draw with Jordan when Korea needed a last-minute goal to avoid defeat. Then there was the semi-final and another meeting with Jordan. The East Asian team was expected to win and progress to the final but instead was outclassed and lost 2-0. Another meeting with the men from Amman will not be taken lightly by South Korea but there is also a chance for revenge. At least Jordan is also currently without a coach as Hussein Ammouta, the Moroccan who did such a good job at the Asian Cup, stepped down just a few days before the draw was made.

Oman came close to qualifying for the 2022 World Cup but does not seem to have progressed much since then while Kuwait is one of the weaker teams in the final 18. Iraq is a talented team, and its Spanish coach Jesus Casas has been linked with the Korea job. South Korea has never faced Palestine before and will find a defensively well-organized team.

Some very tough away trips lie ahead and the trickiest ones may be when Korea plays in Seoul and then faces a long flight west for another game five days later. On the plus side, the other five teams are likely to take plenty of points from each other meaning that a good home performance and a couple of wins away will be enough.

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