There were jubilant scenes at the end of the match in Dubai as South Korea qualified for the World Cup with a 2-0 victory over Syria. Two goals in the second half from Kim Jin-su and Kwon Chang-hoon gave the Koreans a comfortable victory over the bottom team in Asia Group A qualifying.
South Korea now have an impressive record of 10 successive appearances at the FIFA World Cup. This will be the 11th overall time that they have qualified for the World Cup. They became the 15th nation to qualify for the 32-nation tournament.
Two teams dominate Group A
The third stage of the Asian qualifiers saw the teams split into Group A and Group B, with the Koreans being placed in Group A. This group was possibly the weaker group, with South Korea and Iran the clear favorites. Group B was much more unpredictable and the results bore testimony to this assessment.
The top two teams from each group automatically qualify, while the third-placed team advance to a further round of qualifying. With their win over Syria, South Korea moved 11 points clear of third-placed UAE.
Their lead is unassailable with just two matches left to play. This emphasized the gulf between the top two teams and the rest of the group. To further show South Korea’s dominance in the qualifiers, they only conceded two goals in their eight matches.
South Korea’s superstar Son Heung-min
South Korea have gone through the third round of qualifiers without tasting defeat, and have a record of two draws and six wins. They are becoming household names in the World Cup like superpowers Brazil and Germany, who have qualified in record successive tournaments.
The Koreans have been the flagship team for Asia in the previous World Cups and became the first Asian country to reach the semifinals in the 2002 edition, when they were co-hosts with Japan. This was the first time that any country outside of Europe or the Americas made the top four. They also have the leading player in Asia, Son Heung-min, in their team. The Tottenham Hotspur forward is widely regarded as among the greatest Asian footballers of all time.
South Korea showed the great depth that they are starting to develop in their team as they played their last match without their star player but still won comfortably.