S. Korea blank Iran 2-0 in World Cup qualifying match

March 25, 2022

 Captain Son Heung-min scored in the dying moments of the first half and defender Kim Young-gwon added a second-half insurance marker, as South Korea defeated Iran 2-0 in their final World Cup qualifying match at home on Thursday.

Before a sellout crowd of 64,375 at Seoul World Cup Stadium, South Korea earned their first victory over Iran since January 2011, and overtook their Middle Eastern rival for the top spot in Group A of the final Asian World Cup qualifying round.

Both South Korea, now leading the way at 23 points, and Iran, one point back, had long booked their tickets to this year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and are now battling for the top spot in the group with one match left each.

South Korea will close out the qualifying round against the United Arab Emirates in Dubai next Tuesday. Iran, now trailing South Korea by a point, will take on Lebanon the same day.

The draw for the World Cup will be April 1 in Qatar,

The top two teams from each of the two groups in this phase earn automatic berths in the World Cup, while the two third-place teams will meet in a playoff later. South Korea secured one of the two tickets in Group A by beating Syria 2-0 on Feb. 1.

South Korea will make their 10th consecutive appearance in football’s premier event and their 11th overall.

South Korea had some good looks at the Iran net in the first half, but also survived some dicey moments when they turned the ball over in their own zone.

The teams looked destined to head into the halftime scoreless, but Son singlehandedly changed the complexion of the contest.

After securing the ball in the Iranian zone, Son drove toward the box on the left side and fired a shot with four opposing players closing in on him. The shot was so hard that goalkeeper Amir Abedzadeh couldn’t quite corral it after getting a piece of the ball.

South Korea nearly doubled their lead in the opening moments of the second half, but Son and then Hwang Ui-jo were denied by Abedzadeh on consecutive shots from near the penalty spot.

South Korea took care of the ball better in their own zone in the second half, and finally doubled their lead in the 63rd minute after a tic-tac-toe play. Center back Kim Young-gwon, who had snuck into the box, was the beneficiary of quick, sharp passes from Hwang Hee-chan and then Lee Jae-sung.

Son missed out on a couple of chances to pick up his second goal: first, slipping and falling right in front of the net as he attempted a volley in the 71st minute, and then having a shot go off a defender’s leg in the 84th minute.

Iran almost spoiled South Korea’s clean sheet bid late in the match. In the 80th, Sardar Azmoun’s diving header went right at goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu. About two minutes later, Allahyar Sayyadmanesh chipped the ball past Kim but the ball rolled wide of the gaping net.

South Korea held on to preserve their two-goal advantage. It was the first time South Korea had scored more than once against Iran since a 2-0 win in October 2015.