S. Korea fall to UAE for 1st loss of World Cup qualifying round

March 30, 2022

South Korea dropped their last World Cup qualifier to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 1-0 in Dubai on Tuesday, suffering their first and only loss in an otherwise successful qualifying campaign.

UAE forward Hareb Abdullah netted the lone goal of the match in the 54th minute at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, where favored South Korea failed to unlock the suffocating defense of the home team.

South Korea struck the crossbar twice, while Son Heung-min’s late free kick from just outside the box was turned aside by goalkeeper Khalid Eisa.

South Korea finished in second place in Group A of the final Asian World Cup qualifying phase, with 23 points and a record of seven wins, two draws and one loss. Iran, which beat Lebanon 2-0 earlier Tuesday, earned the top spot in the group with 25 points and a record of eight wins, one draw and one loss.

South Korea had already secured their World Cup berth with a 2-0 victory over Syria on Feb. 1. Head coach Paulo Bento kept insisting he wanted to grab the top seed in the group. His players took care of business by blanking Iran 2-0 at home last Thursday and overtaking the Middle Eastern side for the top spot.

On Tuesday, though, South Korea failed to translate their massive ball possession advantage into a goal.

The teams were scoreless in the first half, which featured few serious chances at either end.

South Korea came closest to breaking the deadlock in the 43rd minute, when Hwang Hee-chan’s volley from outside the box, following a long rebound, struck the bottom of the crossbar and stayed out of the net.

South Korea also committed some turnovers in their own zone, though the UAE were not able to any convert ensuing counterattack opportunities.

The UAE finally got on the board in the 54th minute by catching the South Korean defense napping after a throw-in. Mohammed Abbas Baloushi headed down the ball to the streaking Abdullah, who beat goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo in a one-on-one opportunity for a 1-0 lead.

South Korea came within inches of leveling the score six minutes later, when Hwang Ui-jo’s header, set up by Kim Tae-hwan’s cross, went off Eisa’s fingertips and rang off the crossbar.

South Korea kept pushing for an equalizer that never came. Son had one last opportunity after drawing a foul just outside the box, but his ensuing free kick went right at Eisa for an easy save.

South Korea, as one of the top two teams in their group, will play in their 10th consecutive World Cup in November in Qatar. The draw for the tournament will take place in the host country on Friday.