Korea to face 5 Middle East foes in World Cup qualification

South Korea is set to play five Middle East teams in the next phase of their qualification campaign for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Courtesy of Asian Football Confederation

South Korea will play five Middle East teams in the next phase of their qualification campaign for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

South Korea ended up with Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Palestine and Kuwait in Group B in the third round of the Asian World Cup qualification, following the draw in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

The 18 qualified teams from the second round were divided into six pots based on their FIFA world rankings released last Thursday. Each group contained one from each of the six pots.

As world No. 22, South Korea are the third-highest ranked team from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), behind Japan (No. 17) and Iran (No. 20). These three countries were in Pot 1. The next three AFC teams in the rankings, Australia, Qatar and Iraq, were in Pot 2, and so forth.

By FIFA rankings, Iraq (No. 55) were the lowest-ranked team in Pot 2, as were Jordan (No. 68) in Pot 3. In Pots 4 and 5, Oman (No. 76) and Palestine were the second-lowest ranked teams. Kuwait (No. 137) are the lowest-ranked AFC nation in the entire third round.

Against Iraq, South Korea have nine wins, 12 draws and two losses, and won their most recent meeting, a friendly in January this year, by 1-0.

South Korea have lost just once in seven meetings against Jordan, with three wins and three draws. But that one loss was a particularly painful one, as 온라인카지노 Jordan defeated them 2-0 in the semifinals of the AFC Asian Cup in February this year. The loss cost Jurgen Klinsmann his job as South Korea’s head coach, and the position remains vacant more than four months after the defeat.

South Korea have four wins and one loss against Oman but haven’t faced them since the 2015 Asian Cup.

South Korea have never faced Palestine before. Against Kuwait, South Korea have recorded 12 wins, four draws and eight losses, but the last meeting came in October 2015. In March 2016, South Korea were awarded a 3-0 win by forfeit after Kuwait were unable to host their match while serving a FIFA suspension.

South Korea avoided some tricky opponents, such as Australia, the fourth-best AFC team ranked No. 23, Qatar, the reigning Asian Cup champions, and North Korea.

Being in the same group with North Korea could cause logistical headaches. The reclusive state refused to host Japan during the second round of the qualification in March this year, resulting in a Japanese win by forfeit.

Group A teams are: Iran, Qatar, Uzbekistan, the United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan and North Korea. Japan, the top AFC team ranked 17th, will face Australia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, China and Indonesia in Group C.

The third round kicks off on Sept. 4 and will wrap up on June 10, 2025.

The top two teams from each of the three groups will qualify for the 2026 World Cup, which will feature 48 nations, up from the previous 32.

Teams ranked third and fourth in their groups in the third round will reach the fourth round, where they will be split into two groups of three. From there, the two group winners will punch their tickets to the big tournament, while the two runner-up teams will meet in a two-legged playoff for the right to advance to the intercontinental playoff.

South Korea have played at every World Cup since 1986

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