DOHA: South Korea’s coach Uli Stielike admitted on Monday that he was concerned by the threat posed by Qatar ahead of a crucial World Cup qualifier in Doha.
If South Korea manage to win on Tuesday, they will take a huge step to joining Iran in next year’s World Cup in Russia.
And even though they are playing the bottom-placed team in AFC Group A, the former German international said it would not be easy.
“I saw a lot of the games of Qatar. They lost many games that they were very close to taking a point or even winning,” he said.
“They have a lot of reasons… to make it very uncomfortable for us.”
If South Korea win it will mean they need to win just one of their remaining two fixtures to qualify for Russia.
However those matches are at home to runaway group leaders Iran, who secured their qualification on Monday with a 2-0 over Uzbekistan.
The final game is against Uzbekistan, the only team now who can deny South Korea.
South Korea have 13 points from seven games, one ahead of Uzbekistan, and having played one match less.
The previous game between the two sides in this group finished 3-2 to South Korea, though Qatar lead well into the second half.
For Qatar, the scenario is the reverse.
They have just four points and have to win every one of their remaining matches to stand any chance of qualifying for Russia, but even that scenario is highly unlikely to let the World Cup 2022 host reach their first tournament finals.
Qatar coach Jorge Fossati said he had confidence in his players despite a desperately poor campaign which has seen them win only once, a narrow win against a Syria side which has no permanent home base because of the ongoing civil war.
If, as likely, Qatar are knocked out Tuesday, the recriminations are sure to start for a nation that has spent billions on trying to establish itself as a footballing nation but will end up being forced to play its first ever World Cup finals game as host in five years’ time.
Fossati hinted at changes ahead, possibly even with his own position, should Tuesday’s result go against Qatar.
“I think we’re looking at a new scenario and maybe tomorrow after the game we can speak more expressively,” he told reporters.
Asked if the current diplomatic crisis in the Gulf could inspire his players, the Uruguayan said it was possible.
“I don’t know about the diplomatic situation because I didn’t speak with my players, but I can say it’s my feeling, only my feeling, that in the last few days our players have more motivation than before.”