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Stielike concerned about Chinese fans outnumbering S. Koreans in World Cup qualifier

All News 16:37 July 19, 2016

By Joo Kyung-don

PAJU, South Korea, July 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korean men's football team head coach Uli Stielike said Tuesday he is worried about Chinese fans outnumbering home supporters when his side hosts the neighbors in the FIFA World Cup qualifier in September.

For the final Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, where 12 teams compete, South Korea are paired with Iran, Uzbekistan, China, Qatar and Syria in Group A. South Korea will open the final round on Sept. 1 against China at home and face Syria five days later on the road.

South Korea have collected 17 wins, 12 draws and one loss against China and their latest encounter at the EAFF East Asian Championship in last August ended in a 2-0 win for the Taeguk Warriors.

However, Stielike warned things will be different when they face China in September. The coach said there could be more Chinese fans than South Koreans at the stadium here.

"I heard that China are demanding more than 30,000 tickets," Stielike told reporters ahead of a coaching seminar at the National Football Center in Paju, north of Seoul in Gyeonggi Province. "If we don't pay attention to this problem, we might play at a home stadium packed with Chinese fans."

A Korea Football Association (KFA) official said China is demanding a maximum 50,000 tickets for their fans, adding that local travel agencies are also pushing the national football governing body to open the ticket sales quickly, so that they can organize their tour packages for Chinese football fans.

"The venue for the World Cup qualifying match between South Korea and China is not determined, but it is likely to be Seoul World Cup Stadium," a KFA official said.

Seoul World Cup Stadium can accommodate more than 66,000 fans. It is the largest football-only stadium in South Korea.

Stielike recently decided to give up his summer vacation to prepare for the FIFA World Cup qualification. The 61-year-old German has been checking on players in the country's pro football leagues.

"In September, players who are in Europe or the Middle East could not be in best form because their new seasons will have just started for them," he said. "If we need replacements for those players, players here (in South Korea) should carry out the role."

Stielike said he will also keep an eye on three "wild card" players who will be playing at the Rio de Janeiro Summer Games. FC Porto striker Suk Hyun-jun, Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min and Guangzhou R&F defender Jang Hyun-soo all have been named to South Korea's 18-man squad for the Rio Olympics.

The men's Olympic football tournament of 16 nations is open to players under the age of 23, but teams can also field up to three players who are over the age limit, known as wild cards. The Olympic team is led by Stielike's assistant Shin Tae-yong.

"We will carefully watch how these wild card players perform at the Olympics," he said. "If they can show impressive performances at the Olympics, this is also good for the senior football team ahead of the World Cup qualifiers."

Stielike said South Korea are in the tough group in Rio. The under-23 team will face Fiji, Germany and Mexico in Group C.

"Fiji could be tough opponents since they are relatively an unknown team," he said. "There are strong teams like Germany and Mexico, but I think if South Korea can pass the group stage, they can advance further in the tournament."

kdon@yna.co.kr
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