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(LEAD) Men's nat'l football team makes solemn return from loss in Qatar

All News 19:23 June 14, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS photo)
By Yoo Jee-ho

INCHEON, June 14 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean men's national team made a solemn return on Wednesday from an away loss to Qatar in a World Cup qualifying match.

With a dreadful defensive effort, South Korea fell to Qatar 3-2 in Doha on Tuesday, their first loss to the Middle East nation since December 1984.

South Korea gave up the first two goals of the match before tying things up in the second half. Then Qatar's Hassan Al Haydos broke the deadlock with his second goal of the game in the 74th minute.

In Group A of the final Asian qualifying round, South Korea are still in second place, the last automatic qualifying spot, with 13 points from four wins, a draw and three losses, with two matches remaining. But they're only one point ahead of Uzbekistan.

Iran have secured their spot with 20 points.

The top two teams from each of the two groups will advance directly to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Two third-place teams must go through playoffs for their final chance.

South Korea, chasing their ninth consecutive World Cup appearance, will host Iran on Aug. 31 and face Uzbekistan in Tashkent on Sept. 5 to close out the qualifying stage. They're winless away from home with one draw and three losses.

South Korean players (in white) react to their 3-2 loss to Qatar in the teams' World Cup qualifying match at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on June 13, 2017. (Yonhap)

While a few fans gathered at Incheon International Airport shouted words of encouragement, players for the most part hung their heads as they quietly took their exit.

The Korea Football Association (KFA) is expected to sack beleaguered head coach Uli Stielike this week, succumbing to the pressure that has been mounting since last fall. The KFA has scheduled a meeting of its technical committee on Thursday. The stated purpose of the occasion is to review the most recent match, though Stielike's status is expected to dominate the agenda.

The German native has been in the hot seat for months with a string of uninspired matches in the current qualification stage.

The KFA gave Stielike a vote of confidence in April despite growing calls for his dismissal. Immediately after his latest loss, Stielike said in Doha that his future on the bench was out of his hands and he'd only discuss the matter further once he returned to South Korea.

After landing here, Stielike said he'd take responsibility for the result but fell short of making an offer to resign.

South Korean football player Son Heung-min (C) returns home on June 14, 2017, from a 3-2 loss to Qatar in a World Cup qualifier in Doha. Son broke his right forearm in a fall during the match. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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