Iran have sparked a war of words in South Korea after complaining about the state of their training pitch ahead of tomorrow’s crucial FIFA World Cup Asia zone qualifier.
With the visitors already having secured their place as Group A winners and only the runners-up sure to join them in Russia, the heat is all on South Korea, who could face a potential winner-takes-all clash in their final match against third-placed Uzbekistan in Tashkent next week.
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz on Monday ramped up the pressure-cooker atmosphere by claiming that the training pitch in Incheon, 27km west of Seoul, was not up to the standard of a nation that hosted the World Cup with Japan in 2002.
“The quality of the grass is not good,” South Korean media quoted Queiroz as saying. “It is not what you expect from a country that has hosted the World Cup.”
South Korea head coach Shin Tae-yong said he would not get involved in pre-match mind games, but added: “People know how we were treated when we visited Iran last year... I don’t want to engage in his psychological game. I think they’re getting good treatment here.”
In October last year, South Korea lost 1-0 in Tehran, a fourth successive defeat at the hands of Queiroz, when the Taeguk Warriors were also unhappy with the state of their training pitch and at their base being located too far away from the stadium.
The row is just the latest in a long history of ugly spats between the two nations.
Four years ago, then-South Korea coach Choi Kang-hee complained of substandard training facilities in Tehran and declared that he would enjoy eliminating Iran from the 2014 World Cup in the return match in Seoul.
Queiroz demanded an apology, saying Choi had “humiliated the Iranian citizens.”
Instead of apologizing, Choi predicted that Queiroz would watch the World Cup on TV.
When Iran won 1-0 in Seoul to qualify, Queiroz was accused of making rude gestures toward the opposition dugout and Iran’s players were pelted with water bottles by the home crowd.
In 2009, Iran captain Javad Nekounam had predicted that the Azadi Stadium in Tehran would be “like hell for the Koreans” ahead of a World Cup 2010 qualifier.
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