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Pitch battle ahead of Korea vs Iran World Cup clash


Seoul (AFP) – Iran have sparked a war of words in South Korea after complaining about the state of their training pitch ahead of Thursday’s crucial World Cup Asia zone qualifier.

With the visitors already having secured their place as Group A winners and only the runner-up sure to join them in Russia, the heat is all on the Koreans 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 ramped up the pressure-cooker atmosphere on Monday by claiming that the training pitch in Incheon, 27 kilometres 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,” Queiroz said according to the Korean media. 

“It is not what you expect from a country that has hosted the World Cup,” added the former Real Madrid coach.

South Korea head coach Shin Tae-Yong said he would not get involved in pre-match mind games but retorted: “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.”

Last October, 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.

And the row is just the latest in a long history of ugly spats between the two nations.

Four years ago the then Korea coach Choi Kang-Hee complained of substandard Tehran training facilities and declared 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 apologising, Choi predicted that Queiroz would watch the World Cup on television.

When Iran won 1-0 in Seoul to qualify, Queiroz was accused of making rude gestures towards the opposition dugout and the Iranian players were pelted with water bottles by the home crowd.

Prior to that, in 2009, Iranian 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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