South Korea and Iran appear headed for one of Asia’s worst-tempered World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday after their coaches traded barbs and one player said he would make Iran’s captain cry “tears of blood”.
The gloves-off verbal sparring has dramatically raised temperatures ahead of their crunch meeting in the southern port city of Ulsan, where South Korea need just a point but Iran need a win to guarantee an automatic 2014 World Cup berth.
After Korean boss Choi Kang-Hee’s promise to “make life painful” for Iran drew a strong response from their coach Carlos Queiroz and captain Javad Nekounam, the home players launched a fresh salvo.
“I will make him (Nekounam) shed tears of blood,” said Germany-based forward Son Heung-Min.
Son added: “Nekounam is known for talking too much. I will let my action on the pitch do the talking. We will beat them by three to four goals.”
The dispute follows South Korean complaints of ill-treatment during their visit to Tehran last October, with gripes including visa problems and poor training facilities. In a feisty encounter, South Korea lost 1-0.
Choi said memories of the trip were still fresh in his players minds, and vowed to return suit to Iran this week — in comments that were slammed by Nekounam and Queiroz, who called them “shameful”.
But the South Korean coach was unrepentant, predicting that Queiroz would be watching next year’s World Cup in Brazil from his home in Portugal.
Midfielder Lee Myung-Joo, man of the match on debut in last week’s tight 1-0 win against Uzbekistan, also dismissed Nekounam as well as the threat posed by Iran.
“I don’t know who Nekounam is. I’ve only heard about him in the media,” said Lee. “I don’t think Iran are that strong. We can beat them if we just focus on playing our own game.”
In Tuesday’s qualifier, 2002 semi-finalists South Korea will be aiming to seal their eighth consecutive berth at the tournament and ninth overall. Iran have contested three World Cups.
Ahead of the final round of games, South Korea lead Group A on 14 points, with Iran on 13 and Uzbekistan 11. The top two teams qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The third-placed side enter a play-off series.