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South Korea's National Football Team Looks To Protect Perfect Record In Qualifying Rounds Of FIFA World Cup

by Jesse L. / Mar 22, 2016 10:22 AM EDT
Football players of South Korea's National team celebrate after winning the Under-23 Asian Football Championship match between Qatar and South Korea at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha, Qatar on Jan. 26.

The next FIFA World Cup isn't happening until 2018 in Moscow, Russia, but for the members of South Korea's national football team, it's all about the right here and now.

On Thursday, the team will look to protect their prefect record so far in FIFA's World Cup qualifying rounds, with a home game against Lebanon in the Ansan Wa Stadium in the South Korean city of Ansan.

"I have given them an opportunity [to prove themselves]," team coach Uli Stielike of Germany told the Yonhap News Agency on Monday. "I will see how they perform and answer my call."

South Korea's soccer squad (officially known as the Korean Republic national football team but nicknamed the Taegeuk Warriors, the Reds and the Red Devils) has already clinched the top seed position in FIFA's second Asian qualifying round, holding their opponent's scoreless in six consecutive victories. But a win in Thursday's game would tie a team record of seven straight shutouts, held by the national team in 1978 and 1989.

They will have some help.

Striker Lee Jeong Hyeop will reportedly return to the lineup for the first time in seven months after being sidelined by a cheekbone fracture. But Stielike believes the team can only dominate if their offensive line continues to double as first defenders.

"It's important that these attackers are on defense," said the coach. "The reason why we had many shutout matches last year is that the players played defense from the front."

It's a group strategy echoed by team member Suk Hyun Jun, also a striker.

"Football is a team sport and a victory follows when all players perform as a team," said Suk. "Instead of thinking about competition [with my other teammates], I will first try to look for what I can contribute to the team."

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