Posted August. 31, 2017 08:12,
Updated August. 31, 2017 08:36
At 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, Korea and Iran will hold their final qualifying match for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, while China and Uzbekistan will have a showdown in Wuhan, China. The best case scenario for the Korean national team is that both Korea and China win the matches. If Korea beats Iran, and China defeats Uzbekistan on the day, Korea will advance to the World Cup soccer finals for the ninth consecutive event as No. 2 in Group A, irrespective of the outcome of Korea’s 10th match in the qualifying round against Uzbekistan.
Korea is ranked second in Group A with overall score point of 13 as of Wednesday. Uzbekistan, which is ranked third, has an overall score point of 12. If the best case scenario happens, the gap in score points between the two teams will increase to four points, and their rankings cannot be switched in their 10th match in the final qualifying round.
China is ranked the lowest with a score point of six. China lost 0-2 to Uzbekistan in an away match in October last year. With four wins, one draw and six losses overall in the past matches, China is also lagging somewhat behind Uzbekistan.
China (77th) is also inferior to Uzbekistan (64th) in the FIFA rankings as well. After Italian coach Marcello Lippi assumed Team China’s leadership in October last year, China overcame its "Korea-phobia" by securing a win for the first time in seven years at a final qualifying match in March this year. It was China’s first win in the final qualifying round. In contrast, Uzbekistan has been in a slump by posting one win and three losses in the fifth through eighth matches of the final qualifying round. Uzbekistan had three wins and one loss in the four matches.
China is ranked the lowest, but Team China is still holding on to a hint of hope. The team is expected to go all-out in the match against Uzbekistan. If China wins both of its ninth and 10th matches in the final qualifying round, it can rise to No. 3 depending on the outcomes of other teams’ matches. The third-ranked team in Group A will compete at a playoff against the third-ranked team in Group B, and the winner of the two will hold an inter-continental playoff match with the fourth-ranked team in the North and Central America qualifying competition. “A miraculous thing could happen,” coach Lippi said.