Dubai: South Korea exuded confidence of victory against Bahrain as the two meet in their Round of 16 encounter at Shabab Al Ahli Dubai’s Rashid Stadium on Tuesday.
Both teams have struggled to score in their group games. but with Tottenham striker Son Heung-min joining, the Taeguk Warriors have looked convincing — especially in their 2-0 win over China in their last group match.
Bahrain’s best finish was a fourth place in the 2004 edition where they beat Uzbekistan in quarters before losing to Japan in semi-finals
South Korea’s Portuguese coach Paulo Bento looked upbeat ahead of the game. “We are up against a team that is strong in attack. I have good players and we need to be attentive at all times. We are a strong team and we will try to repeat what we have done in the past three games. We are confident of winning this one,” Bento said at the prematch conference on Monday.
“The best thing for us would be to play with confidence and assert our style while trying to make use of all the opportunities that come our way,” he added.
However, Bento will have to do without the services of Premier League midfielder Ki Sung-yueng after the Newcastle player was ruled out of the tournament with a hamstring injury. The 29-year-old played less than an hour at the tournament before being taken off during their opening win over the Philippines in Dubai on January 6.
“Getting the right replacement for a crucial player like Ki will be foremost for me but the good thing is that I have a good pool of talent,” he related.
South Korea have been champions on two earlier occasions, but that was way back in 1956 and 1960. Since then they have been regulars with their next best effort coming four years back in Australia where they lost in the final to the hosts.
Bahrain’s best finish was a fourth place in the 2004 edition where the ‘Reds’ beat Uzbekistan in the quarter-finals before losing to Japan 4-3 in the semi-finals. Bahrain then went down to Iran in the third-place play-off, thus finishing in fourth overall making their coach Miroslav Soukup as for more.
“I feel we have kept improving with each game. You can be sure you will see my team showing up strong tomorrow, just like how we played against India. We hope we can put up a similar quality of play and advance. No doubt, there is a big difference between us and South Korea as they are more experienced. But we are happy we have this opportunity to play against such a big opponent,” Soukup said.
“Korea have played in World Cup and they have this experience of playing at a very high stage. Their players are in the professional leagues in Europe, and yet I am confident of my team as we are not under pressure to win. We hope we can come up with a positive result,” he added.