The World Cup in China is in serious danger after South Korea’s defeat

Author: AFP June 11, 2024 | 05:37 Polish time

Lee Kang-in (top) celebrates with Son Heung-min after scoring the only goal in South Korea’s victory over China in World Cup qualifying, June 11, 2024. Photo: KFA

China’s hopes of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup were left hanging in the balance after Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat to South Korea.

Paris Saint-Germain’s Lee Kang-in scored the only goal just after the hour mark in Seoul when he fired home from close range, with captain Son Heung-min heavily involved in the preparations.

South Korea were already in the third and final stage of qualifying as group winners, but China’s defeat puts them in serious trouble for an early exit from the competition.

Thailand will leapfrog China into second place in Group C and a place in the next phase if they beat Singapore and overcome China’s slightly superior goal difference.

With no more matches left in the second qualifying round, China’s defeat left them with eight points and a goal difference of zero.

Thailand goes into their home game against basement level Singapore on Tuesday with five points and a goal difference of minus two.

South Korea may already have been at the top of the group, but they had more of the ball for most of the competition at the Seoul World Cup Stadium.

Midway through the first half, Son, the Tottenham striker, fired a long-range free kick into the roof of Wang Dalei’s goal.

The Koreans, led by interim coach Kim Do-hoon, continued to put pressure on the visitors’ defense, but China could have taken the lead 10 minutes before the break.

Xu Haoyang took a brilliant free-kick from the right, but Jiang Shenglong could only fire an unmarked header wide of the hosts’ goal.

Under then coach Jurgen Klinsmann, South Korea easily won 3-0 away against China in November, with Son scoring two goals.

Under new Croatian coach Branko Ivankovic, China this time played for an hour until Lee struck, putting their World Cup dreams in jeopardy.

Son crossed from the left and the ball eventually fell to Lee near the penalty area, with the attacking midfielder arriving at the perfect time to slot the ball into the net in the 61st minute.