The South Korean men's national football team will depart for Uzbekistan for a crucial World Cup qualifier earlier than scheduled to ensure thorough preparation, the sport's national federation said Friday.
South Korea will take on Uzbekistan on Sept. 5 at Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent. The Korea Football Association (KFA) said the national team had been set to depart for Uzbekistan on Sept. 3, but it decided to fly out on Sept. 1 instead. The match will be the final one for both nations in the current Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The Taeguk Warriors are barely holding on to the final automatic qualification spot with 13 points, sitting just one point up on Uzbekistan in second place in Group A. With two matches remaining, Iran have already secured their World Cup spot with 20 points.
In Asia, the top two teams from Groups A and B can advance directly to the World Cup in Russia. Two third-place teams must go through a playoff for their final chance.
South Korea can secure their ninth consecutive World Cup appearance if they beat Iran and Uzbekistan lose to China in their World Cup qualifiers on Aug. 31. But since Uzbekistan are considered stronger than China, Group A's worst team, the chances are South Korea likely won't secure the World Cup ticket at the end of next month.
The KFA said rescheduling the flight will give the squad more time to rest and adjust to the surroundings in Uzbekistan's capital. South Korea's new head coach Shin Tae-yong will announce his roster for the remaining two World Cup qualifiers on Aug. 21.
South Korea boast a dominant head-to-head record against Uzbekistan with 10 wins, three draws and one loss. However, their last victory in Tashkent was in 1997.