It’s a relatively easy draw for South Korea, but China’s view is 180 degrees different.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) drew the draw for the second round of Asian qualifiers for the 2026 North American Cup on Sunday at AFC Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
South Korea, ranked 28th in the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), had a comfortable wait in Port 1 and were drawn in Group C with China (80th), Thailand (113th) and the winner of the Singapore (158th)-Guam (203rd) match.
The all-time head-to-head record favors South Korea. They are 22 W, 12 D, 2 L, and absolutely dominant against China, who are labeled as the ‘Gonghan’. Thailand (31 W, 5 D, 9 L). Singapore (21 W, 3 D, 2 L) and Guam (all three games) are not far behind.
The schedule has also been finalized. The team will start at home against the winner of the Singapore-Guam series on Nov. 16 before traveling to China on Nov. 21 to complete a two-game series this year. On March 31, 2024, the team will play Thailand at home and the return match away on March 26, then play the winner of Singapore-Guam on June 6 before finishing at home against China on June 11.
The schedule itself doesn’t look too daunting. If the trip to China is a bit of a burden, it is a burden. South Korea lost 0-1 in Changsha, China, on March 23, 2017, under former coach Uli Stielike, in the sixth match of the third Asian qualifying round for the 2018 Russia World Cup, conceding a late goal to Yudabao. Koo Ja-cheol (Jeju United), Lee Jung-hyeop (Gangwon FC), Ki Sung-yueng (FC Seoul), and Kim Jin-soo (Jeonbuk Hyundai) came to the forefront, but the defense was unable to find a way through and suffered a shock defeat.
Head coach Jürgen Klinsmann has no experience in China. Neither have any of the current stars of the national team, including Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur) and Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton). The good news is that Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich), who played for Beijing Guoan, has experience in the Chinese Super League and will be comfortable with the away atmosphere, while domestic players have experience in the Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL). 메이저사이트
China is debating the organization. Representative Chinese sports media outlets such as Sina Sports and portal site Sina Weibo are all worried that they have been drawn in a group of death. Not to mention South Korea, Thailand is a team that has surged in recent years.
Their recent head-to-head record is 3-2, with China only having one more win. With eight goals scored and seven conceded, it’s not much of a difference. If South Korea takes the top spot in the group, China and Thailand are expected to fight for second place. The Chinese national team suffered a humiliating 0-1 loss in the China Cup quarterfinals at home in Nanning in March 2019.
The Thais have also been known to break down China at home, playing a lot of soccer in a sweltering climate. There’s no reason why South Korea can’t do the same thing. Of course, most of Thailand’s recent opponents have been lesser teams than Korea. If Klinsmann’s aggressive game plan doesn’t falter, they should be able to take advantage.
With the World Cup expanding from 32 to 48 teams and the number of Asian spots increasing from 4.5 to 8.5, the top two teams from the second round of qualifying will advance to the final round of qualifying. The 18 teams will be divided into three groups of six teams, with the top two teams from each group advancing directly to the main event. It’s a clean sweep that will require teams to utilize their players in the second qualifier and go all out in the third.