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60,000 fans expected to watch World Cup qualifier against Iran

Donga - The Korea Football Association (KFA) said it will fill the Seoul World Cup Stadium with spectators to cheer for the Korean national team, which will play against Iran in the upcoming World Cup qualifying match on August 31. The strategy is to overwhelm Iran with the red-clad Korean soccer fans in the match that would determine the fate of the Korean national squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. Could it be possible?

According to the KFA on Thursday, about 29,000 tickets to the Korea-Iran match were sold as of noon on Thursday. The governing body for Korean soccer started the ticket sales through online retailer Interpark and offline branches of KEB Hana Bank from August 10. The sales were more than double the number of tickets sold for the World Cup qualifier against Syria in March. As the Iran match could determine Korea’s ninth consecutive World Cup appearance and is the Korean national squad’s first A-match since head coach Shin Tae-yong took the helms, there seems to be many fans who want to watch the game at the stadium. If Korea defeats Iran and China beats Uzbekistan, Korea can finish second in Group A to advance directly to the World Cup finals.

The KFA expect that if the current sales pace continues, it will be possible to see over 60,000 fans filling the stadium for the first time in four years. So far, the Korean national team had 18 A-matches with over 60,000 spectators at the Seoul World Cup Stadium but only three since 2010. The last such match was a friendly with Brazil in October 2013 when more than 65,000 fans filled the stadium.

Most of the national squad’s home matches with over 60,000 spectators were friendlies, while only three World Cup regional qualifiers brought that many fans to the stadium. Among the four home qualifiers for the Russia World Cup, just the match against China had over 50,000 spectators, while the rest had less than 40,000. So far, the Korean team had hard times in every visiting match against Iran in part because of Iranian soccer fans’ enthusiastic cheering for their national team. The October 2016 match against Iran at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran is often called the “grave of visiting teams.” The KFA and the Korean national squad are expecting to see over 60,000 Korean fans cheering for their team.

Meanwhile, the Seoul Metropolitan Facilities Management Corporation has decided to replace one-fourth of the turf at the Seoul World Cup Stadium ahead of the Korea-Iran match, as the Korean team’s head coach and captain Ki Sung-yueng complained about the field condition.

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