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Sigh of relief for South Korea as scoreless draw against Uzbekistan hand them ticket to 2018 World Cup


It may be an unconvincing result but South Korea will still relish it anyway.

The Koreans overcame anxious moments to qualify for next year’s World Cup on Tuesday.

A goalless draw away to Uzbekistan was enough for the Taeguk Warriors on the final day of Asian group games to advance.

They hit the woodwork twice in the first half, but endured some nervy moments in the second against Uzbekistan, who are in the fight to make their first World Cup appearance.

When the final whistle blew, several South Korean players sank to the ground in relief before starting some toned-down celebrations.

South Korea nearly missed the World Cup for the first time since 1982 after a campaign which included surprise losses to Qatar and China.

Prior to the game, their chance to make it to the World Cup 2018 in Russia hanged in the balance.

The final hurdle were Uzbekistan hosted the Koreans in the third round of Group A at Stadion Bunyodkor in Tashkent.

They should have been in the biggest stage of football had they came up with a favourable against Iran last week.

Instead, the South Koreans were held to a scoreless draw by the gritty Iranians at Seoul World Cup Stadium to the dismay of home fans.

But South Korea persevered to gain a ticket for an eighth straight finals.

Under new manager Shin Tae-Yong who took over as head coach, following the sacking of Uli Stielike in June, got the job done anyway.

Shin, 48, is nicknamed the “Asian Mourinho’’ and will be under pressure to steer his team to great heights.

The Taeguk Warriors know fully well that a win in Tashkent will see them book their place in Russia.

With their qualifying fate on the line, the Koreans played as if there will be no tomorrow.

They did not beat the Uzbeks but that point was worth like gold.

South Korea have failed to duplicate their success as co-hosts in 2002 when they reached the semi-finals.

But this time, they will play in Russia after notching only four wins and 11 goals from their 10 qualifying matches, good enough to place second behind Iran in their group.

Between now and the 2018 World Cup proper, Shin’s men have a lot of adjustments to do.

Key players to watch for South Korea are Tottenham star Son Heung-min, striker Lee Dong-gook as well as another Premier League player, Ki Sung-yeung of Swansea City.

They better shape up in time or face the risk of getting bamboozled in Russia.