Tuesday’s 2026 World Cup qualifying match between South Korea and China is sold out, and Son Heung-min has warned his team to maintain composure.
The match in Shenzhen, which is close to Hong Kong, is the best of the second round of matches in the second stage of North American qualifying for the World Cup.
A few more noteworthy games are Australia vs Palestine in Kuwait, Japan vs Syria in Jeddah, Iran vs Uzbekistan away, and India vs Qatar.
To start their qualifying campaign, South Korea smashed Singapore 5-0 on Thursday. Son, the captain and striker for Tottenham Hotspur, scored an incredible goal outside the box.
China defeated the Koreans 2-1 in Thailand by scoring a goal sixteen minutes into the game, moving them to the lead of Group C in the early standings.
The favorites in Shenzhen are Jurgen Klinsmann’s South Korea, but Son issued a warning: “I think Asian teams will try to be physical against us, and getting under our skin will perhaps be part of their strategy.”
After Singapore’s crushing in Seoul, Yonhap cited him as stating, “We just have to make sure we don’t get dragged into that kind of thing and stick to our own game plan.”
For the game, more than 40,000 people are expected to fill the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre stadium.
The only time China has ever qualified for the World Cup was back in 2002, but President Xi Jinping has high hopes for the country’s football team, including hosting and maybe winning the competition one day.
Furthermore, in an atypically candid moment after China’s victory over Thailand, Xi was captured on camera informing Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin that China had been “lucky.”
When the second round concludes in June, South Korea and China are poised to advance out of Group C regardless of Tuesday’s outcome.
The final Asian qualifying round is for the top two finishers from each of the nine groups.
Fast starts were also had by Australia and Japan, who, like South Korea, advanced to the round of 16 of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
In Group I, the Socceroos destroyed Bangladesh 7-0 in Melbourne, with substitute Jamie Maclaren scoring a hat-trick in the second half.
With the Israel-Hamas conflict as a backdrop, coach Graham Arnold noted that preparations were “quite stressful” for their tougher match against Palestine in Kuwait City.
His message was obvious, though: concentrate on the football. To allow themselves as much time as possible to prepare, Australia booked a direct flight from Melbourne to Kuwait.
Palestine drew 0-0 with Lebanon to start their campaign.
With a 5-0 victory over Myanmar in Group B, Ayase Ueda also scored a hat-trick to help Japan get off to a decisive start in their quest to win an eighth consecutive World Cup.
They should also prepare for a far tougher challenge from Syria, who defeated North Korea 1-0.