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World Cup qualifier vs. Kuwait postponed due to sanctions

2016/03/11 09:50

SEOUL, March 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's World Cup qualifying match against suspended Kuwait has been postponed, officials said Friday.

An official at the Korea Football Association (KFA) said FIFA has yet to lift its sanctions on Kuwait, punished last October after failing to amend the country's sports law to prevent government interference in the national football body. The two countries were scheduled to meet on March 29 in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, in their final match of the second Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

While serving sanctions, Kuwait forfeited an earlier qualifier against Myanmar in November, and the match resulted in a 3-0 win for Myanmar.

The result allowed South Korea to secure the top spot in Group G with two matches to spare in the second round, and thus a spot in the final qualifying round.

FIFA had informed the KFA that if the suspension on Kuwait wasn't lifted by Thursday, South Korea could schedule a friendly match for March 29.

On FIFA's website, the South Korea-Kuwait match is also listed as "postponed."

   "Basically, postponement means the match won't take place," a KFA official said. "At its Congress last month, FIFA decided to discuss lifting sanctions on Kuwait in May. The draw for the final qualification round will be held on April 12, and we won't be able to play this postponed match."

   If the match is eventually canceled, it will go into the books as a 3-0 win for South Korea.

The KFA had been trying to set up a friendly in lieu of Kuwait. Head coach Uli Stielike earlier said he hoped to use most of the overseas-based South Koreans in the last two qualifiers, so that those mostly confined to the bench on their clubs will be able to stay sharp.

The KFA has contacted other participants in the second round who aren't scheduled to play on March 29, including Thailand in Group F.

South Korea will also look to secure as many FIFA ranking points as they can ahead of the final qualifying round.

In the latest rankings, South Korea were 57th, third among the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) members at 566 points, behind Iran (44th, 627 points) and Japan (56th, 575 points).

A dozen teams will be divided into two groups of six in the final qualification round, and the top two AFC countries in the rankings will each be seeded and thus won't be paired in the same group.

Also, those two seeds will play their final two matches at home.

The KFA said it will ask FIFA if South Korea's friendly match and a potential forfeit victory over Kuwait will both count toward the ranking points.

jeeho@yna.co.kr

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