Tottenham Star Son Heung-min will represent South Korea in the Asian World Cup qualifiers against Singapore:
Tottenham star Son Heung-min will join up with the South Korean national team this week as the second round of Asian qualifying for the 2026 World Cup kicks off. Son and Wolves forward Hwang Hee-chan will lead the line for Korea in their opening match against Singapore. The traditional continental powers like South Korea, Japan, Australia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have all called up their strongest squads, not taking any chances against lower ranked opponents in their first qualifying matches.
The second round of Asian qualifying for the 2026 World Cup kicks off this week, with South Korea, Japan, Australia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar all in action.
Tottenham’s Son Heung-min will lead the line for South Korea alongside Wolves’ Hwang Hee-chan. New coach Juergen Klinsmann is aiming to make a statement by starting qualifying with a dominant performance against 155th ranked Singapore. Though this match is expected to be a win easily, Klinsmann is still fielding his strongest XI. He understands the importance of focus and motivation throughout qualifying after a disappointing 2018 World Cup where South Korea fell at the group stage.
The Koreans have an impressive history in the World Cup, reaching the semi-finals as co-hosts in 2002. Also they defeated Portugal and qualified for the round 16 in last qatar world cup. They have qualified for every tournament since 1986. Competition will be tough for 2026, with only eight direct spots for Asia. Klinsmann asserted that despite more places available, the road to qualification may be even tougher this time around.
Australia’s impressive World Cup performance makes them a formidable opponent. With Graham Arnold, one of Asia’s most experienced coaches, qualification is a must.
Arnold has been in charge for over five years and will remarkably take the reins for the 59th time against Bangladesh.
Meanwhile, Carlos Queiroz begins the tough task of helping Qatar bounce back from a poor World Cup on home soil. The 2022 hosts lost all three group games in front of their disappointed fans. But in Queiroz they have a coach of the highest experience. He led Portugal, South Africa and Iran to previous World Cups with great success. If Qatar are to improve and meet expectations, Queiroz’s vast experience will be invaluable. His first test comes against Afghanistan.
Queiroz’s former team Iran are also transitioning to a new coach. After eight years in charge, Queiroz was replaced by Amir Ghalenoei following the World Cup. Ghalenoei actually was the Iran boss from 2006 to 2008 and has returned for a second stint. Iran were unbeaten in qualifying last time around and expectations remain high. But opening opponent Hong Kong is potentially tricky, with Iran focused on avoiding any early slip-ups.
For Saudi Arabia, preparations for this week’s match against Pakistan have been far from ideal. Since the historic upset of Argentina in November, they have lost ten of their last eleven games. But the appointment of Italian coaching legend Roberto Mancini in August has brought fresh optimism. Mancini led Italy to Euro 2020 glory and is renowned for quickly implementing his style and system. Saudi Arabia has quality players in Salem Al-Dawsari and Firas Al-Buraikan to execute Mancini’s vision. The opening qualifier gives them the chance to start on the right foot.
It promises to be a fascinating first look at some of Asia’s World Cup hopefuls. With up to eight direct tickets to North America available, qualification is more achievable than ever. But as South Korea’s Klinsmann stated, the road is guaranteed to be competitive and grueling. Pressure is on the continent’s top teams to get off to flyers this week.