“I don’t think (Singapore) is an underdog.” (Hwang Hee-chan)

“We had a tough experience in the second and final qualifying rounds of the last World Cup, so we’re looking forward to the next one….” (Hwang In-beom)

The door to the 2026 North and Central American World Cup, co-hosted by the United States, Mexico, and Canada, is much wider than in previous World Cups. Asia has 8.5 spots in the 48-nation format.

The second round of qualifiers will feature 36 teams divided into nine groups of four, playing home and away matches. The first and second place finishers advance to the final qualifiers. The 18 teams are again divided into three groups of six teams, playing home and away, with the first and second place finishers in each group advancing directly to the main competition.

Third and fourth place will also have a chance. With six teams, there will be two groups of two, with the first-place finisher advancing to the knockout rounds and the second-place finisher playing a playoff. The eventual winner will advance to the other continents and the intercontinental playoffs.

South Korea faced China, Singapore, and Thailand in Group C of the second qualifying round. They will play Singapore at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on the 16th and face China away on the 21st at the Universiade Sports Center Stadium in Shenzhen, China.

While South Korea has a huge advantage over the other three teams in terms of objective strength, the soccer ball is round. Coincidentally, on July 7 and 8, when national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann traveled to Southeast Asia to get a feel for the quality of the teams there, Ulsan Hyundai and Jeonbuk Hyundai lost 1-2 and 0-2, respectively, in their four 2023-24 Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL) group matches against Johor Darul Taqiim (Malaysia) and Lion City (Singapore).

Johor, coached by Kim Pang Gon, started four Malaysian internationals while five came off the bench. Lion City started five Singaporeans, with three coming off the bench. Both teams won at home and lost on the road. While we are not unaware of the difficulties of away games, Ulsan struggled and Jeonbuk was helpless in games where at least a draw was possible. 무지개토토

In a press conference on the 13th, Klinsmann said, “It’s said that Singapore and China are easy opponents. There are no easy games in soccer. You know the results of professional teams in Singapore and Malaysia against Jeonbuk and Ulsan. Even Bayern Munich was eliminated (from the DFB Pokal) after losing to a third division team. In that sense, there are no easy matches. I don’t think the second qualifying round will be easy either,” he added.

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