Korean national football team train at Windmill Football Club in Bangkok, Saturday. Yonhap

These are turbulent times in Korean football on and off the field. The Asian Cup finished weeks ago, but the tournament will cast a long shadow even though the journey to the 2026 World Cup has now resumed.

It did not help that Thursday’s qualifier with Thailand in Seoul ended 1-1. The result leaves the Taegeuk Warriors top of their group with seven points from three games, three above Thailand and China with Singapore fourth and bottom with just one point. The top two from the group will advance to the final round of qualification, where 18 teams will battle it out for Asia’s eight automatic spots at the World Cup. As things stand, it would be a huge shock if Korea does not make it to the next stage but this was a disappointing result.

After all, it was supposed to be a new start. Jurgen Klinsmann was dismissed after the Asian Cup finished, and Under-23 coach Hwang Sun-hong was appointed on a temporary basis. There was not much evidence of “the new coach bounce,” which often happens in the sport as players react positively to a change.

Son Heung-min scored in the first half as there were a number of chances created, and a sold-out crowd of 65,000 at the Seoul World Cup Stadium sat back and expected a comfortable win against Thailand, ranked 101 in the world, 79 places below Korea. If those chances had been converted then that is what would have happened. Yet the Southeast Asians came back after the restart to claim a point that they celebrated enthusiastically with their supporters. Korea lacked a spark and it was a lukewarm performance overall.

Fortunately, there is an imminent opportunity to make it right. Hwang takes the team to Bangkok to take on the same opponent in front of 50,000 home fans. In theory, it should be a tougher test, but with Thailand more likely to be aggressive and push forward, there may be more opportunities for Korea to find space as well as their shooting boots.

Lee Kang-in should also start. Along with Klinsmann, the Paris Saint-Germain star was at the center of the fallout from the Asian Cup due to a reported scuffle with Son at the training camp. The 23-year-old came in for a lot of criticism for what happened and has repeatedly apologized online, to Son in person and then to fans back in Seoul. He didn’t start the game, surely because he has been busy in France with his club and arrived in Korea after most of the other players. When he came on in the second half, he impressed — as he did at the Asian Cup when he was probably the team’s best performer. Assuming Lee starts in Bangkok, then he could make the difference.

Korea needs a win, and not just because it would give the team more than one foot in the next round. The team has not won any of its last six games in the standard 90 minutes, as the victory over Australia at the Asian Cup came in extra time. A victory would stop this run from developing into a talking point. It would also change the narrative around the team, which has been a negative one for the last few 슬롯게이밍 months.

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