Nekounam: 'Taste the loneliness'
Iran player warns South Korea of Tehran effect as World Cup qualifiers kick off.
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2009 08:04 GMT

Nekounam says the fear factor could upset South Korea's chances [GALLO/GETTY]
Iran midfielder Javad Nekounam expects South Korea to be shaking in their boots when they step out at Tehran's imposing Azadi stadium for their 2010 World Cup qualifier this week.

South Korea, Asia's most successful World Cup team, need at least a draw away to second place Iran to stay top of Group Two.

But Nekounam, who plays for Real Osasuna in the Spanish Primera Liga, believes a capacity Iranian crowd will make the visitors "taste the real feeling of loneliness."

"They have never before played under the pressure of 100,000 passionate fans," Nekounam said of South Korea, who are chasing a spot at their seventh-successive finals.

"It will be hell for them. They will be awestruck when they come out of the dressing room. Korea will taste the real feeling of loneliness."

Winning ugly

Japan midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura, meanwhile, believes halting the perfect run of Group One leaders Australia will be neither easy nor pretty.

The Celtic player is eyeing only a win against the surging Socceroos and warned technique and flair could be absent from Wednesday's match in Yokohama.

"I don't mind if we have to get ugly – we will go for three points and a win," Nakamura said on Monday.

"I don't think we will have such a beautiful formula."

With three wins from three matches and no goals conceded, Australia coach Pim Verbeek might be forgiven for poking fun at Japan, who trail the visitors by two points in the group standings, for their behind-closed-doors training sessions.

The Dutchman has even more reason to be in such high spirits given Japan's shaky recent form – defeat to Bahrain and an unimpressive home win over lowly Yemen in their opening 2011 Asian Cup qualifiers.

Poking fun

"You have been training together for five weeks and still need closed-door sessions," Verbeek told Japanese reporters.

"It doesn't show a lot of confidence.

"Japan have had a lot of preparation. But my players are very experienced and can handle the pressure with little or no preparation."

Rivals North Korea, the surprise package of Asian qualifying so far, have a chance to climb the Group Two table if they can win in Pyongyang against regional giants Saudi Arabia, who are fourth after one win from their first three matches.

Uzbekistan's explosive form from the earlier rounds looks to have fizzled out but new coach Mirdjalal Kasimov has named a full-strength squad and is confident he can haul his team off the bottom of Group One at home to Bahrain.

"We have already played many matches with Bahrain and know each other very well," he said.

"Every match is very important for us now. In the final stage you must fight for every point."

The top two teams in each group will qualify for South Africa 2010, with the two third-placed teams playing off for the chance to take on Oceania champions New Zealand for one more berth in the 32-nation finals.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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