Korea drew 0-0 with Iraq in its first match of the final round of Asian qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

With Thursday’s draw in a home match in Seoul, Korea and Iraq now have one point each, leaving Korea’s head-to-head record with the Middle Eastern country at seven wins, two losses and 12 draws.

Despite being ahead of Iraq in terms of ball possession with 68 percent, Korea was unable to score. Out of 15 goal attempts, compared to Iraq’s 2, Korea had only five shots on target and failed to convert them into goals. Captain Son Heung-min struggled against the opponent’s defense, as the Iraqis attempted to smother him with two or three players surrounding him every time he got the ball.

Korea is now set to face Lebanon in its second match in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province next week.

Korean footballers react after a match against Iraq in Seoul on Thursday. /Yonhap

Korea, which is aiming for its 10th consecutive World Cup appearance, is grouped with Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and the UAE, and will have home and away matches with each team by March next year.

A rocky road lies ahead for Korea as it has to play all its away matches in the Middle East — a challenge for the Korean players due to the long travel distances and hot weather.

The other group in the final round comprises Australia, China, Japan, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam. The top two finishers from each group will advance to the World Cup.

Iraq has not qualified for the quadrennial football extravaganza since the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, where it was eliminated in the group stage. The country has been training hard for the final qualifiers since July, when it scouted as its new manager Dick Advocaat, who led the Korean team at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

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