SEOUL, South Korea // South Korea's first 2014 World Cup qualification match against Lebanon tonight will be an opportunity for the team to put behind them a painful few months.
Korea's last game was a comprehensive 3-0 defeat at the home of rivals Japan on August 10, prompting the first real criticism of coach Cho Kwang-rae from the domestic media since he took the job a year earlier.
The team - in Group B along with the UAE - has also been hit by a series of injuries to high-profile European-based players.
Lee Chung-yong of Bolton Wanderers broke his leg in July, while Son Heung-min of Hamburg and Wolfsburg's Koo Ja-cheol are also absent from the Lebanon match and the game in Kuwait four days later.
The UAE's first encounter with South Korea is an away match on October 11.
Plus the team enters this qualifying campaign without the influential Park Ji-sung, with the Manchester United midfielder having retired from national team duty.
There was better news as team captain Park Chu-young signed for English Premier League giants Arsenal earlier in the week.
"We are all focused only on Lebanon and we all know how important the first game is," said Park yesterday.
"We are confident that we can get the result we need against Lebanon and move forward and return to the form we were showing before the Japan game."
Lebanon are outsiders to finish in the top two of the group and thereby progress to the fourth round, and German coach Theo Bucker is under no illusions about the difficulty of winning in Goyang.
"We are looking for a good result, that for us could be to get a point or three points or not to lose by a big margin," Bucker said.
"We are not focusing on Korea, we have to overcome Kuwait and UAE.
"If I say to you, that we want to win in Korea, everyone will say 'You are dreaming just like people without money dream to win the lottery' but nothing is impossible."