DOHA - South Korea have accused their Asian Cup quarter-final opponents Iran of fouling too much and warned they should fear them.
After a number of respectful pre-match media conferences in Doha over the past fortnight, the gloves were off as Korean coach Cho Kwang-rae accused the Iranians of dirty tactics ahead of their match at the Qatar Sports Club on Saturday.
"I saw the Iranian team in their previous games and for football fans it would be better if they did not commit so many fouls," a sharply dressed Cho told reporters on Friday.
Cho continued the criticism when asked to compare Iran with Australia, who the twice-champion South Koreans drew 1-1 with earlier in Group C.
"They are both physical sides who are good tactically, but the Iranian team commits more fouls."
South Korean full-back Cha Du-ri joined in with the goading when asked if he was worried about Iran's strong showing in the group stages, where they were the only side to win all their matches.
"We are one of the strongest teams in Asia reaching the last 16 of the 2010 World Cup. I think it is Iran who are scared of the Korean team. We have to play as we usually do like in the first three games of the Asian Cup," the attack-minded defender said.
The match will be the fifth successive time the two teams have met at this stage of the tournament and would be a worthy final, but Korea could only finish second to Australia in Group C by one goal, something Iran's likeable, chatty coach Afshin Ghotbi fired back with.
"If they had done their job in the group games, they would not have met us in quarter-finals, but only in final," the Iranian-American citizen said.
Ghotbi seemed to revel in the psychological battle and claimed to have the advantage over his opponents having worked as an assistant coach with the Korean national team in spells over five years.
"I know the way they think and I know the way they react in their good days and their bad days and that gives me a slight advantage," he said.
Ghotbi rejected the accusation that his team fouled too much and spoke once again of his belief that Iran could go on to win a record fourth Asian Cup title and their first since 1976.
"With respect to the South Korean coach, I think they need to foul us to stop us from winning because we are the better team,' he said with a smile.
Ghotbi has faced heavy criticism in Iran for failing to qualify for the 2010 World Cup and not speaking in Farsi during media conferences but he called upon everyone in the country to get behind the team.
"The Iran media for 20 months has undermined the success of the national team. It is time for them to support their national team and players.
"We started this job 20 months ago to win the Asian Cup for the people of Iran we believe at this moment in history that this championship can be a turning point in hope, confidence and unity in the country."
In Saturday's first quarter-final match at the Al Sadd stadium, the best FIFA ranked side in the tournament, Australia, face holders Iraq.