Tokyo: South Korea overpowered Uzbekistan 4-2 on Saturday in a confidence-boosting win before next week’s crunch home World Cup qualifier at home to Kuwait.

It gave coach Choi Kang-hee an important victory in his first match since replacing Cho Kwang-rae, fired after South Korea’s shock 2-1 away defeat to Lebanon in November.

Lee Dong-gook and Kim Chi-woo scored two goals apiece at Jeonju World Cup stadium but the hosts, who are hoping to reach an eighth successive World Cup finals, were forced to fend off a late fightback from the visitors.

South Korea, World Cup semi-finalists as co-hosts with Japan in 2002, need to avoid defeat against Kuwait to be certain of advancing to the final round of qualifying for the 2014 finals in Brazil.

Although the Koreans top Group B on goal difference from Lebanon on 10 points, they will be eliminated if they lose to Kuwait and the Lebanese beat or draw with the United Arab Emirates.

Kuwait’s preparations for the game took a knock on Friday when they suffered a 2-0 away defeat in China.

When substitute Kim made it 3-0 for South Korea early in the second half, after Lee’s first-half brace, the game looked over.

But Anvar Rakhimov pulled one back in the 77th minute and Stanislav Andreev drilled in a penalty soon afterwards as South Korea’s defensive frailties were again exposed.

However, Kim put the game out of reach with a curling free kick in the dying moments to lift South Korea’s morale before the game against Kuwait, who are on eight points.

Lebanon will be expected to beat the Emirates, who have lost all five of their matches, leaving South Korea and Kuwait to fight it out for the other remaining berth in the next round.

Uzbekistan have already sealed their place in the final round alongside Japan in Group C.

(Agencies)