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Koo scores 2 as S. Korea opens Asian Cup with win

Posted January. 12, 2011 10:44,   


Perhaps the injury keeping striker Park Chu-young (AS Monaco) out of the Asian Cup soccer finals is a blessing in disguise for the South Korean national team.

Koo Ja-cheol (Jeju United), 22, who replaced Park as shadow striker, scored two goals Monday in South Korea’s 2-1 win over Bahrain, heralding the emergence of a new star. Koo assisted lead striker Ji Dong-won (Chunnam Dragons) in the team’s first Group C game at Al-Gharafa Stadium in Doha, Qatar.

Koo scored the first goal in the 40th minute and the second in the 52nd. He was selected the game’s most outstanding player and drew attention from German and Japanese media, but modestly thanked his teammates for assisting him.

The midfielder was a rising star through 2009 but suddenly bloomed last year. The Asian Cup, however, could be his breakthrough performance.

The first to appreciate Koo`s abilities was Hong Myung-bo, the coach of the Korean Olympic soccer team, who said the player is talented but not arrogant and works hard. Hong has had Koo captain the Olympic team since 2009.

Another major moment in Koo’s career occurred when he met Park Kyung-hoon, head coach of Jeju United, last year. “Park kept complimenting me and I got more confident,” Koo said.

Koo helped his team go from the K-League cellar to the championship game last season, which Jeju lost to FC Seoul. He scored five goals with a league-high 12 assists in 30 games.

Named to the national team, Koo became a favorite of coach Cho Kwang-rae in replacing Ki Sung-yueng (Celtic FC) in the 68th minute in a friendly game versus Syria before the Asian Cup. Koo helped South Korea control the game and beat Syria, 1-0.

Cho put Koo, who used to play defensive midfielder, at the center of the offense. The shadow striker’s role is important for the coach, who stresses organic movement by a striker because he has to coordinate the overall offensive line.

Koo impressed with fast passing, shooting and smooth movement in the win over Bahrain.

“I kept coordinating with (Park) Ji-sung, (Ki) Sung-yueng and (Lee) Chung-yong as we kept talking on the field. I was able to score two goals thanks to other good players. I thought my second goal was supposed to be (Cha) Doo-ri’s goal but weirdly, it came to my foot,” he said.