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"World Cup as Stepping Stone for Big Leagues"

Posted May. 22, 2002 09:06,   


It is a great honor for soccer players just to participate in the `world’s best festival`, World Cup.

The 23 final entries of the Korean national soccer team have made it to the World Cup after much sweat and tears. However, that is not enough. Along with the obligatory feeling for the final 16, every player desires for leap into higher level of career through the World Cup.

Ahn Jeong-Hwan (26. Italy Perugia), Sul Gi-Hyun (23. Belgium Anderlecht), Cha Doo-Ri (22. Korea Univ.), and Lee Cheon-Su (21. Ulsan Hyundai) are dreaming of Europe’s `Big Leagues`. As they are upgrading themselves under the instruction of manager Guus Hiddink, the players are opening their eyes towards the bigger world.

Ahn Jeong-Hwan has left to Italy’s Serie A in 2000 with great hope, but has remained as `hired` for 2 years. He strove for survival, but the European wall was too high. Imitating big stars did not work but rather, it was all about knowing the European soccer properly. This is what Hiddink showed to him. Physical strength, wide sight, and scoring decisiveness were what he needed. During the Scottish evaluation match on the 16th, Ahn broke down the European wall and proved himself worthy of big leagues, as he recorded 2 goals and 1 assist.

`Wild horse` Sul Gi-Hyun also had advanced to the Belgian League, which counts as `European minor`, but it was not easy. He stayed at bench more than at field, and besides, injury became another obstacle. If it were not Hiddink, who helped him from the sides, he would have given it up.

“I’ve become so much after joining the national team. Now I am confident that I can do anything,” said Sul.

Cha Doo-Ri is also dreaming of European league to succeed his father Cha Bum-Keun. He was only marked as a fast and strong player, when he first joined the national team. However, after going through Hiddink’s harsh training despite criticism, it is now evaluated that he will “survive in Europe with little more polishing”.

Apart from them, Lee Cheon-Su, who once knocked on Italy but remained in the K-League, and Song Jong-Kuk (23. Pusan Icons) are now evaluated as being ready for bigger fields.

“The national players have grown to be ready for the world. They have great opportunities in the upcoming evaluation matches with England and France, and also the World Cup. Good outcomes can be expected, if they play impressively,” said Hiddink.

Jong-Koo Yang yjongk@donga.com