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It’s Our Turn Against Turks

Posted June. 27, 2002 23:13,   


“Awaiting a chance to play.”

While Taegeuk warriors are taking a sweet day off from their World Cup run, Choi Yong-soo (29m Jeff United) visited Misari field with therapist Ano Philip to have a private training session. He was eagerly hoping to have a chance to play in Saturday’s third-place playoff with Turkey.

Throughout the tournament, Choi only played briefly in the first-round match against the U.S. as a substitute to Yu Sang-chul in the 69th minute. Although he has not been in good condition due to an injury from the friendly match with France, his absence has more to do with striking performances by the 11 best players. Choi, who has been reputed as a leading striker, is now set to prove his value in the team’s final match on Saturday.

Guus Hiddink had to send “proven” players to the field to advance to the second round, to quarterfinals and to semi-finals against soccer powerhouses. With only three substitutes allowed, chances were slim for those sitting in the bench.

Since a third-place playoff rather carries symbolic meaning than being a do-or-die match, however, benchwarmers now look to find a place in the leading cast. In particular, as Kim Nam-il and Kim Tae-young seem unfit for play due to injuries, Hiddink might need some from the bench to form the staring line-up.

So far 17 out of the 23 players had played on the ground, and the remaining includes Yoon Jung-hwan, Choi Tae-wook and Kim Byung-ji who were considered to join the best 11. Smart boy Yoon Jung-hwan, who is known to be the best technician in Korea, once fell afoul with Hiddink as he were required to improve fitness and become more aggressive on defense.

After he was recalled early this spring, he was seen as an outstanding playingmaker in a 3-4-1-2 formation. As the team switched to a 3-4-3 formation, however, he was not able to get a chance to play.

Chio Tae-wook, who had been conspicuous on the left flank, couldn’t recover completely from his injury during the Gold Cup games. Veteran goalie Kim Byung-ji is also hoping that he can find a place in the starting line-up.

It remains to be seen whether they will be able to make their appearances on the World Cup stage before the global audience.

Jong-Koo Yang yjongk@donga.com