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Veteran players feel restless: “The young guys are better than their elders.”

Veteran players feel restless: “The young guys are better than their elders.”

Posted June. 06, 2004 22:22,   


Can it be that a generation shift is taking place in Korean soccer?

It seemed that way at the second exhibition match against Turkey in the Daegu World Cup Stadium on June 5, commemorating the second anniversary of the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup. Park Seong-hwa, acting coach of Korea’s national team, fielded nine Olympic team players including Cho Jae-jin, Kim Doo-hyun, Kim Dong-jin, Park Jin-seop, and Kim Chi-gon, as well as goalie Kim Yeong-kwang, in starting in a determined strategy that paid off in a 2-1 come-from-behind victory.

Only Yoo Sang-cheol and Kim Nam-il among 2002 World Cup members played as starters. Seol Ki-hyun, Song Jong-kook, Lee Eul-yong and goalie Lee Un-jae, who appeared in the first match cooled their heels on the bench for the entire 90 minutes.

Thanks to the “young guns,” Korea broke its no-score streak in four games, beginning with the draw against Maldives in the second preliminary for the Germany World Cup. Korea got the first win over Turkey after a total record of one draw and four losses.

The hot-blooded young players pushed hard from midfield against Turkey, ranked seventh by FIFA. Although the team suffered from missed passes, poor game control, and unstable defensive play, the game was totally different from the spiritless effort that lost the first match 0-1 on June 2, mainly played by the “2002 World Cup Taeguk Warriors.”

Heo Jeong-mu, vice president of the Korea Football Association’s technical committee, said, “The strategy of pushing against Turkey from the beginning worked well. I’m impressed by the young players’ motivation and fighting spirit.”

Kim Joo-seong, a former member of the technical committee, remarked, “This game was significant because it brought the original members to a turning point, and it motivated rising young players to start in a national team.”

For example, analysts believe that Ahn Jeong-hwan and Choi Jin-cheol were more active when substituting in the second half than in the first match because they were stimulated by the Olympic team players. From the same viewpoint, acting coach Park is not willing to stick with the well-known players. “I may use existing national players for the World Cup preliminary against Vietnam in Daejon World Cup Stadium on June 9,” Park said, “but I will pull out-of-condition players from the roster and put young guys in instead.”

It is widely agreed that Korean soccer has spiraled downward since the “Big Four Achievement” of the 2002 World Cup. The second match against Turkey showed once again that a “young blood transfusion” can restore competitive spirit and bring the game back up.

Jong-Koo Yang yjongk@donga.com