Posted November. 16, 2004 23:06,
Its not a game. Its a battle that we must win.
The final round of the World Cup qualifiers between Korea and Maldives will be held at Seoul World Cup Stadium on the evening of November 17. Although its a match between 2002 World Cup semi-finalists South Korea, ranked 24th in FIFA, and weak Maldives, ranked 136th in FIFA, theres an unusually tense atmosphere in the Korean national soccer team.
On November 16, a day before the match, head coach Jo Bonfrere and the teams 20 players went through intensive training for about two hours in Paju National Football Center. If the team either loses or draws with the Maldives, the teams advance to the World Cup in 2006 will get trickier.
This is the third time the Korean national soccer team has had a crucial crisis in the World Cup qualifiers.
The first time was during the preliminary round of Asian qualifiers for the Mexico World Cup in 1985. Korea, who was included in Group 3 along with Malaysia and Nepal, was about to get eliminated by losing to Malaysia 0-1 in an away match. However, thanks to Nepal drawing with Malaysia 0-0, Korea was able to advance in to the final round of the Asian qualifiers with difficulty, and eventually advanced to the final round of World Cup in 1985 for the first time in 32 years.
The second time was during the final round of Asian qualifiers for the U.S. World Cup in 1993. Losing to Japan 0-1, Korea was about to drop out of the qualifiers round. However, Korea defeated DPR Korea, and Japan tied with Iraq by giving out a goal during the injury time. Dramatically, the Korean teams victory point total tied with Japans, and Korea advanced to the final round of World Cup in 1993 by beating Japan in number of goals category.
Will Korea be able to successfully weather the crisis again? Korea, who is one victory point ahead of Lebanon, has to win the match against the Maldives to advance to the final round of the World Cup 2006. If the team either loses or levels with Maldives in the next match, the Korean national soccer team can only advance to the final round if Lebanon either loses or levels with Vietnam on their last match. However, it seems unlikely that Lebanon will either lose or tie against Vietnam.
Head coach Jo Bonfrere seems determined to win the next match as he is deploying three offensive players, Seol Ki-hyeon of Englands Wolverhampton Wanderers, Ahn Jung-hwan (Yokohama), and Lee Chun-soo of Spains Numancia, up front, shooting for goals. Meanwhile, head coach Manuel Gomes of the Maldives, who entered the country just two days before the match and held just one adaptive training session in Seoul World Cup Stadium, said, We are not here to win the match. We are here to do our best to have a good match against Korea.