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A Smile for The First Time in 16 Years?

Posted August. 17, 2005 06:27,   


Coach Johannes Bonfrere told the media his expectations for the final game of the 2006 World Cup Germany Asian Qualifier against Saudi Arabia, set to take place on August 17, in a press conference held at the Grand Hilton Seoul on August 16.

“We will break the tight-knit Saudi defense and cut off their counterattacks,” he said. “I will position my players according to their fitness, regardless of the league each one plays in.”

While Bonfrere showed strong confidence, the pressure on his shoulders seems heavier than ever. He himself knows most the rage of the fans and the hostile public opinion directed at him after a set of disappointing matches during the East Asian Football Championship.

To make matters worse, the opponent happens to be Saudi Arabia, or the “Leader of the Middle East.” Historical stats show Saudi Arabia having the upper hand, with South Korea recording three wins, five draws, and four losses in a total of 12 matches. South Korea has not been able to defeat the Saudi Arabian side in 16 years ever since winning 2-0 in October 1989 in the 1990 World Cup Italy Asian Qualifiers. In their previous away qualifier match held in March, Korea lost a bitter 0-2 decision.

The visiting Saudi Arabian squad will include Al-Qahtani, who scored the second goal against Korea in March, but Khariri, who scored the first, and Al Jaber will be excluded, and it is told the team is comprised of a mixture of first and second team players. Nevertheless, the Saudi press believes that “as the six newly substituted members have been added as a way to reinforce the original side, their actual power is stronger.”

Also showing confidence, Saudi Arabian coach Gabriel Calderon said, “While the Korean side is strong, we are stronger and we will do our best to come out on top as group leaders.”

Coach Bonfrere’s squad will most likely use a 3-4-3 formation. Deploying Ahn Jung-hwan up front as a lone striker with Park Chu-young and Cha Du-ri as left and right forwards seems to be one viable option as well. The offensive aspect of center midfield is likely to be strengthened also, with Kim Doo-hyun and Baek Ji-hoon in charge.

Cha Du-ri (Frankfurt) claimed, “I will take part in the match with strong determination for a victory to make up for the disappointment of the East Asian Football Championships.”

Jae-Yun Jung jaeyuna@donga.com