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World Cup 2006: A Long, Familiar Road

Posted December. 31, 2005 06:17,   


2006, the year of World Cup, has much excitement in the store for us. In July, we will see the national team playing against the world’s best. Just imagining it sends a thrill down my spine.

Who could forget Korea in the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup? Korea shocked the world with their final four showing?

After being asked to coach the Korean national team in last September, I revisited the awe I felt in July, 2002. Will I be able to do this? I contemplated that for a moment, then signed the contract. Nothing seems impossible when I have by my side the people that led Korea to such success in 2002: Pim Verbeek, the head coach; technical advisor Afshin Ghotbi; and coach Hong Myong-bo who is much admired by Korean players.

Korea can do it again. The situation is totally different from 2002 where they had to make something out of nothing. Although we don’t have much time left for practice, Park Ji-sung, Lee Young-pyo, Cha Du-ri and other players from the European leagues have improved greatly. And with Verbeek as the head coach, we can eliminate the trial and error the team faced in 2002.

I was deeply impressed with the players when I saw how well they followed my directions and the way they are devoted to the training. They instantly knew what I wanted from them, and adapted to it quickly. It was thanks to their devoted attitude in training that they showed such a huge result within a short period of time. I believe in their abilities and potentials.

But we have a long way to go before we reclaim the glory of 2002. Our players have potential but little experience. International matches differ greatly in level from national matches. On top of it all, we will not be playing them at home. They must learn how to beat strong opponents in away games.

Thanks to all the pro clubs who accommodated us, we will be able to complete the overseas training that will start on January 15. I am convinced that these six weeks of training will change the national team completely. I am sure that we will come out as a team with the nerves of steel in the face of the strongest of opponents.

The red wave of millions chanted “Dae-han-min-guk” in the year 2002. I hope to hear the same cheer again this July.

Jong-Koo Yang yjongk@donga.com