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France, Switzerland ‘Must’ Beat Korea

Posted June. 15, 2006 03:48,   


“This is a meaningful day for us as Korea has won its first World Cup game on foreign soil,” says a KFA official. “But I worry that we might lose the next two games.” His worry is not unfounded. It is too early for Korea to pop the cork. The prospect of Korea advancing to the next round is still unclear. Many see the team unstable despite its latest success. Now Korea will face France on June 19, and Switzerland on June 24—two very strong teams. France and Switzerland drew 0-0 at the match on the same day. At the moment, Korea leads Group G in points.

Facing an acute situation, France coach Raymond Domenech declared that his team will be going all out in the upcoming Korean match—Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet, and Zinedine Zidane’s team is vowing victory against Team Korea. Switzerland feels the same desperate need to score a win. The Swiss plan to win against Togo and place their fate on a set course by defeating Korea next. Korea now must play against France and Switzerland; and both will give anything to win.

Korea won against Togo, but not in a very impressive way. Especially bad was how the first half played out. Choi Jin-han was one of Guus Hiddink’s assistant coaches in 2002 World Cup. “The players were afraid to stick their necks out. There were no gutsy penetration attempts or creative tactics,” Choi assessed the first half. Sadly, the same issue had been on display at the team’s warm-up match against Ghana on June 4. Jeonnam Dragons coach Hwang Sun-hong had pointed out after watching the evaluation match: “Because the attackers move about very little, they won’t find much space to base their attacks. Especially the wings—as long as they insist on staying in their spots, only the simplest pattern of attacks can be attempted.”

On the other hand, Korea was not pressurizing Togo nearly enough. The whole pressure play was designed to counter the techniques of Togolese players. It faltered against Togo’s speedy penetration and allowed the first goal. There is an unnerving fact that Korea’s remaining opponents, France and Switzerland, have shown great pressure in their midfield.

Korea’s pressure play was lost during the match, partly due to the climate. “The players had trouble coping with the heat,” said Advocaat after the game. It did not help that their playing field was like a steamed sauna with the stadium’s roof closed. Team Korea need to diversify their attack patterns and strengthen pressure on the opponents. But the general conditions are not very favorable to Team Korea and that’s why they need to keep their wits about them.

Team France, despite Thierry Henry showcasing his sharp play, has shown that it is not perfect. France failed to overcome Switzerland’s stamina, pressure, and defense. After the seemingly endless running about with the Swiss team, France was as tired as Korea after its sauna battle.

Korea needs to up its fight in the midfield to shackle French midfielder Zidane. This calls for another battle of stamina. It is worrisome that Korean midfielders are not in the best condition. However, the much-anticipated first win put the team’s spirit in high gear. The fighting spirit and momentum that the team is famous for might help Korea to overcome France and step toward its goal of making the last sixteen.

Won-Hong Lee bluesky@donga.com