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[Soccer] Can Korea Break its Saudi Jinx?

Posted November. 19, 2008 02:59,   


The Korean national soccer team has a jinx to break against Saudi Arabia, and what a time to do so.

The Taegeuk Warriors will face the Saudis in the final qualifying round of the 2010 South Africa World Cup tomorrow.

Korea must win to qualify for its seventh straight World Cup. Since beating the Saudis in a qualifier for the 1990 Italy World Cup, Korea has not beaten the Mideast country in their last six matchups, losing three and drawing three.

○ “We beat them easily”

In 2000, Korea coach Huh Jung-moo said before leaving for Riyadh, “We beat them easily.” Since then, the power structure in Asian soccer has changed.

In the 2000 Asian Cup, Korea under Huh lost 2-1 to Saudi Arabia in the semifinals. Tomorrow, he will again face Nasser Al Johar, who coached the Saudis in the Asian Cup eight years ago.

The qualifier will be held in Riyadh, where the Korean Olympic team under Huh beat the Saudis, 3-1, in a friendly match in 1999.

Korea will have high-profile veterans for the Saudi game. Goalie Lee Woon-jae (Suwon Samsung), defender Lee Young-pyo (Borussia Dortmund) and Park Ji-sung (Manchester United), all three of whom played in the 2000 Asian Cup, will start.

○ Veterans vs. Rising Stars

Strikers Park Chu-young (AS Monaco) and Lee Keun-ho (Daegu FC), who are both 23, will join the team in Riyadh. Park Chu-young has been dubbed a “soccer genius” despite slowing down from his impressive start in 2004, while Lee Keun-ho is a former Most Valuable Player of Korea’s second-tier league.

Park Chu-young had played striker in the third round of qualifying in the first half of the year, but was criticized for going scoreless. Lee Keun-ho joined the national squad later, but scored in qualifiers against Uzbekistan and the United Arab Emirates, earning the coach’s confidence.

Lee said, “Competing with Park Chu-young stimulates me and can help the team as a whole.”