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[Soccer] Korea Bracing for 100,000 Fans in Iran

Posted February. 11, 2009 09:41,   


"Even veteran Park Ji-sung will sense a totally different mood at Tehran`s Azadi Stadium. The pressure of 100,000 highly passionate fans will make the match hell for Korean players."

Iran’s top player Javad Nekounam, who plays for Osasuna in the Spanish league, declared war on Korea armed with the threat of a massive number of Iranian spectators.

Azadi Stadium is where both countries will play their fourth match of the Asian qualifying competition for next year’s World Cup in South Africa. It is one of the largest stadiums in Asia with a capacity of more than 100,000 people.

○ `Raising hell’

Iran has always overwhelmed its opponent at Azadi over 30 games since October 2004, winning 25 and drawing five. The Mideast team’s last loss at home was against Germany in a friendly match.

Korea has one draw and two losses at the stadium.

The Taegeuk Warriors trained at Azadi yesterday for the first time since arriving there. A number of other good stadiums exist in the Middle Eastern country, but the Iranian soccer association has banned their use to protect grass.

Azadi Stadium is overwhelming in scale. Built in the 1970s, parts of the stadium looked old and repairs were made in several sections. The grass looks green and thick after being covered with vinyl.

Oh Beom-seok (Samara of Russia) said, “I trained at Azadi Stadium for the first time. It’s not that bad to the extent that we cannot adapt to it,” expressing confidence in Korea’s chances there.

○ 1st practice at the battleground

The Korean team continued training for an hour and 40 minutes yesterday. The temperature remained above zero degrees Celsius, but officials watching practice felt chilly amid the cold weather.

Korean players warmed up with light ball trapping, moved on to practicing set pieces and one-on-one penetration, and then held a scrimmage. After 30 minutes of training, they began to sweat.

The scrimmage effectively unveiled the preliminary starting roster for the upcoming match: strikers Jung Sung-hoon (Busan I’Park) and Lee Keun-ho (FC Daegu); midfielders Park Ji-sung (Manchester United), Kim Jung-woo (Seongnam Ilhwa), Ki Sung-yueng and Lee Chung-yong (FC Seoul); defenders Kim Dong-jin (Zenit St. Petersburg of Russia), Kang Min-soo and Cho Yong-hyung (Jeju United), and Oh; and goalie Lee Woon-jae (Suwon Samsung).

Some 20 Iranians including reporters and soccer officials also watched the Korean team practice.

Tickets for the match are reportedly almost sold out.