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Korea Gearing Up for U20 Quarterfinal vs. Ghana

Posted October. 08, 2009 07:37,   


The national under-20 soccer team will face Ghana Friday in the quarterfinals of the FIFA U20 World Cup in Egypt.

Korea is seeking its first trip to the semifinals since 1983, and will play an African country that finished second in the 1993 and 2001 tournaments and won this year’s African youth championships.

Mubarak Stadium in Suez is the venue for the game.

Ghana earned its quarterfinal ticket Tuesday with a 2-1 win over South Africa in overtime. Ghana topped its group by beating Uzbekistan, 2-1, and England, 4-0, and playing Uruguay to a 2-2 tie. Ghanaian strikers Dominic Adiyiah (four goals) and Ransford Osei (three) are said to be the best offensive duo in the event.

Korea faces a tough opponent but can still win, according to experts.

○ Ghana’s weakness on defense

“Ghana is the biggest obstacle to Korea’s advance to the final,” said former Korea U20 coach Park Jong-hwan, who led his country to the semifinals of the 1983 tournament in Mexico. “Ghanaian strikers have good individual skills and teamwork, and hence are difficult to defend.”

Others cited Ghana’s “stable ball control” and “excellent individual skill” as well as strong flexibility unique to African players, speed and set plays.

Ghana’s defense, however, is not as powerful as its attack. Central defenders lack speed despite their physical conditions. If Korea can slice through the Ghanaian defense through speedy play, it has a chance to win.

Ghana also showed waning stamina in the win over South Africa Tuesday. The game required overtime and the subsequent exhaustion of the Ghanaian squad could help Korea Friday.

○ Captain Koo to anchor midfield

For Korea, who will serve as the pillar versus Ghana?

The most likely choice is team captain Koo Ja-cheol, 20. A defensive midfielder, he must coordinate not only the defense but also the offense for the team.

KBS soccer commentator Lee Yong-soo said, “Koo has an important role to play to systematically overcome Ghana, which has players with high individual skills.”

Experts also have high expectations for Kim Min-woo, 19, who scored twice in the 3-0 win over Paraguay Monday. Nicknamed the “small giant,” the speedy and talented striker has a big game if Korea is to effectively penetrate its opponent’s shaky defense.

Other experts singled out Park Hee-sung. If he can develop an attack route through his ability to maintain stable ball possession, Korea is expected to handle Ghana more easily than expected.

Park, however, said the entire team will be the key players in the quarterfinal, adding, “The national team will be the most competitive if all players show a good performance rather than heavy reliance on a couple of players.”

niceshin@donga.com yjongk@donga.com