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How Can Korea Advance in S. Africa World Cup?

Posted December. 16, 2009 08:47,   


National soccer coach Huh Jung-moo says Korea cannot keep complaining over its placement in the tough Group B of next year’s World Cup in South Africa.

Instead, he is urging strenuous efforts to restore Korea’s 2002 World Cup glory by injecting young blood.

The team must prepare to play higher ranked teams by making the most of its lessons learned from the past, especially from 2002. After defeating Poland, 2-0, in its first group game for its first World Cup win, Korea went on to beat Portugal, 1-0; Italy, 2-1; and Spain in a penalty shootout 5-3 after a scoreless regulation.

The integral capacity of Korea stemmed from more than the starting 11. Ahead of the World Cup in South Africa, Korea must ask itself this question: are the Taegeuk Warriors the same as they were in 2002?

○ Lack of home-field advantage

Korea’s fans as well as its players helped the team achieve glory in 2002, with the Red Devils support troupe enthusiastically cheering Korea clad in red. The fans also did the same four years later in Germany.

In 2002, when Korea and Japan co-hosted soccer’s grand event, the streets of Korea were filled with thousands of rabid fans supporting the national team. This advantage, of course, will be missing in South Africa.

The same year, rumors also spread of doping by Korean players. Critics also blasted the team for benefiting from critical refereeing mistakes in its games against Italy and Spain.

Yet a unified front by the players on the pitch and the Red Devils across the nation also helped lift Korea to World Cup success. Such an environment can be recreated only if Korea hosts the tournament again.

○ Stamina and technique needed

Korea will field in South Africa veterans from the 2002 event, including midfielder and captain Park Ji-sung, goalie Lee Woon-jae, and defender Kim Nam-il.

Park and striker Park Chu-young (AS Monaco), who is gearing up to join a bigger league, will play a major role in Korea’s quest to advance to the second round.

Group B will see ample fun and excitement as Korea will face 2004 Euro champion Greece; two-time World Cup winner Argentina; and African power Nigeria.

In 2006, Korea won its first World Cup game on foreign soil in a 2-1 victory over Togo. The Taegeuk Warriors then held France to a 1-1 draw before being eliminated in a 2-0 loss to Switzerland in its final group game.

In South Africa, Korea needs at least one win and two draws. To do that, its players need heightened stamina and technique.

Park Ji-sung must also display strong leadership to inspire his team. Hobbled by knee problems this season, the Manchester United midfielder cannot singlehandedly save Korea.

How he plays and his health will determine how far Korea advances in the World Cup.