Go to contents

Europe-based Korean Players Raising World Cup Hopes

Posted February. 02, 2010 09:01,   


Imagine this scenario June 17 at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa. Argentine coach Diego Maradona shows a look of despair in a group game against Korea.

When the legs of Argentine players grow noticeably slower in the 85th minute, Korea’s Park Ji-sung, 29 (Manchester United) snaps the ball from a defender and passes it to Ki Sung-yueng, 21 (Celtic).

Ki then passes the ball to Lee Chung-yong, 22 (Bolton Wanderers) on the right side. Penetrating to the side, Lee fires a sharp cross toward the goal. Park Chu-young, 25, (AS Monaco) heads the ball into the net to win the game.

Team Korea holds on to beat Argentina in its second group match, secures two straight wins, and advances to the second round.

○ Promising prospects

Just imagining this scenario makes any Korean happy, yet overseas-based Korean players are demonstrating that this might not be a mere fantasy given their recent performance in Europe.

Park Ji-sung scored his first goal of the season yesterday in United’s 3-1 win over Arsenal in London. He caught the ball slightly beyond the midfield line, dashed unmarked toward the goal post, and kicked a left-foot shot to score in the 52nd minute.

The score was his first in nine months.

Park Ji-sung started the match and was outstanding on both offense and defense, banking on his energy and speed until he was replaced just before the end of the game. United closed to within a point of Premier League leader Chelsea, which has played one fewer game.

Three other Korean players in Europe had a good showing over the weekend. Park Chu-young scored two goals in a 3-2 home win over Nice Sunday, raising his French league goal ranking from eighth to sixth.

Lee, who joined Bolton straight from high school, has taken charge as a key member of his team’s offense.

Ki has also done well for the Scottish giant Celtic, earning the respect of both his teammates and coach.

○ Confidence for Team Korea

The stellar performances of the four players are raising expectations of a second-round World Cup advance for Korea in South Africa.

Shin Moon-seon, a sports science professor at Myongji University in Seoul, said, “The stellar performances of players based abroad have enhanced the spirit of the Korean national team.”

In a survey of the national team’s 25 players last month, they predicted that players in overseas leagues will bring about more than physical reinforcement of the team’s capacity.

Korea’s World Cup opponents are also advised not to take the team lightly. SBS soccer commentator Park Moon-seong said, “Opponents considered Korea an easy target in previous World Cups and played Korea without pressure,” adding, “This was the complete opposite in the case of Korea, which erred in its very first game.”

KBS soccer commentator Han Joon-hee said, “This is the first time for many Korean players to attract the spotlight en masse ahead of the World Cup,” adding, “The situation in which our opponents feel a bigger burden means our team has more chips to play with.”