Posted December. 25, 2010 11:31,
The national soccer team is younger than ever, with the average age of players being 25 compared to 25.4 for the 2007 Asian Cup and 27.5 at this year`s World Cup.
Strikers are 22 years old on average, down from 27.8 of the squad that played in this year`s World Cup.
The younger age reflects the growing confidence of Korean soccer. Obsessed with immediate results, the team selected older and more experienced players in the past given lack of courage to boldly choose younger prospects.
As a result, the Taegeuk Warriors fell into a vicious circle of being unable to cultivate young talent, leaving itself with few choices among the younger players and having to rely on veterans.
The teams bold use of younger players paid off in this year`s World Cup with Korea`s first second-round advance on foreign soil. The success appears to have accelerated a generational change in the national squad.
○ Over half of squad play overseas
More than half, or 12 players, of the 23-man squad play overseas, a record high. In the 2002 World Cup, just seven of them were active abroad with just two in Europe and the rest in Japan.
Members of this year`s squad play in England, Scotland, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia and Japan.
The number of foreign-based players fell to five in the 2007 Asian Cup but has since increased sharply, reinforcing the global competitiveness of the national squad. With more players playing overseas, they have more chances of joining the national team.
Young buck Son Heung-min, 18, has never played in the K-League but made the national squad thanks to his good performance in Germany`s Bundesliga.
○ Prospects in Asian Cup
Head coach Cho Kwang-rae pursues the philosophy of total soccer, in which the entire team moves in a fast and organic style. This requires all players to have solid fundamentals, quick speed and the ability to play other positions.
This is why Kim Shin-wook (Ulsan Hyundai FC), who stands 196 centimeters tall and can play both defense and offense, made the national team, beating out Hong Jeong-ho (Jeju United), who is considered a next-generation defender.
To win the Asian Cup for the first time in 51 years, speed is the key, Cho said. I`ve selected players who can adapt to the team`s fast tempo and are prepared technically and physically.