South Korea

Population: 48,400,000
Area: 98,480 km²
Capital: Seoul
Language: Korean

South Korea came second to Saudi Arabia in AFC final group A and qualified directly five points ahead of Uzbekistan.
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Jan 18 U.A.Emirates v Sth Korea 1-0
Jan 21 South Korea v Greece 1-1
Jan 25 South Korea v Finland 1-0
Jan 29 South Korea v Croatia 2-0
Feb 01 South Korea v Denmark 1-3
Feb 11 Costa Rica v South Korea 1-0
Feb 15 Mexico v South Korea 0-1
Feb 22 Syria v South Korea 1-2
Mar 01 South Korea v Angola 1-0
May 23 South Korea v Senegal 1-1
May 26 South Korea v Bosnia & H. 2-0
Jun 01 Norway v South Korea 0-0
Jun 04 South Korea v Ghana 1-3

Participations: (6) 1954, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002
Best placing: 4th place 2002
Topscorers: Hong Myung-bo and Ahn Jung-Hwan, 2 goals

Jun 13 - KOR v TOG  in Frankfurt
Jun 18 - KOR v FRA  in Leipzig
Jun 23 - KOR v SWI  in Hannover

- South Korea in Group G -
Jan Alsos: 4th place
Pierre Boisrond: 3rd place
Ruud Doevendans: 1st place
Mike Gibbons: 2nd place
Peter Goldstein: 3rd place
Paul Marcuccitti: 3rd place
Felipe Santos: 2nd place
PREDICTION: First round exit


by Paul Marcuccitti

    South Korea went into the last World Cup having never won a match at the finals. Now, after an unforgettable run on home soil that saw the Koreans reach the 2002 semi-finals, they’ll want to prove that they can succeed away from home.

    But 2002 will be a hard act to follow. Without the wonderful home support and familiar surroundings that the Taeguk Warriors enjoyed four years ago, they will be tested.

    The Koreans have an enviable World Cup qualifying record – this is their sixth consecutive appearance at the finals – but many foreign critics have been quick to predict that this year’s tournament will yield as little as those that preceded Korea/Japan 02.

    And there is supporting evidence. Guus Hiddink, the manager that helped inspire the team four years ago, is gone (and two other managers have since come and gone); the Koreans were a bit wobbly in qualifying; and, despite the success that Korea’s players enjoyed in their home World Cup, few are playing with European teams.

    Complicating matters further is that some of the Korean players in Europe are out of favour with their clubs and getting little game time. Two such players are Ahn Jung-Hwan (Duisburg) and Seol Ki-Hyeon (Wolverhampton Wanderers). Both were heroes in Korea four years ago. (To be fair, Ahn wasn’t exactly a regular in his famous stint at Perugia before the 2002 tournament.)

    Still, there are some reasons for optimism. Late last year, another Dutchman, Dick Advocaat, was given the job of guiding South Korea through Germany 06. Even though he was severely criticised in the Netherlands after the Dutch were eliminated in the semi-finals of Euro 2004, Advocaat, a former assistant to the legendary Rinus Michels, has more top-level experience than most. The Taeguk Warriors have had a reasonably good record in friendly internationals since Advocaat took the reins.

    South Korea was also drawn in Group G – possibly the weakest group in the World Cup finals – with Togo, France and Switzerland. The Koreans face Togo first and must fancy their chances of banking an early point, or three, against the small western African nation.

    In late March, Dick Advocaat said that 80% of Korea’s World Cup squad had been decided. He hinted that Ahn Jung-Hwan and Cha Du-Ri (Eintracht Frankfurt) weren’t certainties because he said that if they’re not playing for their clubs, they risk not going to the World Cup.

    Advocaat, who has shown a preference for a 4-3-3 formation, didn’t tell us which players he had already decided to take to Germany but the selections he’s made in friendly matches should provide some clues.

    South Korea’s captain and first-choice goalkeeper is Lee Woon-Jae (Suwon Samsung Bluewings). Veteran Lee Woon-Jae is another hero from 2002 and, as he’s an ever-present in the national team, it’s difficult to know who the reserve ‘keepers will be. Cho Jun-Ho (Jeju United) was given 45 minutes in a friendly earlier this year and that should put him in line for a berth in the 23-man squad.

    Another experienced player, Choi Jin-Cheul (Cheonbuk Hyundai Motors) is a regular in the heart of the Taeguk Warriors’ defence. Choi can also be used at right-back but he’s unlikely to play there at Germany 06 given that Korea has other options in that position.

    Choi might be partnered by Kim Jin-Kyu, a young defender playing his club football in Japan with Jubilo Iwata.

    Cho Won-Hee (Suwon Samsung Bluewings) is another promising player who can be used in defence and midfield. Cho has played well at right-back for South Korea but, if his talented club mate Song Chong-Guk makes a successful return from injury, Cho might lose his starting place. Song starred at the World Cup finals four years ago and Korean fans would love to see him playing – and in that sort of form – in Germany.

    At left-back, pencil in Lee Young-Pyo who has impressed in the English Premiership with Tottenham Hotspur.

    Other defensive options for South Korea include Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma pair, Kim Young-Chul and Kim Sang-Shik. Kim Young-Chul has played in some recent internationals in the centre of defence but Kim Sang-Shik has won more caps and is probably more versatile.

    Kim Dong-Jin (FC Seoul) is another defender likely to be included in South Korea’s squad for Germany. He has played in nearly every international since Dick Advocaat’s appointment but, as most of those matches have not been on FIFA international dates, Lee Young-Pyo has rarely been available. The Tottenham player will probably keep the left-sided Kim Dong-Jin out of the starting eleven.

    The Koreans have a lot of capable midfielders and finding the right balance in the middle will be crucial to their hopes. Park Ji-Sung (Manchester United) is arguably the Taeguk Warriors’ most important player. The inexhaustible Park can be used in a central role or out wide.

    Dick Advocaat brought Lee Eul-Young back into the national team after a long absence and the Trabzonspor midfielder thrives on the left-hand side. Lee can also be dangerous in dead ball situations.

    The tough-tackling Kim Nam-Il (Suwon Samsung Bluewings), another player that shot to prominence in 2002, is favoured to fill the defensive midfield role. Kim Do-Heon (Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma) is a more attacking midfielder who usually plays just behind the forwards.

    The Korean squad should also include two 21 year old midfielders, Lee Ho (Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i), who plays centrally, and the creative Baek Ji-Hoon (FC Seoul). Another young player, Kim Jung-Woo (Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i), will be part of the strong competition for midfield places.

    The Taeguk Warriors’ attack has suffered a blow with Lee Dong-Gook recently tearing knee ligaments in a club match in Korea’s K-League. Sadly, the Pohang Steelers’ striker, who has a fine goal-scoring record with the national team, will be unable to recover in time for the World Cup finals.

    Lee Dong-Gook’s absence further opens the door for Ahn Jung-Hwan. Many Korean fans will be disappointed if golden boy Ahn isn’t included in the squad for Germany.

    Lee Chun-Soo (Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i), recently awarded the title of the K-League's Most Valuable Player, will again be an important part of the Korean attack whether he’s used as a striker or on the right wing.

    So we return to Dick Advocaat’s concern about Seol Ki-Hyeon. It’s hard to imagine that there’s no place for the left-sided Seol in the squad but two K-League players, Chung Kyung-Ho (Gwangju Sangmu Phoenix) and Park Chu-Young (FC Seoul), both play similar roles and have featured in most of South Korea’s recent matches. The 20 year old Park is attracting a lot of hype having starred in youth internationals.

    Despite struggling at club level, Cha Du-Ri has to at least be in contention. One of the younger members of the 2002 team, Cha is another player that can operate as a striker or a winger.

    Dick Advocaat will also be considering the two Korean forwards at Japanese club Shimizu S-Pulse, Choi Tae-Uk and Cho Jae-Jin, for his 23-man squad.

    It will be difficult to match the achievement of 2002 but, if their latest Dutch coach can find the most effective combination, the Taeguk Warriors could defy expectations again.

    South Korea has never reached the second round on foreign soil. Just doing that should be enough to silence the critics that refused to give the Koreans the credit they deserved four years ago.




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