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South Korea World Cup Preview

Posted: Monday May 27, 2002 10:26 PM

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M CHOI TAI-UK Q&A
What are your earliest memories of the World Cup?
I can clearly remember the 1994 tournament. I remember Seo Jung-won scoring the equalizer against Spain. I also remember the match against Germany, when Korea lost 3-2.

Which of your teammates should people look out for at the finals?
Song Chong-gug. He's very good at fighting for the ball, very strong and fast, and reads the game really well. He'll look good even among the top foreign players. Also Lee Young-pyo -- he's getting better all the time.

What stage do people back home expect you to reach?
They expect us to make it to the last 16. That's also the team's goal.

If you don't win the World Cup, who will?
I have to say Argentina or France. I watched Argentina's friendly against Germany, and even though they didn't have all their best players, they were clearly better. France have been very good for some time.

Is there too much money in football?
In Korea, even the top players don't get paid a lot. Footballers are about finished by the time they get to 35, so we need to make whatever money we can by that time. If you think of the amount of effort and sweat we put into it, I think we deserve good rewards. But in reality, in Korea, the rewards are not good enough.

How they line up

After tinkering with the team's formation upon arrival, trying out a 4-4-2 formation and a 3-4-3, Guus Hiddink appears to have settled on 3-5-2, with which the Koreans feel most comfortable.

Kim Byung-ji, famous for his ever-changing hair color and looking to feature at his third World Cup, will be hoping he can get the nod in goal ahead of Lee Woon-jae after a good season last year for Pohang Steelers.

In defence, Hong Myung-bo returned recently after missing over six months through injury to reclaim his place as the team's sweeper. The veteran, who will be playing in his fourth World Cup, was a doubt in January, especially after the way 23-year-old Song Chong-gug filled the position in his absence.

Lee Min-sung is in the running to take the right stopper role, though he faces a race to be fit in time. If he is not, the position will go to Choi Jin-chul. Kim Tae-young has been playing on the left and captains the team. Lee Lim-saeng offers a combative option in defense and is good in the air.

The Koreans play with two defensive midfielders, allowing the wing-backs to push forward. Kashiwa Reysol midfielder Yoo Sang-chul and Kim Nam-il filled the positions during the recent European tour and should retain their places for the finals. The experienced Ha Seok-ju is an option in midfield.

The Koreans have a number of players capable of featuring in the wing-back positions. In the recent friendly against Turkey, the versatile Song featured on the right side, while the graceful Lee Young-pyo played on the left. Choi Tai-uk is effectively a left-winger and usually an important attacking option. However, he has been hampered by injury recently. Choi Sung-yong and Sim Jae-won remain options for Hiddink, and Choi is likely to figure at right wing-back should Song be moved to fill the playmaker's role.

This is the area the Koreans have traditionally struggled to fill. With Suwon Bluewings' Ko Jong-su set to miss the World Cup after suffering a cruciate ligament injury last year, Hiddink has tried a number of options. Yoon Jong-hwan was the most recent to take on the task, but Hiddink is known to be concerned that the fragile, injury-prone player may not be up to the task. Park Ji-sung is another who has been earmarked for the role, but has struggled.

The forward line is, on paper, one of the most potent in Asia. It relies heavily on the talents and guile of Hwang Sun-hong, who is set to appear in his fourth World Cup squad. Choi Yong-soo should play up front alongside Hwang after an impressive season and a half in Japan. Seol Ki-hyeon will be hoping to shake off any lingering effects of sitting on the bench at Anderlecht to challenge for a place. Other options include Lee Dong-gook, who has gone off the boil since finishing as top scorer at the 2000 Asian Cup, veteran Kim Do-hoon, Cha Doo-li, the pacy son of former Korean great Cha Bum-kun, or Perugia's Ahn Jung-hwan.

From World Soccer magazine.


 
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