Posted by: MOIST | June 10, 2010

South Korea: The Preview

South Korean football seems to be going through something of a purple patch right now both at home and abroad. Pohang Steelers are the current champions of Asia and this year’s competition sees all four Korean teams, Seongnam Ilhwa, Suwon Samsung, Jeonbuk Hyundai and Pohang, in the quarter finals. With only Seongnam challenging for top spot in the K-League at around the halfway stage does this highlight the strength in depth of Korean football?

And it’s not just in Asia that Korean football is sparkling. Premier League fans are more than familiar Man Utd’s Park Ji-Sung, who has proved he is much more than just a marketing tool, and Bolton’s new kid on the block Lee Chung-Yong who won the Bolton Player of the Year award after a memorable first season in England. Beyond Albion’s sainted borders striker Park Chu-Young has had a wonderful debut season with Monaco, midfielder Ki Sung-Yong is starting to find his feet at Celtic, right back Cha Du-Ri continues to ply his trade in the Bundesliga, defensive midfielder Kim Nam-Il has turfed up in Russia and former PSV and Spurs left back Lee Young-Pyo is earning a lucrative pay day in Saudi Arabia.

So, a nice mix of youth and experience that seemingly bodes well for the Taeguk Warriors but will 2010 be a glorious through back to Guus Hiddink’s memorable campaign in 2002 or will it being back nightmares of a disappointing 2-0 loss to Switzerland that saw them dumped out in 2006?

It’s difficult to envisage a semi-final run a la 2002. Back then all the cards stacked in Korea’s favour. Home advantage, a few dubious refereeing decisions, Christian Vieri’s inability to finish and, according to a former co-worker, the unusual structure of Korean chants that are difficult for western ears to accept. So, unless the South Africans clap in a bizarre way it looks like a semi-final is out. This year’s squad, though, does look better equipped than the class of 2006 who were desperately unlucky to miss out on a second round berth so qualification from the group stage is well with reach.

All three of the other teams in the group will struggle with Korea going forward. They have pace, stamina and good close skills and can easily make lumbering centre backs look like buffoons. However, the flip side to that is that they aren’t exactly the biggest side in the world. If they are reduced to humping long balls forward they are done for and big, powerful strikers will cause havoc at the back. South Korea’s biggest weakness is probably its centre backs, and it has been since Hong Myong-Bo hung up his boots, so getting stuck into them should bring dividends. A narrow 1-0 loss to Spain in a warm-up would suggest they can cope with pace and skill but they haven’t met Giorgio Samaras yet. What? Oh…


1. Lee Woon-Jae (Suwon Bluewings) – A veteran campaigner who is now into his fourth World Cup. More impressively than that, though, in 2007 he was banned from international football by the Korean Football Association for a year and ordered to do 80 hours of community service after being caught drinking and cavorting in a Jakarta brothel the day before a 2-1 loss to Bahrain. He’s also a devout Christian. Yup, sounds like it.

18. Jung Song-Ryong (Seongnam Ilhwa) – Has kept 9 clean sheets in his 14 caps and will battle with Lee Woon-Jae to be Korea’s number one. Was impressive in the 1-0 loss to Spain and is a big, tall presence in the box.

21. Kim Young-Kwan (Ulsan Hyundai) – Number one for top of the table Ulsan but unlikely to get a start for Korea until Lee Woon-Jae a) retires or b) finds another brothel.


2. Oh Beom-Sok (Ulsan Hyundai) – Should start at right back ahead of Cha Du-Ri. Was briefly in Japan and also spent time playing in Russia where he wasn’t paid. A lot of English teachers in Korea probably know how he feels.

3. Kim Hyung-Il (Pohang Steelers) – An inexperienced centre back who ought to mark out his spot on the bench right now. In a position that Korea are struggling at Kim doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence.

4. Cho Yong-Hyung (Jeju United) – A likely starter at the heart of the defence despite his lack of inches. Still, Cannavaro lifted the World Cup and he’s practically a midget.

12. Lee Young-Pyo (Al-Hilal, Saudia Arabia) – Once described as the best left back in Holland by Martin Jol, Lee shot to fame in 2002 and went on to play for PSV with Hiddink and then Spurs and Borussia Dortmund. A talented full back, great at getting forward who is probably just on the wane. Expect his to provide cover for Kim Dong-Jin.

14. Lee Jung-Soo (Kashima Antlers, Japan) – 6 foot centre back who has spent the last two years in Japan. Was signed this year by title winners Kashima Antlers but hasn’t figured as much as he would have hoped. Will provide adequate cover for Cho and Kang if not selected.

15. Kim Dong-Jin (Ulsan Hyundai) -Highly capped left back who spent 3 years with Zenit St Petersburg where he won the league, the UEFA Cup and got to see Arshavin’s rosey red cheeks up close and personal.

22. Cha Du-Ri (Freiburg, Germany) – Despite being DR Cha he is not a doctor. Son of Korean legend Cha Bum-Kun he started his Korea and a winger/striker but has gradually been going backwards. Played in 2002 but missed out in 2006 and will probably only be a sub this year. Has spent his whole career in Germany so probably likes sausages.

23. Kang Min-Soo (Suwon Bluewings) – Big centre back who is in the running to start. Personally I’d start him and Lee Jung-Soo but what do I know? I think you’ve all guessed, nothing.


5. Kim Nam-Il (Tom Tomsk, Russia) – Had a whole syndrome named after him due to his rise to fame in 2002 and popularity amongst the ladies of the peninsula. Moved to the Netherlands in what looked like a great move but returned home amongst rumours that he was homesick. Seems to have got over that as he’s spent the last couple of seasons in Japan and now Russia. They must have good kimchi.

6. Kim Bo-Kyung (Oita Trinita, Japan) – Inexperienced midfielder who, like Park Ji-Sung, has never played in the K-League. In fact he’s barely played anywhere at all with only 16 senior appearances for club and country to his name.

7. Park Ji-Sung (Manchester United, England) – Captain Fantastic and the player Korea need to perform. Need I say more?

8. Kim Jung-Woo (Gwangju Sangmu) – The solid midfielder has joined the Gwangju based army team as he serves his compulsory military service. He’s probably hoping that Korea will win the whole thing and they’ll all be let off being shot at like the 2002 squad. As former captain of Seongnam he is a likely starter alongside Kim Nam-Il in the midfield. Had an unsuiccessful trial with Wigan in 2008. Lucky git.

13. Kim Jae-Sung (Pohang Steelers) – Not overly exeperienced internationally but was influential in the 2010 East Asia Championship win over Japan. Shouldn’t start but will offer quality off the bench.

16. Ki Sung-Yong (Celtic, Scotland) – Again a player who isn’t likely to start but is both one for the future and a good player to have on the bench. Needs to get more games under his belt with Celtic but has the potential to work some magic against tired legs.

17. Lee Chung-Yong (Bolton Wanderers, England) – Has had an outstanding 2009/10 with Bolton and is a guaranteed starter. If he and Park Ji-Sung can link fluently with Park Chu-Young then Maradona might be in need of a cocaine hit before he imagined.


9. Ahn Jung-Hwan (Dalian Shide, China) – The David Beckham of Asia who out Beckhams David Beckham. Darling of the 2002 World Cup due to his golden goal against Italy but mostly due to his beautiful, flowing hair. Married to a former Miss Korea one can only hope he is scoring more at home than he has on the field in recent years. A Yokohama F-Marinos legend which means I love him unconditionally even after starring in the most homo-erotic advert of all time for face cream. Sadly I can’t find it on youtube but trust me it was a thing of beauty. At 34 and playing in China he is a shock call-up but he’s so lovely you can’t stay mad at him.

10. Park Chu-Young (Monaco, France) – The little playmaker who sits in behind the front man. He’ll need to tick if Korea want to progress and coming off the back of a good season in France he may well just do that. Definitely one to watch this year.

11. Lee Seung-Yeoul (FC Seoul) – Young and inexperienced but a player of definite quality. Shouldn’t start but if Lee Dong-Gook gets his customary leg knack then he will be the man they turn to.

19. Yeom Ki-Hun (Suwon Bluewings) – A tricky winger who had an unsuccessful trial at WBA. Can provide width down the left and will weigh in with the odd goal.

20. Lee Dong-Gook (Jeonbuk Motors) – The Lion King has had his fair share of heartbreak when it comes to the World Cup. Dropped by Hiddink in 2002 and then suffered World Cup Ending knee knack before 2006 he is likely to start up front in 2010. Had a spell at Middlesborough but wisely left. Was banned for a year with Lee Woon-Jae after the brothel incident and is another player married to a former Miss Korea. Quality WAG action all round.

Manager: Huh Jung-Moo – Has the highest winning rate of any Korean coach since 2003 and is quietly confident that his team will perform well this year. Is back for his third spell in charge and has a good squad at his disposal. Played in the 1986 World Cup where he scored against Italy and kicked Maradona. Sounds like a top bloke.

Predictions: Possibly the easiest group of all three with Argentina, Greece and Nigeria. With Greece up first it is more than possible that Korea can nick a win. Even if they then lose to Argentina they might well be able to qualify with a draw against Nigeria. Coming second in the group would probably mean a second round game against France or Uruguay so I reckon the Red Devils will go out in the second round. A 2-0 win against Greece, lose 2-1 to Argentina thanks to Messi magic and then a hard fought 1-0 win over Nigeria sees them through in second. Think I’m wrong then get on Korea at 250/1.


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