I’ve been waiting all week to write this preview – absolutely can’t wait! Not! This preview really has been a struggle.
• Nickname: Taeguk Warriors
• Colors: Red and white
• FIFA Ranking: 47
• How They Got Here: Went undefeated in the semi-finals and finals of Asian qualifying.
• World Cup Pedigree: 8 World Cups (including every one since ’86); finished fourth in 2002 (when they were co-hosts).
The glory days of ’02 seem to have passed by with little noise. The squad looks decidedly weak in key areas. They lack the quality European footballers that most other sides have a smattering of at the very least. The South Koreans have a reputation as hard working, supremely fit and industrious, but they’ll be undone by a tad of physicality. They also have plenty of pace at their disposal and will fancy their chances against the Greeks and try to snatch draws against the other two fancied sides. The nation is completely football mad and a sweeping wave of euphoria could help them. They’ll be desperate to supersede whatever their Northern partners achieve.
I’m not gonna lie here – I don’t have a clue about this bloke. But not to worry, I’ve done a little research. Apparently he used to play for PSV in the Netherlands, becoming one of the first major exports from the far East. They’ll probably be dreaming of wonder boss Guss Hiddink making a dramatic return to the helm – and maybe this will be their best chance.
Park has become a mainstay at Man United and is regularly used in the big games by Sir Alex. He’s a likeable fellow – typically Asian – polite, small, crafty and always one to keep his emotions in check. The fact that he plays for the Reds and comes from the part of the world that offers the biggest consumer market on the planet, makes his shirt one of the most widely sold of any player. He is unspectacular and incredibly efficient, which fits the mould of the archetypal South Korean. (I apologize in advance for the horrible music. The video is quality though.)
Park Chu-Young (forward, AS Monaco) is renowned as a free-kick specialist and this will be one of their main sources of goals. He’s known to hit them with his right or left. He isn’t just in the side for dead balls, either, he’s one of the fastest players at the tournament. A true speedy gonzalo. Lee Young-Pyo (left back, Al-Hilal [Saudi Arabia]) has had stints at Tottenham and (Korean favourite) PSV and his move to the Arabs must be for a final big payout. He’s a true veteran and is renowned for – you guessed it- his pace. He could trouble the Argentinians on the counter or with wide sweeping runs. Or maybe not… Lee Woon-Jae (goalkeeper, Suwon Bluewings) It’s worth mentioning this guy – he’s participating at an incredible 5th World Cup. He must be bored of it by now…
GET YOURSELF LABELLED AS “THE HOTTEST PROPERTY”
Surrounding Park Ji-Sung in the midfield will be a duo of very talented British-based midfielders, Ki Sung-Yueng and Lee Chung-Yong. These guys look to have the goods, particularly Chung-Yong who seems a talented poacher. He was signed out of absolutely nowhere by Bolton and Megson, and featured in yours truly’s fantasy team for periods of the EPL. Sung-Yueng has been dubbed “The Korean Gerrard” and plays for Celtic. Unfortunately, the Korean Gerrard is not really of a similar ilk. In Korea, these two players are dubbed the “double dragon” and the pressure on their shoulders at this tournament and into the future is nothing short of immense.
THE LIKELY VILLAIN
Unsure who to pick, the only real dirt I could find on the squad centred around this guy. In 2006, he allegedly requested the authorities to drop all Buddhist players in favour of Christians. Sounds like North Korea to be honest.
The team will play a tight 4-3-3 that isn’t as attacking as it sounds. they focus on possession football looking to constantly pass and move and pass and move. It won’t be like Barcelona possession football, but it does the job.
IT’S SORTA LIKE…
“I Am Legend”
Park Ji-Sung, like Will Smith, is the only big-name player in this production. If you’d like to make a joke about Argentina and zombies, the floor is all yours.
The South Korean national anthem, “Aegukka (Patriotic Song),” was sung to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne” until 1937 when it received it’s own original score.
THE FAIRYTALE SCRIPT
There are a few options here: A match up with North Korea would simply be too much to handle for many Koreans and fortunately for them, the chances of this happening are negligible at best. The most popular player in Europe/Latin America/Western World in Lionel Messi will hopefully swap shirts with the pride and joy of the East in Park Ji-Sung when the teams face off on June 17. Rest assure, there will be more than a few flashbulbs exploding. This will be a true fairytale moment.
The Koreans will fancy there chances to get out of the group. They have been granted a dream group. They won’t have to worry about too much physicality (all these teams seem to have been lumped into group D) and will favour their fitness against the likes of Nigeria, Greece and Argentina. You just never know with this type of team. If their passing is really “on” then they could control the ball for long periods against better sides. They’ll trouble others with their exceptional pace out wide and could be a surprise package in 2010. However, after their run in 2002, maybe it’s someone else’s turn to make a good run – maybe Australia?
Decent quality midfield + unprecedented home support + plenty of speed + relatively easy group – untested against quality opposition – lacks a real game breaker = Will probably finish with one win, one draw and one loss – it’ll come down to goal difference in this group and maybe the Africans (at home) will get the nod.