[EDITORIALS]Korean soccer surprises

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[EDITORIALS]Korean soccer surprises

Pele, the "emperor of soccer," once described Korean soccer as "scrambling for the ball without control." But the Korean national soccer team displayed such a fantastic set play against English footballers during a friendly match in Seogwipo on Tuesday that Korean soccer fans could not believe that they were really watching a Korean team. Its fast and powerful offense, the swift goal plays and the mid-range shots that rattled the other side and the persistent and daring defense showed that they were no longer playing "Korean soccer" as we have known it.

Of course, the game was a friendly match, and many of the star English players were replaced in the second half. Still, Korean soccer has changed to the extent that the British news media said that the English team was "taken by surprise." To say that the performance was the primary harvest of the coaching of Guus Hiddink, the head coach of the Korean team, would be no exaggeration.

The Dutch coach emphasized strength and speed and improved them to the level of European teams. Before he named his squad, he put many players in real games, regardless of their reputation or career records, to test them. Mr. Hiddink had all defenders and strikers play both defense and offense and trained all 23 players to play multiple positions.

Still, there are things to be improved, including the not-so-sophisticated plays, the clumsy ball control and the monotonous offensive routes. Tuesday's wonderful draw has raised the possibility and confidence that the Korean team will make it to the final 16. But the team should not be complacent.

In addition to the Korean players' good performance at the friendly match, spectators also showed a mature attitude in their cheering inside the stadium and refraining from driving to the match to prevent traffic congestion outside the arena. Koreans displayed their capability and confidence for successfully hosting the world's largest sports event.

When Mr. Hiddink announced his squad, he vowed to "surprise the world." His coaching has already half-surprised the world. We expect to see a continuing series of pleasant surprises inside and outside of Korea's World Cup stadiums.
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