KOREA EYES PLAYOFF SPOT

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KOREA EYES PLAYOFF SPOT

Korea meets Kuwait tonight in the Chinese city of Jinan for the final game of the 2004 Asian Cup’s group stage.
Korea has a less-than-inspiring record of four losses, one win and a tie in five previous meetings with the Kuwaiti national side. The two teams met in the group stage of the 2000 Asian Cup in Lebanon, with Korea on the wrong end of a 1-0 decision.
Tonight’s game is at 8 p.m. Korean time, with the top spot in Group B on the line. The top two teams in the group advance to the quarterfinals. Korea and Jordan both have one draw and one win for four points each. They’ve each scored two goals and conceded none. Kuwait has three points and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) zero.
Jordan is also in action tonight against the U.A.E., and possible scenarios for the Group B final standings are headache-inducing.
If Korea and Jordan both win their games, the team that wins by a larger margin will top the group; Korea is guaranteed at least second place.
A draw will get Korea into the quarterfinals no matter what Jordan does, while a loss would eliminate Korea from the tournament ― but not if Jordan manages to lose to the U.A.E .by a larger margin.
There is even the possibility, if Korea and Jordan both win or lose by the exact same score, that they would have to draw lots to determine who is placed higher in the group.
As for the actual action on the field, Korea finally looks ready to field a full-strength lineup.
PSV Eindhoven midfielder Park Ji-seung was injured before the tournament and did not practice with the rest of the team. He came on in the second half of Korea’s 2-0 win over the U.A.E. on Friday and looked strong, contributing to the offense.
Defender Choi Jin-cheol will be back after being suspended from Friday’s game after receiving a red card for grabbing an opposing player’s leg in the game against Jordan, which ended in a 0-0 draw.
Coach Johannes Bonfrere said he hoped his team could top the group. The second-place team will likely have to face Japan in the quarterfinals.


by Chang Hye-soo

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