Korean soccer faces familiar foe

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Korean soccer faces familiar foe

As Korea’s Olympic soccer team prepares to face off against Paraguay tomorrow in the nation’s first Olympic quarterfinal match, skipper Kim Ho-gon has been waxing philosophic, especially on the words of Sun Tzu: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”
The South Koreans have a tendency to struggle against unfamiliar teams, as was the case with Mali. But Korea’s and Paraguay’s paths have crossed before.
With different rosters, the two countries met at the Toyota Cup in January, where Korea blanked its Latin American opponent, 5-0.
The two faced off again last month in an exhibition game, which the teams fought to a 1-1 draw. Although the South Koreans had expected to meet Italy or Ghana in the quarterfinals, the team is relieved to be facing a foe they are familiar with.
It would be a mistake, however, not to take Paraguay seriously. When Paraguay powers on all cylinders, they are capable of defeating the best, as they’ve already proven.
In a stunner at the Copa America, they took down powerhouse Brazil, 2-1, while shorthanded.
They humbled the Brazilians again during their last game in the Olympic qualifiers. At Athens, a 4-3 win against Japan and a stunning 1-0 victory over Italy should be warning enough for the Koreans. Paraguay’s only loss went to Ghana, a team that features 14 players based overseas and which has been regarded as a medal contender.
Unlike the South Koreans, who are still searching for a legitimate striker, Paraguay’s Jose Cardoso, who joined the team as a wild card at age 30, has seen it all playing with European leagues. Cardoso, who scored two goals against Japan, will give the Koreans trouble if they lose sight of him.
Anchoring the backfield will be Carlos Gamarra, another seasoned player with two World Cups under him. Not only does Gamarra boast superb tackling skills, but he’s quick at passing intercepted balls for a lightning counterattack and may also join the attack on set plays. He scored one goal against Ghana.
Despite being known as a defensive team, Paraguay has solid striking ability, and with a sure foot in place it won’t make many mistakes. By far, Korea’s game against Paraguay could be tougher than many anticipate.


by Brian Lee

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