Korea’s World Cup team has a striking problem

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Korea’s World Cup team has a striking problem

The bad news is that South Korea’s national soccer team will be without striker Lee Dong-gook at this year’s World Cup in Germany. The good news is that this is not a new problem. The team has always looked for a striker, even with Lee in the lineup.
The South Korean team has never had such a player on whom it could depend in any situation. This team’s success has always depended on its level of teamwork, rather than the performance of a lone can-do-it-all type of striker.
There is no player of the likes of Thierry Henry or Van Nisterlrooy who are almost guaranteed to score one goal every two games.
During the 2002 World Cup, South Korea’s striker was not a big goal scorer. Seven different players scored South Korea’s eight goals during the World Cup, with Ahn Jung-hwan the only player scoring twice.
With Lee out of the lineup, the question is who will get the job. There are players such as Ahn Jung-hwan, who plays for MSV Duisburg in the German Bundesliga, or Seol Ki-hyeon, of the Wolverhampton Wanderers of the English Premier League.
The Korea Football Association has said it will recommend Woo Seong-yong, who has scored seven goals so far in the domestic K-League for Seongnam Ilhwa, to skipper Dick Advocaat as a possible replacement for Lee. There is also talk that Cho Jae-jin, of the Japanese professional league’s Shimizu S-Pulse, has a shot. Cho has five goals this season under his belt, while Ahn and Seol have struggled to score.
Park Chu-young, who has been hailed as the new wunderkind of Korean soccer, has also been given consideration. With plenty of talent at the left wing forward available, his move to the center forward position may make sense because he plays that position with his current team, FC Seoul. Park’s abilities to dribble and to create space are quite good, but his lack of experience with international defenses would make the move of putting him at striker risky.
He has yet to develop the physical playing style and power to go to stand on his own in a foreign league.
None of the four above-mentioned players managed to score a goal over the weekend, despite Advocaat and his assistants flying to Europe and watching their games closely.
There is plenty of optimism that Park could handle the job given his talent and potential, while Woo’s performance in the domestic league seems to justify his call for the job.
The same could be said for Cho, but I think it’s too early to make that judgment. Park has the talent, but he is not physical enough to withstand the tight coverage by defenders.
Woo and Cho remind me of Choi Yong-soo, who was a scoring machine in the Japanese professional league but failed to score a single goal at the World Cup. Playing at the World Cup level means that players with exposure abroad have the advantage in terms of what to expect.
While fresh blood is certainly needed, having World Cup experience should not be overlooked, especially at a position that demands scoring talent as well as the skill to create opportunities for others.

by Brian Lee
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