Nat’l team gets ready for World Cup
Korea’s opposition is a top African team and it should give manager Huh Jung-moo and his coaching staff a good indication of how his team stacks up against world-class players.
Korea’s roster will be at full strength for the first time since the 1-0 loss to Serbia in London last November. Park Ji-sung (Manchester United), Lee Chung-yong (Bolton), Ki Sung-yeung (Celtic), Cha Du-ri (FC Freiburg) and other overseas-based players have been included in the roster. Forward Park Chu-young (AS Monaco) could not make the trip to London due to a hamstring injury.
“Up until now, our team has played many matches on our home field. They need to test themselves on unfavorable turf,” said Huh.
“When competing abroad in past World Cups, our players failed to live up to their full capabilities. I will be looking to see which players can display their full talent in unfamiliar surroundings.”
Park Ji-sung, the team’s captain, agreed. “We need to play against a talented team to find out what areas we need to improve. If we play well, it will be a confidence-booster for our younger players,” he said.
Ranked 22nd in the world by the International Federation of Football, known as FIFA, Ivory Coast is far ahead of Korea’s 49th place. Despite losing in the quarterfinals to Algeria 3-2 at the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, Les Elephants boast a lineup of explosive players with plenty of experience in Europe’s top leagues.
Leading the squad is forward Didier Drogba, who has 19 goals in 23 appearances for Chelsea this season. Other notable names include Salomon Kalou of Chelsea, Yaya Toure of Barcelona, Didier Zokora of Sevilla, Kolo Toure of Manchester City and Emmanuel Eboure of Arsenal.
In addition, the Associated Press reported yesterday that Guus Hiddink, who has signed on to manage Turkey starting in August, will manage Ivory Coast in the World Cup, upgrading the team’s chances of going the distance in South Africa this June.
Like Korea’s World Cup group opponents Nigeria, Ivory Coast boasts a potent offense with plenty of speed at all key positions. Korea will have to focus on managing the match well and sealing the opposing offense.
“Ivory Coast has a tendency to lose focus toward the late phases of matches. If we defend well in the first half, we’ll have a chance to attack during the second half,” said Huh.
The biggest area of concern for Huh is the defense. After showing a lack of cohesion in the East Asian Football Championships last month, Huh will rely on veterans Cha and Lee Young-pyo along with Oh Beom-seok, Lee Jung-soo and Cho Yong-hyung.
“If we prepare well and give our opponents a difficult time, we have a good shot,” said Cha.
Korea’s next friendly match will take place against Ecuador on May 16.
By Jang Chi-hyeok, Jason Kim [firstname.lastname@example.org]