Fresh style pays off for Warriors in run at Cup

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Fresh style pays off for Warriors in run at Cup

During their historic World Cup run to the Round of 16 on foreign soil, the Taegeuk Warriors showcased an improved style of play that galvanized sports fans across Korea.

But the team also showed that it needs to find a legitimate goal-scoring forward and improve its defense if it wants to become a true contender.

Many former players, managers and observers have said they consider the current national football team the best to take the field for Korea to date. With some tweaks and changes, many also believe the club could make an even deeper run when the next World Cup rolls around if its core lineup and strategy remain intact. When team captain Park Ji-sung was asked during the tournament how his team could defeat its opponents, he often responded that the club would have to “show Korea’s unique style of play.” In the past, that typically involved strong physical conditioning and mental strength but little creativity on offense. This year’s team, however, was able to implement a transitional, offense-heavy game around the core of Park Ji-sung, Park Chu-young, Lee Chung-yong and Ki Sung-yueng.

In four games, Korea was able to score six goals, posting an average of 1.5 per match. That’s better than the 1.14 goals per game the 2002 squad averaged in seven World Cup games.

In addition, the current team’s set-piece plays were efficient and ranked among the best of the 32 nations in the tourney. Other than the game against Argentina, Korea was competitive against the likes of Greece, Nigeria and Uruguay.

“When looking back to past teams and making comparisons, the current squad played the best football,” said former national team forward and current Busan I’Park manager Hwang Sun-hong. “We made it to the semifinals in 2002, but the 2010 squad connected on more passes and created many more chances on offense.”

With support from manager Huh Jung-moo and team captain Park Ji-sung, players stressed time and again the need to enjoy the competition rather than obsess over the outcome of the games. The culmination of talent and a changed approach netted the team positive results - with the possibility for an even better outcome in the future.

In order for Korea to improve, the team will need to find a goal-scoring forward to complement Park Chu-young. Park, who plays professionally for AS Monaco, is the only forward on the national team with at least 10 goals in a European professional league.

The defense also lacked cohesiveness and made several glaring mistakes. “There is a need to develop defenders from an early age,” said Huh, referring to the lack of importance placed on defensive positions in Korea.

The national football team boarded a plane in Johannesburg, South Africa, last night and will arrive at Incheon International Airport at 5:50 p.m. today.


By Choi Won-chang, Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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