National team aims for 1st Asian Cup in 51 years

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National team aims for 1st Asian Cup in 51 years

Everything seems to be running smoothly on Jeju Island as the national football team guns for its first Asian Cup title in 51 years in Qatar next month.

But the pressure is on the national team to win its first Asian Cup because Park Ji-sung, Korea’s main international football star, announced on Thursday his intent to retire from international play after the tournament.

“It’s tough to see Ji-sung leave the national team, but we need to respect his decision,” said national teammate Yeom Ki-hun. “This could be his last international tourney. We want to see him go out a winner.”

But to win this year, national team manager Cho Kwang-rae will have to make changes on defense. With domestic and J-League players partaking in the Seogwipo camp since Dec. 13, Cho has switched back to a four-defender formation after promising to use three defenders when he took the reins of the team in June.

In three international friendlies against Nigeria, Iran and Japan, Cho employed a three-defender formation, but his players failed to adapt. With most teams at the upcoming Asian Cup using one forward, Cho is looking to make the switch.

Lee Yong-rae of the Suwon Bluewings and Cho Young-cheol of Albirex Niigata have emerged as favorites to start at fullback. Overseas-based players such as Park Ji-sung, Lee Chung-yong and Ki Sung-yueng have been playing well as of late. Park, captain of the national team, has scored six goals and five assists in league and cup matches this season for Manchester United.

By Kim Jong-ryok, Jason Kim []
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