Cho looking for first win vs. Japan as coach

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Cho looking for first win vs. Japan as coach

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Korean national team players practice during a training session at Shirahatayama stadium in Sapporo, Japan, on Monday. [YONHAP]

Cho Kwang-rae has yet to beat Japan as the national team head coach, even though he did so plenty of times as a player back in the 1980s.

But while tonight’s Korea versus Japan match at the Sapporo Dome could be the chance for the 57-year-old to get his first win in three tries against the Samurai Blues since he became coach of the Taegeuk Warriors in July last year, it won’t be easy.

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박주영

Last October, Korea hosted Japan in a friendly and tied 0-0. In January, at the Asian Cup semifinals in Qatar, Korea was tied with Japan 2-2 through overtime, but lost the penalty shootout 3-0 and watched Japan reach the final.

Regardless, in this 75th overall meeting between the two rivals, Cho said he is hoping to win, even though he regards Japan’s play as “close to world-class.”

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“This Korea-Japan match is a competition between two football nations that share the same goal of playing world-class football,” Cho said at the Paju National Football Center on Sunday after finishing a training session. “I think Japanese football is close to world-class and can’t be ignored. We will prepare well and most importantly, present exciting football to fans.”

For many fans, the match will be an opportunity to get back at Japan for Korea’s Asian Cup defeat, but for Cho and the rest of the team, the match against Japan might have more meaning because it will be the team’s last test before September’s third round of regional qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup. Korea is in Group B along with the Middle Eastern trio of Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon.

“Since this is our last opportunity before the third round of qualifiers, I want every member to play their best,” Cho said on Monday, after his team traveled to Japan. “For now, every player should think they will start because starters [for the Japan game] will be determined by their performance and condition during practice.”

Since the Asian Cup ended, Cho has been working hard to fill the void left by two international retirees - midfielder Park Ji-sung and left back Lee Young-pyo. Throughout friendly matches against Turkey, Honduras, Serbia and Ghana, Cho has been searching for the right candidates to replace Park and Lee, but so far, no player has stepped up.

But even more urgent for Cho will be to find a replacement for injured right winger Lee Chung-yong.

Lee, who plays for English club Bolton Wanderers, suffered a double fracture on his right leg during a preseason match last weekend and is expected be out of action for nine months, meaning the 23-year-old will not be able to play in the World Cup regional qualifiers.

Cho was originally thinking about starting Hamburg SV attacker Son Heung-min as Lee’s replacement, but the 19-year-old wasn’t able to make it to Korea for prematch training because of a fever. Instead, Cho said he will test Wolfsburg midfielder Koo Ja-cheol as a right winger.

Koo usually plays center and has been tested on the left wing, but this will be the first time he will play on the right flank.

“During the German Bundesliga preseason, I played the flank many times,” Koo said. “I’m getting used to playing on the flanks and I’m confident that I can adjust to my new position.”

Cho said he would also test Nam Tae-hee or Kim Bo-kyung in the right wing position during the second half, but regardless of who will be on the right side, Cho said that players need to show good cooperation with other attackers like striker Park Chu-young and left winger Lee Keun-ho. Attacker Ji Dong-won, 20, who recently signed with English Premier League club Sunderland AFC, was originally included on the squad but officially pulled out last week after Cho accepted Sunderland’s request to keep Ji in England to adjust to his new club.

Cho will also have to find a good center back because Hong Jeong-ho, despite being cleared of match fixing, was not called up by the coach to go to Japan.

Cho said he will choose between two Ulsan Hyundai FC defenders - Lee Jae-sung and Kwak Tae-hwi - to pair up with Lee Jung-soo in the center of defense.

Kim Young-kwon was originally selected as partner with Lee Jung-soo, but was moved to his usual left back position to defend Japan’s leading midfielder Keisuke Honda.

Japan has called 14 overseas players for this match and has put together a solid side to face Korea. Cho said he is aware of Japan’s strong midfield, but can unlock and break their defense with fast passes.

“We can expect good results if we can cut [Japan’s] rhythm in the midfield,” Cho said. “We will play strong and aggressive football and collect a win.”

By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

박주영, 오늘 밤을 부탁해

7시30분 한·일 친선 축구
청용·흥민·동원 빠져 홀로 전방에
대표팀 소집일 앞서 훈련 자청

축구 대표팀의 공격진이 완전히 무너졌다. 단 한 명, 박주영(26·AS모나코·사진)만 남았다. 적진에서 홀로 맞서야 한다.

 10일 오후 7시30분 일본 홋카이도 삿포로돔에서 75번째 한·일전이 열린다. 맞수 일본은 기가 살아났다. 최근 12경기에서 8승4무다. 이번 한·일전을 앞두고 유럽파 주요 공격수가 총동원됐다. 지난 시즌 분데스리가 전반기 최우수 선수로 뽑힌 가가와 신지(22·도르트문트)와 러시아에서 뛰는 혼다 게이스케(25·CSKA모스크바)를 비롯해 오카자키 신지(25·슈투트가르트) 등이 한국의 골문을 노린다. 유럽에서 뛰는 선수만 14명이다. 일본 언론은 자국 축구대표팀의 별명인 ‘사무라이 블루’를 ‘사무라이 유럽’이라 부른다. 그리고 “일본 축구는 아시아를 넘어 축구의 본고장 유럽과 어깨를 나란히 했다”고 자평했다.

 한국은 주전 공격수들이 줄부상을 당했다. 이청용(23·볼턴)은 지난달 31일 경기 도중 다리가 부러졌다. 손흥민(19·함부르크)은 시즌 개막 직전 몸살로 독일에 주저앉았다. 지동원(20·선덜랜드)은 소속팀에서 힘겨운 주전경쟁을 하고 있어 이번 한·일전에 참가하지 않는다. 조광래 감독은 이근호(26·감바 오사카)를 왼쪽 윙으로 돌리고, 미드필더 구자철(22·볼프스부르크)를 오른쪽으로 끌어올리는 임시처방을 내놨다.


 최전방 공격수 중 홀로 남은 박주영은 자신과의 싸움 중이다. 박주영의 소속팀 AS모나코는 2부리그로 강등됐다. 박주영은 현재 다른 팀을 알아보는 중이지만 이적 마감시한(31일)이 얼마 남지 않은 지금까지도 새 팀을 구하지 못했다. 휴식기 동안 팀 훈련도 제대로 받지 못해 위기를 맞았다.

 박주영도 위기임을 안다. 그는 위기를 넘는 방법으로 한·일전을 택했다. 박주영은 2일 파주 축구국가대표 트레이닝센터(NFC)에 들어갔다. 조광래 A대표팀 감독이 예고한 국가대표팀 소집일은 7일이었다. 그는 국가대표 코칭스태프를 설득해 먼저 훈련을 받았다. 4일에는 자청해 유니버시아드에 출전하는 대학선발팀에 합류해 친선경기를 뛰었다.

 일본에서도 박주영의 눈빛은 변하지 않았다. 훈련에서 패스를 내주고 뒷공간으로 뛰어들어가는 몸놀림이 예사롭지 않았다. 조 감독은 일본의 약점을 발이 느린 세 명의 중앙수비로 꼽았다. 그래서 뒷공간을 노리는 패스에 집중하라고 지시했고, 이때 박주영의 역할이 가장 중요하다. 조 감독은 최근 대표팀 훈련 때마다 박주영을 보며 “옳지, 저래서 주영이를 써야 돼”라고 소리쳤다.

 박주영은 9일 열린 공식 기자회견에서 “한·일전, 특히 원정에서는 정신력이 가장 큰 영향을 준다”고 각오를 다졌다.
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