3:30 p.m. kickoff for THE game

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3:30 p.m. kickoff for THE game

The first qualifier from Group D for the next stage of the World Cup finals will be determined Monday afternoon when the Koreans meet the Americans at the Daegu World Cup stadium at 3:30 p.m.

The widespread soccer fever has promoted the police to beef up security around the U.S.Embassy and the stadium in Daegu. Police said they feared that a Korean loss could result in violence against U.S. facilities and businesses in Korea. About 4,300 officers will be stationed in areas of Daegu where crowds of soccer fans will gather; in Seoul 6,000 police officers, ambulances and fire trucks will be positioned at Gwanghwamun, City Hall, Daehangno and the Korea World Trade Center, where fans are expected to congregate.

The Korean team left its camp in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang province Sunday and worked out at the Daegu stadium. The U.S. team left Seoul the same day.

Each team has won its opening match; the loser may still qualify for the round of 16, however, depending on the outcome of the remaining round-robin games.

Even fervent Korean soccer fans say the Americans will not be pushovers. Their surprising victory against Portugal, an early pick to contend for the championship, led to predictions from some pundits that Korea may well qualify for the next round, but perhaps not on Monday.

Many businesses will close their doors Monday or shorten their work hours. Companies that will stay open predict that many employees will call in sick.

Renault Samsung, Alcatel Korea, Yahoo Korea and Hyundai Heavy Industries will open Monday morning only. Asiana Airlines and LG Electronics will install large screens in their compounds for their workers.

"In the main office, it is unthinkable to adjust working hours to watch a national team's soccer match, but I believe it would boost morale and strengthen solidarity," said Lee Ho-gyu, CEO of BHP Korea, a real estate advisory firm.

Schools and private institutions will also suspend classes Monday. The Seoul Metropolitan Education Office reported that most high schools in Seoul will dismiss students early.

Coincidentally, the Korea-U.S. match falls on the 15th anniversary of the June 10 pro-democracy movement in Seoul, which helped trigger the change from authoritarian to democratic governments here. The plaza in front of the Seoul City Hall, where hundreds of thousands of demonstrators rallied with stones and Molotov cocktails against riot police in 1987 will be filled with soccer cheers Monday.

SK Telecom has installed three additional large-screen television display boards near the Plaza Hotel and the President Hotel, near City Hall.

The physical strength of the players may be the key factor in the game; the high temperature in Daegu on Monday is expected to be 31 degrees centigrades. The Korean team will be at full strength; both Hwang Sun-hong and Yoo Sang-chul, both injured in the game with Poland last Tuesday, have recovered.

by Chang Hye-soo

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