In my last post, I did say I was going to cover South Korea's roster selection in this entry, but the final 23 members won't be named until May 31st. So that will have to wait. Hey, listen... I know what I said! Now sit down!!!
First thing's first:
For those who have been asking, "Why aren't you writing about how scared you are to face Argentina, Greece and Nigeria, Danny Wanny?" Well, that is coming up in my next post. And just for the record, I'm not wetting my pants. ...OK, maybe a little, but it's a condition called... umm, nevermind. I am well-aware of who Korea is facing, and I know it won't be an easy task. But I will tell you in detail why I am more than hopeful. Stay tuned.
I complained about it in my previous post, but let me complain some more. I CANNOT believe South Korea's FIFA ranking DID NOT GO UP ONE SPOT for the month of June, even after convincingly beating two higher-ranked teams, Ecuador and Japan in May. It stayed at 47, which is completely ludicrous, and it's a clear indication that something needs to be done to the ranking system/formula. We have seen again and again that FIFA has no common sense, and has no intention of improving its faulty self. (Another example: Why not implement a goal-line video review? With today's technology, it won't even take 30 seconds to confirm such crucial decisions!)
Oh well... Hopefully this low rank will cause the opponents to underestimate us.
Sure, South Korea's 2-nil win over Japan felt good and all, but did this friendly really have to come against Japan? Many folks agree with me that it was a HORRIBLE idea for both sides. The football rivalry between the two has existed even before both countries knew what football was. They have always played their hearts out in these meetings, not to mention, they get extremely physical, which often leads to injuries. I guess you risk that aspect in any football game, but THE WORLD CUP IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER!!! I mean, thank god no one got hurt, but ...what if someone did?
Before the 98 World Cup, Korea made the mistake of facing another "local", China, in which Korea's then-best striker Hwang Sung-Hong got hurt severely, resulting in him missing the World Cup entirely. You have to remember - the talent pool in Korea does not run that deep. If something happens to a starter on the Brazilian/Argentine/German national team, there are still 5 or more other world-class footballers waiting on deck (sure, they may not be as good as the original starter - but you get the point). That is NOT the case for Korea. If something happens to one of the key players like Park Ji-Sung (Man U), Park Chu-Young (AS Monaco) or Lee Chung-Yong (Bolton), we are scr..., I mean, our chances of being competitive decreases by a lot.
Another thing: Pre-World Cup friendlies are generally strategically planned, so that one would play against someone stylistically similar, often someone geographically close to the group stage opponent; Greece played North Korea to prepare for South Korea, United States played Czech Republic to prepare for Slovania, Mexico played Netherlands to prepare for France, and France played Costa Rica to prepare for Mexico... blah blah blah. Well, Korea's opponents are Greece, Argentina and Nigeria - none of which Japan resembles.
Perhaps I can think of three positive things to come out of this Japan game - 1. Gel time for the players, 2. Assessing talent/right chemistry on the pitch, and 3. Gain of confidence. But we could have gotten those things against a lower-risk neighbor, such as Taiwan, Hong Kong or Mongolia (OK, maybe those wouldn't be beneficial, either). ...Plus, what if we had a bad game and lost? That would have killed our confidence. Look, now Japan goes into the rest of preparation feeling cruddy about themselves.
But hey, what do I know? I'm just a dude.
OK, enough of my ranting. Here are some updates on Team South Korea:
Training and Friendlies in Austria:
The South Korean squad, like some other nations will be spending the remainder of their time in Austria before leaving for South Africa. Why Austria?
1. Get used to the time zone - it has the same time zone as South Africa. They have more than 2 weeks to adjust.
2. They will be setting up camp in Neustift in the Alps (1,040m), where they can prepare for the high altitude environment. It remains to be seen how well and long they can run against Argentina (a difficult task to begin with, nonetheless) in Johannesburg, which is more than 700 meters higher than Neustift at 1,753m. Luckily, that is the only high altitude group match.
S. Korea has two remaining friendlies in Austria before the big event - against Belarus (5/30 in Kufstein) and Spain (6/3 in Innsbruck).
Facing Spain makes sense, since they have more things in common with Argentina than just "Habla Espanol" and "Muy Bien". There's a good number of La Liga-based Argentines, and every single player on both sides are technically gifted. However, I think we could have chosen a better opponent than Belarus - I don't know much about them, or their style (I once went to a pub to watch England vs Croatia in a Euro Qualifier, and I saw some country score on Belarus on another TV screen behind the bartender who didn't know how to properly pour a pint of Guinness. Also, I'm Facebook friends with a girl who was born in Belarus - That's the extent of my knowledge on Belarus), and they're nowhere close to Greece - Wouldn't it have made more sense to have booked a date with Turkey, Bulgaria, or Cyprus?
Then again, what do I know? I'm just a dude.
Player Spotlight: Lee Chung-Yong, MNFP (My New Favorite Player)
There are guys you see in action for the first time, that make you go, "Wow, this guy is my new favorite player!" This happened with Steven Gerrard, Franck Ribery, Kevin Durant, Chris Webber, and Conan O'Brien (I didn't say this was restricted to just football). Well, the same happened with Lee Chung-Yong for me. I knew he was good from his days with Seoul FC, and from appearances on the national team, but his Premiership debut goal with Bolton was so AWESOME, he instantly became MNFP.
The thing that makes him stand out (...well, besides the fact that he's an Asian dude playing in England) is his touch. He moves so fast, does so much with the ball, yet has total control of the rock - he is basically an Asian guy who thinks he is Brazilian. If there is one word to describe Lee, it is "Sneaky". It is so hard to read his next move; you don't know if he is going left, right, forward or backward, or going to feed the ball to his on-rushing teammate... He will either sneak past you, or sneak the ball past you.
Just watch this compilation of his highlights! (The stuff he does gets more ridiculous toward the end.)
It's a no-brainer that he is a Bolton-fan favourite (There, I wrote that the English-spelling). There is a childlike joy in his movement, and brings back that feeling - why you first loved football so much in the first place.
Although he is not perfect (we have seen the demanding EPL schedule take toll on his body), his presence on the pitch alone will put his opponents on high alert. If you take your eyes off him for a moment, you will regret it later.
After recording 5 goals and 8 assists (Any Bolton supporter will attest that these numbers don't do justice to the extent of his contribution), and playing a major role in helping Wanderers stay in the top-flight, there are now rumours that Liverpool is interested in snatching up the midfielder. I tend to think Arsenal would be a better fit (this is coming from a loyal Tottenham fan) with their give-and-go/pass-happy style... Whatever the case, imagine if he actually played for a top 5 team with more support/talent around him, instead of on a struggling side... Hey, I do like smaller clubs like Bolton - I'm just saying...
Then again, what do I know? I'm just a dude...
This much is certain: There has never been anyone like Lee Chung-Yong for Korea (or Asia), and he will bring a new dimension to this World Cup team. Oh, and he will sure make South Korea so much more entertaining to watch this summer!
Coming up next:
- Roster Selection (For realz!)
- Greece, Argentina and NIgeria, and MY PREDICTIONS Player Spotlight: Park Chu-Young
I enjoy reading your forum, keep them coming!
I would like to hear your thoughts on Ki Sung Yueng, how we can contribute to the national team and his recent performances.
Posted by Carter on 06/01/2010
The friendly against Belarus was horrible! We got to witness the exact form that will see South Korea bounced out in the group stages.
More of the "can't pass, shoot over the goal post" style of play is the recipe for disaster. In form and younger, Ahn Jung Hwan was a good player but if he comes onto the pitch, South Korea fans can pretty much say 'game over'.
How South Korea will win is precision passing, blinding speed and suffocating defense... which was the winning form in 2002 but wasn't seen in the 2006 World Cup.
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Daniel Cho is a contributing writer for ESPN Soccernet and covered South Korea during the 2006 World Cup. He is back for more, and hopes there will be better results to write about this time around. He is also a musician who has worked with Coldplay, Regina Spektor and Katy Perry.