Thursday, June 03, 2010

2010 FIFA World Cup: South Korea

We preview the 2010 FIFA World Cup, set for June 11-July 11 in South Africa.

Appearance: Eighth overall, seventh consecutive
Last time there: 2006, exited in first round
Best performance: Semifinals (2002)

Despite a tough qualifying draw, South Korea comes into this tournament with the confidence that comes with knowing they are capable of advancing.

Their run to the semifinals in 2002 was certainly fueled by playing at home, but you don't just advance to the World Cup semifinals because you're in your home country. If so, that 1994 Team USA squad would have managed.

The eighth finals for this nation -- a record for Asian countries -- could prove quite fruitful, but only if South Korea finds a way to involve their formidable midfield consistently.

The midfield is where their best players roam. Manchester United's Park Ji-Sung can score, but his dazzling playmaking ability is what has made him famous. Ki Sung-Yeung was the 2009 Asian Young Player of the Year. If that's not enough, youngster Lee Chung-Yong is deadly off the wings, and his crosses will create problems for opponents.

The midfielders will set up striker Park Chu-Young, who is probably the most important offensive player for South Korea. He's a goal-scorer, and he's a real threat off set pieces.

Veteran goalkeeper Lee Woon-Jae is nicknamed "Spiderhands," and he brings plenty of experience to the defense, as this is his fourth World Cup.

The inability of South Korea to put away lesser opponents shouldn't be a huge detriment in group play, as they'll be underdogs, in all likelihood, in at least two of their three matches. If they can continue to play at top form against strong opposition, they'll do just fine and give themselves a chance to advance.

June 12 vs. Greece (Port Elizabeth)
June 17 vs. Argentina (Johannesburg -- Soccer City)
June 22 vs. Nigeria (Durban)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think South Korea is playing its best soccer heading into the World Cup, which not many teams can say. Of course they're still not a top tier team, but no other team in their group stands out either, and, yes, I know Argentina is in their group. In fact, I think S. Korea will upset Argentina, which squeaked into the World Cup.