Indian Football Fans

Asian Cup preview: South Korea

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Asian Cup appearances: 11

Best result: Winners 1956, 1960

Coach: Cho Kwang-rae will have a hard act to follow in succeeding Huh Jung-moo who took the Koreans out of the group stage at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa for the first time on foreign soil. Cho was a successful player making 80 caps for the national side. He has proven his coaching ability winning the 2000 Korean title with the Anyang Cheetahs and taking Gyeongnam to the Korean Cup final. Cho wants to change the Korean team from a hard-working high energy side into a slick passing team reminiscent of Spain.

Key players: Park Ji-sung is in the form of his life for Manchester United. The Korea captain, talisman and hero made it clear he wants to go out as a winner, after announcing his intention to retire from international football after this tournament. The other European-based players are the standouts. Bolton Wanderers’ Lee Chung-yong and the duo from Celtic, Cha Du-ri and Ki Sung-yeung. Hamburg’s young prospect, Song Heung-min has also been named and is one for the future. Watch out for Yoon Bit-garam, another potential superstar, currently playing for Cho’s old club, Gyeongnam. 

Strengths: South Korea are always among the favourites at regional level, and rightly so. No Asian nation has qualified for more World Cups (8) or won more Asian Champions League titles at club level (9). So it’s a mystery as to why they haven’t won the title since 1960. Coach Cho has more reason than most to want to end the drought with the shock loss of 1980 to Kuwait still burning deep inside the former player.

Weaknesses: A bit like Australia most of South Korea’s big names won’t arrive in camp until late due to some increasingly bitter club versus country disputes. Celtic in particular aren’t happy at losing their two Koreans. Three build-up friendlies have produced mixed results. Park Chu-young has pulled out through injury - he is their main provider of goals - and it looks as though Park Ji-sung will fill the gap by playing up front. Will that, and a new formation featuring three at the back, throw the Koreans off their game?

Summary: Logic suggests South Korea will be challengers but is it Cho’s real priority or merely a stepping stone towards Brazil in 2014? The Taeguk Warriors earned a morale boosting win over bitter rivals Japan in the recent East Asian Championships, which will give them hope they can end their long drought.

Did you know ... The “Taeguk Warriors” nickname originates from the Taoist concept of yin and yang, represented by the red and blue colours on the national flag.

Prospects: Potential winners.