Thursday, June 12, 2008

Korea Unconvincing But Moving Along

Korea Unconvincing But Moving Along.
Good performances during difficult World Cup qualification campaigns are like empty seats in the Seoul subway during rush hour. The extra comfort gives you a nice warm fuzzy feeling but the important thing is that you get where you want to go to.

That seems to be happening for South Korea who bounced back from a disappointing 2-2 draw in their 2010 World Cup qualifier in Seoul on May 31 to win 1-0 in Amman seven days later. It wasn’t a great performance at the King Abdullah Stadium but the three points puts the Taeguk Warriors on the brink of a place in the final round of qualification.

With two group games to come, Korea is in first place with eight points, the same as North Korea. Jordan is in third with four points, three ahead of Central Asian no-hopers Turkmenistan. The top two from each group progresses. Korea needs two points from the final two games to do so and will need none if Jordan fails to win both remaining games.

Jordan is in action in Pyongyang on Saturday while South Korea travels to Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. The environment in the reclusive Central Asian nation is not the easiest and it took a Herculean effort for players and officials to get the necessary visas. As Turkmenistan have yet to score in four games so far, the necessary three points should be collected a little easier, meaning that when the two Koreas meet in Seoul on June 22, there will be little to play for.

There is still much to do however. The defence held firm against Jordan but that, at times, was due more to luck than anything else. Hasan Abdel-Fattah, who scored both Jordan’s goals in Seoul, will never know how he managed to head the ball against the Korean post before half-time with the goal gaping.

The media has been less than impressed and has been quick to point out that Huh has done little to stiffen the backline as well as solve the team’s problems in front of goal. The former should prove to be a little easier than the latter. It would help however if the backline members enjoyed a consistent stretch of games together without being switched around or replaced.

“It was a precious three points for us,” Park Ji-sung said after the match, “but personally, I am not satisfied with the way I played. It is always tough to come to the Middle-East, the environment, the culture, the referees etc are different. Most teams find it tough.”

“Although we are confident for the Turkmenistan game after beating the team 4-0 in Seoul but we need to be careful and get the three points we need to secure our advancement.”

It will have to be done without Park whose water on the knee has rained on Korea’s parade. It is the same knee that underwent major surgery just over a year ago. Both player and doctor stressed that there was no pain –although Korean television showed Park limping – only a strange feeling.

Perhaps that is because Korea could be about to line-up without any of its English-based premier league stars. Lee Young-pyo and Seol Ki-hyeon both failed to play much in the second half of the English season for Spurs and Fulham respectively and both failed to impress in the red – if you can call it that- shirts of Korea. Kim Do-heon only just qualifies as a Premier leaguer but these days the talented West Brom man hardly ever makes it on to the pitch for either club or country.

Whoever plays, the three points are paramount. In World Cup qualification you don’t want to go into the final game needing something. Too many things can go wrong, so the game against Turkmenistan is a good opportunity. The venue in Central Asia may not be one to Korea’s liking but the opposition has yet to score in qualification and the team is nothing to be too worried about.

Coach Huh has many things to consider in his own team but for the moment what matters most is making sure that the South Korea’s is one of ten names that goes into the hat when the draw for the final round of qualification takes place.

Ouch!

Daejeon Citizen star Koh Jung-soo broke FC Seoul hearts and then something of his own after an over-elaborate celebration of a last-minute equaliser.

Please click to enlarge the photo which comes courtesy of Sports Chosun newspaper.

Koh Jung-soo injures himself after a last-minute goal for Daejeon - photo courtesy of Sports Chosun.
Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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