Tuesday, May 4, 2010

South Korea Start To Show Symptoms Of World Cup Fever

South Korea Start To Show Symptoms Of World Cup Fever.
The first frissons of fever could be felt last Friday - World Cup fever. The 2010 tournament is just six weeks away but outside the host nation of South Africa, the billions of fans of the global game just can’t quite seem to get into the swing of things. That is especially true in East Asia.

Just a week ago, former chief of the Japan Football Association Saburo Kawabuchi was giving his reasons why the Land of the Rising Sun has still not woken up to the 2010 World Cup. ”The reason there is no excitement is Japan hasn’t played well. It’s important the team shows some confidence in their final tuneup games,” the well-respected administrator told local media.

South Korea doesn’t have the same problem with regard to national team performances but the distance and the fact that - as they don’t have broadcasting rights to the tournament- television stations KBS and MBC are trying to pretend that it isn’t happening, have not yet injected much excitement into the Land of the Morning Calm.

That all changed on Friday when head coach Huh Jung-moo named a preliminary squad of 30. This isn’t, in itself, a huge deal as there is a big difference between 30 and the final number of 23 that will actually go to South Africa. Huh has the rest of May to weed out the unlucky seven.

Drama was in short supply as were shocks. All have appeared in the red shirt before, most of them a good number of times. All 23 players who were summoned to play against Ivory Coast in a March 3 warm-up in London, a game that went 2-0 to Huh’s men, are included again. The others are those returning from injury and/or bad form.

As you would expect so close to the big event, coach Huh was sounding bullish without going overboard.

"We do have our weaknesses,” Huh said in Seoul. “But in every game, my players are full of passion and have a fighter's spirit. Our determination to win, our desire for success and coherence as a team is second to none in the world. You can easily break a single branch, but when it's a bundle of ten, it's a different story."

“I selected the 30 players by comprehensively considering their personal skills, ability to understand tactics, and physical and mental conditions. They must exercise and play games with a sense of pride as representatives of South Korea from now on

The talking point perhaps was the exclusion of Seol Ki-hyeon. The veteran of 2002 and 2006 has not made the cut because he is still recovering from a knee operation and has not played for new club Pohang Steelers since returning from England in the winter.

"Seol hasn't been included because he hasn't played and hasn't trained,” said Huh. "Of course, it is regrettable for the players who haven't made the squad but those 30 players have the opportunity to play a big part for the national team."

There is still time for more injures. There are two games left in the K-League before the summer break and one in the European leagues. The domestic-based stars will get together on May 10 to start the first training camp. Then comes the first home game this year so far and the only one before the World Cup when Ecuador provides the opposition in a warm-up at Seoul World Cup stadium on May 16.

A full house is expected for that match, a one and only chance to see the boys and wish them luck before they head to Saitama and a May 24 test against fellow qualifiers Japan. The very next day comes a rather longer flight to Austria and another training camp. Two more games take place under the Alpine skies, the first against Belarus and the second against European champion Spain in Innsbruck on June 3.

Then it is down to the southern tip of Africa and Port Elizabeth and the Nelson Mandela Stadium where Greece will be waiting on June 12.

Goalkeepers:

Kim Young-Kwang (Ulsan) Lee Woon-Jae (Suwon) Jung Sung-Ryong (Seongnam)

Defenders: Kang Min-Soo (Suwon) Kwak Tae-Hwi (Kyoto, Japan) Kim Dong-Jin (Ulsan) Kim Hyung-Il (Pohang) Oh Beom-Seok (Ulsan) Lee Young-Pyo (Al Hilal, Saudi Arabia) Lee Jung-Soo (Kashima, Japan)
Hwang Jae-Won (Pohang) Cho Won-Hee (Wigan, England - loaned to Suwon) Cha Du-Ri (SC Freiburg Germany) Cho Yong-Hyung (Jeju United)

Midfielders:
Koo Ja-Cheol (Jeju UTD) Ki Sung-Yong (Celtic, Scotland) Kim Bo-Kyung (Oita Japan) Kim Nam-Il (Tom Tomsk-Russia) Shin Hyung-Min (Pohang) Kim Jae-Sung (Pohang) Kim Jung-Woo (Gwangju), Lee Chung-Yong (Bolton, England) Kim Chi-Woo (Seoul) Park Ji-Sung (Manchester United England)

Forwards:
Park Chu-Young (AS Monaco France) Ahn Jung-Hwan (Dalian China) Lee Seung-Ryul ( Seoul) Yeom Ki-Hun (Suwon) Lee Keun-Ho (Jubilo Iwata (Japan) Lee Dong-Guk (Jeonbuk)

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