France under pressure for S Korea clash

Four years ago, outsider South Korea reached the World Cup semifinal and defending champion France went out in the first round.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:34 IST
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Four years ago, outsider South Korea reached the World Cup semifinal and defending champion France went out in the first round. The two now meet in Sunday's Group G match, with South Korea again in a brighter mood. Coach Dick Advocaat's team opened Group G with a 2-1 win over Togo, while France was held 0-0 by Switzerland. A win would assure South Korea a place in the last 16, while victory is imperative for France that hasn't scored a World Cup goal since the 1998 final and is still musing on the problems of 2002. "It's human to think about bad things that happened. You don't want history to repeat itself, so you are apprehensive, and this saps a lot of your energy and strength,'' France defender Willy Sagnol said. In two meetings against South Korea, France dominated, winning both and scoring eight goals. But in Leipzig, France will be looking for its first World Cup goal overseas since 1986. "We don't have pressure like them. They have to win, otherwise they are in big trouble. We're going to play to win the game," said South Korea striker Seol Ki-hyeon. When the two teams last met, days before the start of last World Cup, France won 3-2 but lost Zinedine Zidane to injury. He only limped back in time for France's final group game of the tournament. Zidane in good shape The good news for coach Raymond Domenech is that "Zizou'' appears to be in great shape. He lasted the 90 minutes and was France's best player against Switzerland. Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Lee Young-pyo says focussing uniquely on Zidane or Thierry Henry is futile, as France has too many other individual talents to contend with. "We trained a lot on how to defend them better,'' Lee said. "We don't want to man mark. We can make a joint defence." Domenech, meanwhile, considers South Korea an equal threat to Switzerland. "It won't be easier. They can defend they can attack. The Koreans are very well organized,'' Domenech said. Hardly welcome news considering France's ageing team and creaking legs. The team has been attacked by its national press for having an average age of 30. "I really couldn't care less. If we are a team of pensioners, then there is one team, AC Milan, that should be thrown in the trashcan,'' said Sagnol, who just dips under the radar at 29. Former World Cup winners Didier Deschamps and Laurent Blanc also have criticised Les Bleus. Need to play better Sagnol accepted, however, that France needed to play better. "It's not things we need to change, but things we need to improve,'' Sagnol said. Advocaat said he was worried how the French will react now they have been backed into a corner. "You can expect a France that is very up for this game. If we can pressure them a little bit and make life a bit hard like Switzerland did, maybe we can surprise them," he said. Kim Dong-Jin returns from suspension for South Korea and Advocaat will also have to decide whether to start Ahn Jung-hwan. Ahn scored the winner against Togo and has a proven big-match temperament. He also scored the golden goal header winner against Italy in their round of 16 match four years ago. "We have experience against France,'' said midfielder Park Ji-sung, who plays at Manchester United. ``I think that experience will help.'' For France, winger Florent Malouda has recovered from a hemorrhoid operation and could reclaim his spot on the left wing, with Franck Ribery moving to the right in place of Sylvain Wiltord in a 4-3-2-1 formation. (AP)