S Korea set for World Cup

South Korea is on a mission to prove that its surprising run at the last World Cup wasn't a fluke.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:35 IST
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South Korea is on a mission to prove that its surprising run at the last World Cup wasn't a fluke. The Koreans hadn't won a single match in five World Cup appearances before 2002. But that year, when it co-hosted the tournament with Japan, they went all the way to the semifinals - beating powerhouses Portugal, Italy and Spain on the way. It was the first time an Asian squad made it so far since North Korea's astounding run to the quarterfinals in England in 1966. South Korea's performance made coach Guus Hiddink into a national legend. Now, another Dutchman, Dick Advocaat, faces the daunting task of meeting the high expectations of the country's 'Red Devils' fans. Not easy Advocaat took over the team last September after the disappointing results of Humberto Coelho of Portugal and Jo Bonfrere of the Netherlands. Acknowledging the team's poor showing before 2002, Advocaat said in early April that his players were nonetheless showing confidence in their warm-ups ahead of the World Cup. "I am sure that we are a very difficult team to beat, and I think the opponents know that as well,'' Advocaat said. "There are many players in the national team who play overseas, especially in Europe. Also many players had played in the World Cup 2002, which gave them the experience of winning games," said Kang Sin-woo, a top official at the Korea Football Association. "The experience of victory against the European teams will help the national team overcome the heavy burden of away matches," Kang added. Midfield strength Korea is looking up to midfielder Park Ji-sung, who plays for Manchester United. Park uses both legs and moves endlessly across the field with great physical stamina. For Man United, he has scored one goal and set up six others to help the team to a second-place finish in the Premier League. The team will suffer from the loss of Lee Dong-kook, the center forward who won't be on the field due to a knee injury. But his replacement, Park Chu-young, is considered one of the country's finest young prospects, now playing for FC Seoul where he won the top rookie award in 2005 from the Korea Football League. (AP)