32 For 2010: Korean Republic
From a Euro-centric perspective it is easy to ignore the achievements of teams from Asia. Historically, they were late to embrace the game of football and we are still a very long way from seeing a team from that vast and diverse continent winning the World Cup.
Yet with South Africa 2010, South Korea will have appeared in no less than eight World Cup finals. You can argue the relative merits of the Asian qualification competition as opposed to the European equivalent which is more competitive or the CONCACAF system which weeds out the weaker teams but the reality is that the Korean Republic are a mainstay of successive World Cups. If only they could win some more games.
Their magnificent (or controversial if you're an Italian) run to the semi-finals on home turf in 2002 doesn't disguise the fact that on foregn soil their record is abysmal. Only once have they won a match in the Finals and that was against a novice Togo side in 2006. This is despite South Korea enjoying a competitive professional league and their fine international pedigree. Perhaps on African soil they can make further progress.
Most of the squad are from the domestic K-League. Only a few play in Europe, the most prominent being the captain Park Ji-sung
who has enjoyed a breakthrough season at Manchester United and featured heavily in all of their big games. I didn't see too much of Bolton Wanderers last season but understand that Lee Chung-yong
is a good player. Celtic fans will know all about Ki Sung-yong
. Bundesliga club Freiburg's Cha Du-ri
has been known to lose concentration in the past. According to the Guardian Lee Chung-yong
and Sung Yong-ki
are the upcoming young guns.
The balls have been relatively kind to coach Huh Jung-moo
and his squad. Greece
, Nigeria and Argentina are all regarded to a lesser or greater extent, beatable but then again the same could easily be said about the Koreans who open their campaign against the Greeks. This is a group in which they could conceivably finish anywhere from top to bottom.
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