=============================================================================== S O U T H K O R E A Hans S Cho =============================================================================== The Koreans (South) first participated in the World Cup in 1954, losing miserably to Turkey and Hungary by ridiculous scores. Between then and the early 1980's, Korean soccer was outshone by Malaysian and Middle Eastern teams regularly, although North Korea shocked the world in the 1966 World Cup by upsetting Italy, advancing to the second round, and nearly eliminating Portugal, leading 3-0 until Eusebio scored 4 goals to put them out. This is all ancient history and has no bearing on Korean soccer today. In 1983, the impossible happened - the South Korean youth team was eliminated from the World Youth Championships Asian qualifying, but the North Korean team, which had qualified, rioted after a game in Kuwait, beating several officials over call disputes and caused FIFA to disqualify them. They were replaced by South Korea. The Korean team, trained, led, and mostly handpicked by the legendary Park Jung Nam, leapt at this second chance, qualifying for the second round. In the quarterfinal they met Portugal and BEAT THEM! The country was in celebration, there was dancing in the streets, and the President declared that if they beat their next opponents, Brazil, he would declare a national holiday. All hell broke loose when the Red-Devils (moniker referring to the Korean uniform) scored first against Brazil. They eventually lost 2-1, but this was the beginning of South Korean prominence as we know it today. The same youths who played for the 1983 team were the backbone of the 1986 World Cup team, with two notable exceptions; Cha Beom Gun, the star midfielder based in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen, and a 19 year old newcomer named Kim Joo Sung, who now plays for Vfl Bochum, also in the Bundesliga. Among the 1983 'veterans' were Choi Soon Ho, the best forward South Korea have ever had, and Byon Byung Joo, the fastest player in Asia at the time. This was the best team ever fielded by South Korea, but was lacking in defence and in finishing. They made it to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico with little trouble, but were grouped with Argentina, Italy and Bulgaria. The first game against Argentina was a disaster, ending with the Korean coach in tears after his youngsters had been destroyed. The Koreans scored their first point in World Cup history in the next match by drawing 1-1 with Bulgaria. This meant that they had to defeat defending champions Italy to advance, and they were determined to at least try. Over 90 minutes against a team of overwhelming talent, they gave the Italians a run for their money, scoring brilliantly and playing entertaining soccer. Cha Beom Gun had the most attention, being constantly double and triple marked. It was the defence that was found lacking in the end, and they lost 3-2. By 1990, South Korea's dominance in Asia was taken for granted by many. However, on a global scale, Asian soccer had no respect. Many had hoped that the 1990 Italian World Cup would change some of that. Again, most of the team comprised of veterans from the former squad. Choi Soon Ho was present again and captained the team, additions included Hwangbo Kwan, a beefy midfielder who is an Asian clone of Paul Gascoigne, Noh Jung Yoon, and Hwang Seon Hong, a tall, quick forward who plays in Holland. They qualified with some difficulty, managing a crucial win over Saudi Arabia. In Italy, they were grouped with Belgium, Spain, And Uruguay, all enormous soccer powers. The first match with Belgium was painful to watch, with defensive ineptitude and uninspiring play the story for South Korea, and the Belgians ran out easy 2-0 winners. The Korean fans were horrified at the team, not because they lost but because their performance was so poor. The Korean team carefully reassessed their options, figured out that it was pointless to attempt to outplay their opponents, and went back to the only game they could recall any success; the 1986 match against Italy. The next game they returned with the game South Korea loves; midfield-based fast-attack, counterattack soccer. Spain didn't see it coming, but it hit them 5 minutes into the game, when Byun Byung-Joo materialized out of nowhere to receive a perfect pass from the swarming midfield and dashed to find himself one-on-one with the Spanish goalkeeper. He missed. If he had been more patient and more controlled, the match could have been very different. The Spanish recovered to score first through Michel. It looked like business as usual for South Korea but an equalizer arrived just before half-time when a direct free kick from Hwangbo Kwan, curved over the wall and into the far corner of the net. In the second half, though, it was indeed business as usual as Michel scored twice more and the South Korean offence spluttered. South Korea now had no chance of advancing except if they beat Uruguay by 6 and Belgium won. The game seemed pointless, but spoiling Uruguay's chances would have been fun. The pace was again slowed down in favour of defence, with absolutely no chances until Fonseca scored a late offside goal and got Uruguay, a disappointment that year, into the second round. South Korean soccer, once again measured against the powers that be, looked as miserable as it would ever get. But, in 1991, another surprise happened, again involving North Korea; the governments of North and South Korea agreed to combine the team for the World Youth Championships, which South Korea had qualified for and North Korea had not. The team was assembled equally between North and South, and they went to Portugal, not knowing what lay in store for them. The first match seemed hopeless; the opponents being Argentina, with young star Maradona Esnaider. The team contained defenders who were mainly from the South and forwards mainly from the North. Three defenders in particular, Kang Chul, Lee Im-Saeng, and Lee Tae-Hong, all from the South, and all possible members of this year's World Cup team, were highly effective, because they were shutting down the Argentine attack and even threatening themselves. The defenders and midfielders from the South put the pressure on, while the North's forwards were also wreaking havoc upon the Argentine defence with numerous attacks. Esnaider, marked by Lee Tae-Hong, was thoroughly frustrated and rendered ineffective. In the 89th minute, the Argentine defenders fouled a Korean outside the penalty area, giving away a direct free kick. The shot bounced off of the wall of defenders, but Cho In-Chol, a North Korean midfielder struck the ball from 30 yards out and Korea won 1-0. The last International tournament the Koreans played in outside Asia was in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. There they played brilliantly against highly regarded Sweden, but only managed to draw 1-1. Striker Suh Jung Won controlled a long pass over the goalkeeper with his chest and spun around him to score. They drew both their remaining games and failed to advamce further. The present team has members of the 1990, 1991 and 1992 squad who should have a good idea of what World class soccer is about, although it's arguable whether they can play it.They qualified for the 1994 World Cup Finals by getting through the first and second rounds of Asian qualifying. The dramatic end came on the very last day of the second round when Iraq held Japan allowing South Korea to qualify with Saudi Arabia.