South Korea and Guus Hiddink accomplished the impossible, getting to the semi-finals of the 2002 WC. And now there is Dick Advocaat another, Dutchman in charge of the S.Korean team for this World Cup. Having home field advantage was huge for Korea but you can never count the Red Devils out. As teams have found repeatedly, the Koreans will run you right of the field. They tackle hard too. And their fans are one of the most passionate and vocal lot.
I had seen them play field hockey against India many years ago, when they had just taken up the sport. Within a few years they were beating the Indians regularly. What I remember about them was their superb conditioning, unselfish play, incessant running, and hard tackling. They were extremely good at the technical aspects of the game, taking penalty corners very effectively.
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. And then there is rookie of the year, .Park Chu-young, who is considered one of the country's finest young prospects, now playing for FC Seoul.
Asian champs and 2002 second rounders, Japan have Zico as its coach but it also has a tough group with champions Brazil, Croatia, and Australia. Everybody concedes that Brazil should stroll past the first round but the second position is up for grabs. And Zico will require all and more from his players to counter the Socceroos and Guus Hiddink, who is their coach now. Just the name Guus Hiddink brings a sense of confidence to perennial underdog teams. And Zico knows this.
He is relying on some veterans to pull through. Japan has a reliable midfield consisting of Hidetoshi Nakata (Bolton), Shunsuke Nakamura (Celtic), Junichi Inamoto (West Bromwich Albion) and former Feyenoord player Shinji Ono. They have a solid defence led by veterans Tsuneyuki Miyamaoto and Koji Nakata.