Newcomers fill void left by Park and Lee
Managers do not often feel pressure before going into a friendly match. But for Korean national team manager Cho Kwang-rae, there was much to think about when he faced Guss Hiddink’s Turkish side Wednesday night in Trabzon, Turkey.
Turkey manager Guus Hiddink reacts during the match against Korea. (Yonhap News)
It was his first match without the team’s two most talented veterans ― Park Ji-sung of Manchester United and Lee Young-pyo of FC Alhilal, who both retired from the international scene last month.
Cho also wanted to impress the Dutch manager Hiddink, who successfully guided the Korean side at the 2002 World Cup campaign by reaching the semifinals.
The manager appointed Park Chu-young of AS Monaco as the team’s new captain in place of the Manchester United winger and called up the 20-year-old Hong Chul to fill Lee’s void.
Korea striker Park Chu-young (left) battles for the ball with a Turkey defender. (Yonhap News)
He also put the 19-year-old Nam Tae-hee in the frontline to test his new attacking strategies.
However, Cho had to settle with a disappointing 0-0 draw against the Turkish side, which was reduced to 10 men in the second half, in the friendly at Huseyin Avni Aker Stadium in Trabzon.
The Turks clearly enjoyed the majority of possession throughout the game, while the newly shaped Korean side struggled to find their rhythm.
Just five minutes into the game the home side had their first chance with Umut Bulut looping a header that forced a fine save from Jung Sung-ryong.
Six minutes later, the Turks came close to taking the lead when Hamit Altintop fired a powerful long-range shot, only to be blocked by the goalkeeper Jung.
The 19-year-old debutant Nam fired back with a long-range effort in the 26th minute, but it went off target.
The Korean side became lively in the second half after Emre Belozoglu was sent off for tackling midfielder Koo Ja-cheol.
But with few clear-cut chances, Cho’s side failed to score. Instead, the Turks nearly broke the deadlock in late second half. In the 80th minute, substitute Colin Kazim Richards made a powerful header, pulling a super save from Jung.
Cho blamed the lackluster performance on the team’s rigorous schedule. The Koreans have played seven matches in the past six weeks for the Asian Cup, and there were clear signs of fatigue during Wednesday’s friendly.
“Our players were not in their 100 percent condition. They were very tired,” said Cho after the game.
“We had to make up for Park and Lee, and Lee Chung-yong and Cha Du-ri were also not able to play,” he added.
Cho acknowledged that he was worried about his young players, that they would feel the pressure to fill the void of the veterans.
“I was worried about our young players, but they did a good job.”
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org)