South Korea must guard against "speedy" attackers from Algeria when the two countries collide at the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Brazil, a defender for the Asian side said Thursday.
|Park Joo-ho (Yonhap)|
Fullback Park Joo-ho said Algeria may have problems on defense but will be sharper on offense.
"Their attackers have speed and great individual skills," Park said at a press conference before South Korea's practice in its base camp, Foz do Iguacu. "As one of the defenders, I have to be prepared for that."
South Korea had a 1-1 draw against Russia in the first group match Tuesday, while Algeria blew an early lead and lost to Belgium 2-1 earlier in the same day.
Park noted that while Russia relied on organization and spacing to create chances, Algeria will likely capitalize on short passes and players' skills to attack the South Korean zone.
Park predicted a taut match between the two countries that each must win Sunday to keep their hopes of advancing alive.
"I don't think either team will have a lot of offensive chances," he said. "If we can score on the chances that we do get, we should have a good shot at winning."
Park wasn't initially named to the 23-man squad assembled by head coach Hong Myung-bo but was a last-minute injury replacement for fullback Kim Jin-su. Park had earlier dealt with right foot inflammation, which forced Hong to leave him off the team at first, but said Thursday he's fully recovered.
Park watched the Russian match from the bench and said he's itching to go.
"I am not disappointed (about being benched)," he said. "I tried to find solace in the fact that I am on the World Cup roster.
Obviously, as a football player, I am dying to play even for just one minute."
After the end of the practice, other members of the team chimed in with their thoughts on the African opponent.
Ton du Chatinier, a Dutch-born assistant coach, said the Algerians "played very well" against Belgium, but they were still vulnerable on the defensive side.
Du Chatinier noted that Algeria, after building a 1-0 lead, tried to protect the lead. When Belgium tied the score, Algeria was forced to break away from its defensive posture and start attacking, which created holes that could be exploited.
"When there's a lot of space behind them, we'll have a lot of opportunities to score," the coach said. "It's also a counterattack team. They also wait, wait and wait, and it's important for Korea that we don't make stupid mistakes."
Du Chatinier said South Korea will have "a good chance to win" if the players can duplicate what they did against Russia.
Kim Young-gwon, who started as a centerback against Russia, said the objective in the upcoming match is to keep the opponent off the board.
"It was disappointing to give up a goal (versus Russia), but it wasn't necessarily due to our lack of organization," Kim said. "We didn't have a lot of players with World Cup experience, but after getting the first match out of the way, I think we have regained our confidence."
Kim's partner on defense, Hong Jeong-ho, said he will try to keep a close eye on Algeria's secondary line of offense.
The centerback said coach Hong Myung-bo wasn't too pleased with how Russia was able to attack South Korea on the flanks and send in crosses almost at will.
"When opposing midfielders come penetrating down the wings, our midfielders might miss them," Hong Jeong-ho said. "The coach told us to pay attention and to be quick on our feet in those situations. We can't afford to make the same mistakes that we did against Russia."
In addition to physical errors, South Koreans also committed a mental mistake that cost them a goal.
Aleksandr Kerzhakov scored in a chaotic scramble near the South Korean net. As the Russian forward got control of the loose ball, several South Korean players raised their hands and looked in the direction of an assistant referee for an offside call that never came, instead of trying to contain Kerzhakov.
Defender Lee Yong, one of the culprits on the play, said the South Koreans should have kept on playing until the referee whistled the play dead, and coach Hong Myung-bo had advised the team beforehand that no one should try to be a referee himself.
"The coach said we were not to make judgment on the field and that we should leave it to the officials," Lee said. "We were all thinking about that, but our hands went up unconsciously."
Hong was an assistant coach for South Korea when the team faced a similar situation at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. In a group match between South Korea and Switzerland, an assistant referee raised his flag to signal an offside on a play developing deep in the South Korean zone, but the referee didn't blow the whistle. Yet South Korean players stopped in their tracks momentarily, long enough to allow Switzerland to score and ultimately beat South Korea 2-0.
Lee said the team is determined not to repeat the same mistake, adding, "We're all going to have to remind ourselves before the match." (Yonhap)