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Taeguk Warriors under pressure after heavy defeat
by Paul Kennedy, January 30th, 2014 7:59PM

TAGS:  men's national team, south korea


[USA-SOUTH KOREA] The South Korea team that lost to Mexico, 4-0, on Wednesday night in San Antonio and will face the USA Saturday at the StubHub Center is not Coach Hong Myung-Bo's full national team.

Just four players on South Korea's U.S. tour started in the final World Cup qualifier against Iran: Suwon Bluewings goalie Jung Sung-Ryong (who played in 14 qualifiers), Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors defender Kim Ki-Hee, Pohang Steelers midfielder Lee Myeong-Joo and Ulsan Hyundai forward Kim Shin-Wook.

And five of the starters in the Mexico loss -- including backup keeper Kim Seung-Gyu -- had not taken part in qualifying for the Taeguk Warriors.

South Korea lost the Iran game, 1-0, in Ulsan but still qualified for the World Cup as the second-place team in its group behind the Iranians. Nonetheless, the humiliating defeat that followed a war of words of sorts between the two camps cost Coach Choi Kang-Hee his job, and Bo, the popular captain of South Korea's World Cup team that reached the semifinals in 2002 and a former member of the LA Galaxy, was installed as coach.

The one thing Hong has in his favor is that he already knows many of the players from his stint as coach of South Korea's Olympic team that earned the bronze medal at the 2012 London Games. Twelve of the 18 Olympians -- including all three overage players -- are in contention for berths of the World Cup team.

South Korea's World Cup team is expected to be about evenly split between those on the U.S. trip and those playing abroad -- two players on tour play in Japan -- but all of South Korea's key players play in Britain or Germany, and their average age is only 23.

The star of the team is Koo Ja-Cheol of Wolfsburg, the playmaker and captain. Ki Sung-Yueng, on loan to Sunderland from Swansea City, is a holdover from the 2010 World Cup team. He was suspended from the national team for remarks critical of the former coach Choi on Facebook, but Hong has brought the midfielder back into the team.

Son Heung-Min represents a new breed of Korean player who moved to Germany at the age of 16 to join Hamburg's academy. At 21, he's already in his fourth pro season, having moved to Bayer Leverkusen over the summer.

The game against the United States ends a long trip for the Koreans, who like their American counterparts, spent part of January training in Brazil.

South Korea opened its U.S. tour with a 1-0 win over Costa Rica. The Korean news agency Yonhap blasted South Korea's performance against Mexico, labeling the team "lethargic and sloppy at both ends."

Jung Sung-Ryong (Suwon Samsung, 14 qualifiers)
Kim Seung-Gyu (Ulsan Hyundai, 0)
Lee Bum-Young (Busan IPark, 0)
Kim Ki-Hee (Jeonbuk Hyundai, 3)
Kang Min-Soo (Ulsan Hyundai, 0)
Kim Dae-Ho (Pohang Steelers, 0)
Lee Ji-Nam (Daegu FC, 0)
Park Jin-Po (Seongnam FC, 0)
Kim Jin-Su (Albirex Niigata/JPN, 0)
Lee Yong (Ulsan Hyundai, 5)
Kim Min-Woo (Sagan Tosu, 0)
Kim Ju-Young (FC Seoul, 0)
Ha Dae-Sung (FC Seoul, 2)
Go Yo-Han (FC Seoul, 1)
Lee Ho (Sangju Sangmu, 0)
Kim Tae-Hwan (Seongnam FC, 0)
Song Jin-Hyung (Jeju United, 0)
Park Jong-Woo (Busan IPark, 2)
Lee Myeong-Joo (Pohang Steelers, 2)
Lee Seung-Gi (Jeonbuk Hyundai, 2)
Lee Keun-Ho (Sangju Sangmu, 12)
Yeom Ki-Hoon (Suwon Samsung, 2)
Kim Shin-Wook (Ulsan Hyundai, 8)

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