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    Korea

    On-loan Arsenal striker Park Chuyoung got the nod for Korea Republic's 2014 FIFA World Cup™ campaign when he was included in a youthful squad for the tournament in Brazil on Thursday.

    Park, currently at Watford and back in favour after a row over his national service, was among nine Europe-based players included in coach Hong Myungbo's final, 23-man line-up.

    The 28-year-old is one of just five survivors from Korea Republic's run to the last 16 in 2010, and Kwak Taehwi, 32, is the only player aged over 30.

    Bayer Leverkusen's Son Heungmin and Koo Jacheol of Mainz will join Park in attack, while Sunderland's Ki Sungyueng, Cardiff's Kim Boyyung and Bolton's Lee Chungyong were also picked.

    Six domestic-based players made the cut, including Ulsan Hyundai forward Kim Shinwook, the reigning K-League Classic MVP, and 2012 Asian Player of the Year Lee Keunho.

    "It's a young team but our players don't lack in experience," said Hong. "They all play in competitive leagues. This may not be Korea's greatest World Cup squad ever assembled but I can assure you we will work hard to be one."

    Park, with 24 goals in 62 matches, now has his chance to play against Algeria, Belgium and Russia in Group H - a prospect which seemed remote during his spell on the Arsenal bench.

    But Park, after loan periods at Celta Vigo and now Watford, played his way into contention by scoring the winner against Greece in a friendly in March.

    Ki, who is on loan at Sunderland from Swansea City, is likely to be reunited with Guangzhou R&F's Park Jongwoo, his midfield partner when Korea Republic won bronze at London 2012.

    Guangzhou Evergrande's Kim Younggwon and Augsburg's Hong Jeongo are likely to be South Korea's centre-back pairing, in front of 2010 'keeper Jung Sungryong.

    Mainz fullback Park Jooho, who is out of action with a foot injury, is a notable absentee.

    Korea Republic squad

    Goalkeepers:
    Jung Sungryong (Suwon Bluewings), Kim Seunggyu (Ulsan Hyundai), Lee Bumyoung (Busan IPark)

    Defenders
    : Hong Jeongho (Augsburg/Germany), Hwang Seoho (Sanfrecce Hiroshima/Japan), Kim Changsoo (Kashiwa Reysol/Japan), Kim Jinsoo (Albirex Niigata/Japan), Kim Younggwon (Guangzhou Evergrande/China PR), Kwak Taehwi (Al Hilal/Saudi Arabia), Lee Yong (Ulsan Hyundai), Yun Sukyoung (Queens Park Rangers/England)

    Midfielders
    : Ha Daesung (Beijing Guoan/China PR), Han Kookyoung (Kashiwa Reysol/Japan), Ji Dongwon (Augsburg/Germany), Ki Sungyueng (Sunderland/England), Kim Bokyung (Cardiff City/England), Lee Chungyong (Bolton Wanderers/England), Park Jongwoo (Guangzhou R&F/China PR), Son Heungmin (Bayer Leverkusen/Germany)

    Forwards
    : Kim Shinwook (Ulsan Hyundai), Koo Jacheol (Mainz/Germany), Lee Keunho (Sangju Sangmu), Park Chuyoung (Watford/England)

    * Squad lists are only official once they have been confirmed and published by FIFA on 16 May at 12:00 CET.

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    Cha hurt by World Cup snub

    Veteran Korea Republic defender Cha Duri has voiced disappointment at being left out of the national squad for the FIFA World Cup™, but said the pain was eased by memories of previous finals.

    "It always hurts to miss out," he told a press conference at a training camp for his club, FC Seoul, in Guri, east of Seoul. "It's a dream for every player to be at the World Cup," he said, adding: "I believe the players on the team will perform well in Brazil."

    The 33-year-old said he had hoped to be included in the 23-man squad, which was announced last week, because he was "in good shape". Cha was a largely off-the-bench member of the national side that made an improbable run to the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup, which South Korea co-hosted with Japan.

    He was not included for the 2006 finals, but made it into the team as an attacking defender in the 2010 tournament in South Africa. He came back to the K-League after German Bundesliga side Fortuna Dusseldorf terminated his contract in February last year.

    He added that having competed at two World Cups eased the pain of not making the team this time. "Looking back, I take away fond memories from World Cups," he said. "I am not going to dwell on disappointments."

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    Korea Republic disappoint in send-off

    Tunisia beat Korea Republic by a single goal on Wednesday in the final game for the Asians before they leave for the World Cup in Brazil.

    Midfielder Zouhaier Dhaouadi netted the game's only goal late in the first half at Seoul World Cup Stadium, as the visitors handed Georges Leekens a victory on his debut as coach.

    While Tunisia celebrated, this was not the send-off the Taeguk Warriors would have wanted as the 2002 semi-finalists set off for their eighth consecutive World Cup.

    The goal-shy South Koreans, who will face Belgium, Algeria and Russia in Group H, travel to Miami on Friday where they will play another friendly against Ghana on 9 June.

    After a cautious start, South Korean captain Koo Jacheol had the first dangerous attempt from outside the box in the 14th minute, but fired just wide of the right post.

    The hosts were shading possession but were not able to threaten. Bayer Leverkusen's Son Heungmin got a sight of goal on the half-hour but his shot went straight at goalkeeper Farouk Ben Mustapha.

    Tunisia came into the game late in the first half, with Wissem Yahya forcing South Korean 'keeper Jung Sungryong into a sharp save in the 42nd minute.

    And the visitors broke the deadlock two minutes later, when Dhaouadi took the ball in midfield and sprinted virtually uncontested into the area before putting it past the diving Jung.

    Korea Republic came out with more life after the break. On-loan Arsenal striker Park Chuyoung struck a low shot from the edge of the box, but Ben Mustapha parried.

    And the home team found themselves frustrated by Tunisia, who put bodies behind the ball to make sure of holding on to their slim lead.

    Second-half substitute Ha Daesung nearly equalised at the death, but his shot moments before the whistle skidded wide of the left post.

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    Ji: Belgium, Russia & Korea lack experience

    Korea Republic are rarely bracketed with Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Italy and Spain. Those European and South American powerhouses have, after all, won the FIFA World Cup™ and all sit at least 48 places above the Taeguk Warriors on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. Korea Republic do nevertheless share one record with those five teams: they have featured at the last eight World Cups – an achievement beyond the likes of England, France, the Netherlands and Mexico, among others.

    It is an accomplishment, according to midfielder Ji Dongwon, that they take a lot of satisfaction from, but with it comes understandable pressure. “Of course of we are very proud of the record and the fact that we have qualified for the World Cup eight times in a row,” he told FIFA.com. “It means we have a habit of winning and these days we have to at least qualify for the World Cup.” The pressure from the fans also comes from the wealth of football at their fingertips, with the top leagues in the world showing on South Korean television and shaping their expectations of what they want to see on the field. “Nowadays they are watching the [English] Premier League, [German] Bundesliga and [Spanish] La Liga. They always have access to good football.

    “Automatically their expectations are very high, but one thing you have to remember is that there is a big difference between the continents. Up until now, Asia as a continent has not been as good as the likes of Europe and South America. From the performances we know we are not at the same level, but we are improving.” Ji was just 11 years old when the East Asians registered their greatest footballing triumph, finishing fourth on home soil in 2002. Ji insists being coached by the captain of that great side, Hong Myungbo, is not an over-awing experience, but admits the difference between those who have been at a World Cup is stark to those in the team who are making their first trip. It is a reality that he feels could impact principle Group H rivals Belgium and Russia as well – who only have one player each who attended their last appearances in Korea/Japan.

    “If you look at our team, we only have five players with experience of a World Cup, and there is a clear difference between those five and the rest of in terms of their attitude, approach and process to being here," said the Jeju native. "The players for Belgium and Russia may feel similar, being in the same position as many of us. They will both be under pressure from the fans to perform, having not been at a World Cup for 12 years." With an average age of 26.2, there are only four sides in Brazil that can boast a more youthful squad than theirs, but they come with success already on their résumé. Their third-placed finish at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament London 2012, of which 11 of the squad participated under Myungbo, was the best-ever for any Korea Republic men's team at a global tournament.

    Ji feels they have developed and grown since then, after their team-orientated brand of pass-and-move football exhibited up and down Great Britain caught the eyes of fans and pundits alike. “The current selection of players have all come together under Hong Myung-Bo, which I feel is very important and as time has gone by the teamwork has improved,” the former Sunderland man explained. “We understand the philosophy of this team and the coach, and I feel we can produce some good results. I believe it is the teamwork between the players, and also the understanding between those on the field and the coaching staff, that is our greatest strength.” Since picking up their bronze medals, many of those young stars have found spots in the top leagues in Europe and Asia to test themselves, with Ji set for a move to Borussia Dortmund following the tournament after impressing with Augsburg. The challenge of playing abroad has helped the team grow in his mind.

    He said: “Since 2012 many of us have gone to the Bundesliga, Premier League and many others, so I think as a result of playing in those kinds of environments the individuals have developed a lot, so automatically the team has benefited as well. As a team, the philosophy has remained the same, but experience is the main thing we have gained.” While expanding the comparisons with some the world's top teams might be even beyond the dreams of their expectant fans, with the taste of success already on the palette of this young team, they will have their sights set high as they kick off their Brazil 2014 campaign.

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    Keunho: I was lucky

    While Korea Republic forward Lee Keunho no doubt played over how his FIFA World Cup™ debut might pan out, it is unlikely he would have imagined it unfolding quite as it did. In a tight Group H opener against Russia, that ultimately ended 1-1, his role as goal-scoring substitute proved crucial for the Asian side, but he admitted to FIFA that he accepts luck played a starring role in his key cameo. When the Sangju Sangmu forward stepped out on to the field, replacing Park Chuyoung, their Group H opener with Russia was deadlocked at 0-0, with both sides lacking in ideas. Having narrowly missed out on a spot at South Africa 2010, he has since been named as 2012 AFC Player of Year and was a key figure in qualifying, and was clearly keen to shine now his chance had arrived.

    Keunho, with his burst of pace and lively endeavour in the heat of western Brazil, was a perfect fit for the game, and it took all of 12 minutes for coach Hong Myungbo to be proven right. Picking up the ball around the centre circle, the nippy attacker burst onwards at the retreating Russian rearguard, injecting the positivity and directness the Taeguk Warriors had at times been lacking. However, with options available to him left and right, the 29-year-old looked to have spurned the opportunity as he hit a shot from 20-yards directly at experienced goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev. Inexplicably though, it slipped through the Russian's fingers and over the line. The look of delight and disbelief on Keunho's face said it all.

    “I've been waiting for this World Cup for so long, but I'd never thought I would even score. I think I was lucky, but it wasn't bad for a start from me,” he said after the game. “To be frank, I never thought it would go in because I shot it straight at the keeper. But during the warm up my efforts on goal weren't bad so I just went for it, and I was lucky.”

    Four year wait for redemption
    Arguably Keunho deserves chance to favour him now he has made to the World Cup. He, alongside current captain Koo Jacheol, was among the final three to be cut from the Korea Republic squad by Huh Jungmoo ahead of the tournament in South Africa, a fact which understandably stung for the 2012 AFC Champions League winner. Now amongst the action he is intent to prove his own quality – and that of those plying their trade in his home continent as a whole. “I missed the World Cup four years ago, so I was eager to show my ability, even though I'm not playing in Europe,” the former man Gamba Osaka said. “I wanted to show all those watching that there are good players playing their football in Asia as well.”

    Alexander Kerzhakov ultimately rescued a point for Russia, with a draw being far from a perfect result for either side after Belgium came from behind to beat Algeria earlier in the day, taking control of the group. Korea now need a win against Algeria to keep their hopes of reaching the knockout stages on track, and while Keunho realises they have work to do, he believes their level will have raised by 22 June.

    “Tonight's result was a bit disappointing but I think we played as well as we had expected to,” he concluded. “Hopefully we'll be in a higher gear when we play Algeria and will be able to get ourselves a better result because of it.” While Keunho will hope to start that game, he might not be able to rely on lady luck a second time around, having cashed in most of his good fortune in his first outing at Brazil 2014.

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    Myungbo: We expect Algeria to attack

    Korea Republic are braced for what coach Hong Myungbo believes Algeria will be a far more potent attacking force when the teams meet in the FIFA World Cup™ on Sunday in Porto Alegre. TheTaeguk Warriors hold the edge after picking up a point in their 1-1 draw with Russia in the first round of games, while Algeria, beaten 2-1 by group favourites Belgium, will be heading home with another loss. "Algeria defended well [against Belgium] but I don't think they'll play the same way against us," Myungbo said. "They've got a lot of excellent forwards, they are very quick, these are very dynamic players. "Their three strikers are really rapid, with good individual technique, so when there are duels we have to reduce their opportunities."

    Myungbo, a national icon back home after skippering Korea to fourth place in 2002, was also wary of the Algerians' midfield. "They like to press hard, we have to resist this pressure and play in space as one should," he said. The former Los Angeles Galaxy player, who hasn't yet decided on a starting line-up for Sunday's game, says he will be sending his team out to take three points. "I can't predict the result," he said. "But what I can say is that we're going to play to win, because we absolutely have to win to hope to reach the next round. We want to score first...our players are going to try to convert [chances], but we'll have to be patient. We're going to have opportunities - the key to the game will be if we can convert these into goals."

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    Hong: Strategy and defence behind defeat

    Korea Republic coach Hong Myungbo held his hands up after Sunday's unexpectedly cut and dry 4-2 loss to Algeria, blaming an error in strategy on the defeat that leaves their 2014 FIFA World Cup™ knockout rounds hopes looking slim. Hong is an iconic figure back in Seoul after captaining the side that made it into the last four when the World Cup was co-hosted by the Koreans 12 years ago.

    He will now have to call on all his footballing acumen to mastermind a Korean upset of already qualified Belgium on Thursday to still be in a shot of going through to the last 16 depending on the outcome of the other Group H game between the Algerians and Russia. "We studied their style of playing but the result suggests it wasn't ideal," Hong said. "The result is sufficiently eloquent, our strategy wasn't the right one. As we let in a lot of goals there was an error in our approach."

    He also took aim, as Algeria did so effectively in the first half when they were up 3-0, at his defenders. "I would have preferred the defenders to have been more stable. The results show that they haven't concentrated enough." He denied that he and his team had under-estimated an Algerian side that hadn't won at a World Cup since 1982. "We knew that they would be strong, we were on the defensive as our defence was weak."

    "Algeria were well organised, structured, and our defenders weren't at their best. But now we have to turn the page, this result is the reward for our preparation. We must prepare better for the next game, it's our only option." This is the Koreans' eighth successive World Cup but they have only managed to make the second round twice in that run, in 2002 and in 2010 when they lost to Uruguay in the last 16.

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    Son Heungmin: We'll come back stronger

    Football is full of examples of promising youth team players who, for any number of reasons, fail to make it to the top at senior level. High expectations and new challenges can be difficult to overcome. Talented young Korea Republic attacker Son Heungmin had no problem making the transition, however. After leaving the FC Seoul youth team in 2008 when he was just 16, he made the task of establishing himself in German football look easy.

    This year brought an even greater challenge as Heungmin made his FIFA World Cup™ debut. The youngster made a good impression, troubling defences with his pace and skill down the wing, and his ability to get into the area brought him a goal against Algeria. His team, however, did not live up to expectations, managing only a single point from three Group H games. For a player who has become accustomed to success in his short career, he is unlikely to have been entirely pleased with his FIFA World Cup experience.

    “Scoring my first goal at the World Cup was really important from a personal standpoint. But in general, the team didn’t play well, which was disappointing. We didn’t perform the way we had hoped,” he told FIFA after leaving the field following the game against Belgium visibly upset.

    Upward progress
    For the 21-year-old forward, taking part in the FIFA World Cup was another step in his apprenticeship for life on football’s great stages, after he played in the UEFA Champions League for the first time with Bayer Leverkusen. It represents rapid progress for a young man who only joined the Hamburg youth academy in 2008. Two years later, aged 18, he signed his first professional contract. Then in 2013 he became the most expensive signing in Bayer’s history. Yet he took it all in his stride. His next challenge will be to now use his FIFA World Cup experience to help him grow further. It is the same story for his Korea Republic team-mates, eight of whom play in Germany and England.

    “I think this World Cup was like a vaccination for us,” he said. “We came up against some really tough opponents, which has motivated me to work even harder. The experience will help us to prepare better for the next tournament and be more competitive. That’s my hope.” It sounds as though it might be an automatic response from Heungmin, but for this Korea Republic team it rings true. The squad was the fifth-youngest at Brazil 2014, with an average age of 26.19 years. Of the team that lost 1-0 to Belgium in Sao Paulo on Thursday, nine were even younger.

    In other words, there is a good chance that this team will be back at the FIFA World Cup soon, better prepared for what lies in wait. It is time for Korea Republic to take another step forward. “The coach and my team-mates reminded me of that. They told me everything was OK and that I would have other chances to play at this level,” he said. “I’m going to prepare myself to come back even stronger,” he added. Considering what this young South Korean has achieved so far in his career, it would be wise to take him seriously.

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    Hong retains Korea Republic reins

    The Korea football association (KFA) said Thursday it had rejected an offer by the national team coach, Hong Myungbo, to resign following a disappointing showing at the FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil. "We've decided to continue to trust and support coach Hong," KFA vice president Huh Jungmoo told reporters in Seoul. He added that Hong would see out the remainder of his contract which runs through the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.

    The coach and his players were criticised by the South Korean public and media for failing to advance beyond the group stage in Brazil, managing a draw with Russia and then two losses to Algeria and Belgium. When the team returned home, angry fans unfurled a banner at the airport saying "Korean Soccer is Dead" while others pelted the players with toffees - a particular insult in South Korea. Huh acknowledged the frustration but argued that replacing Hong, who had offered to step down, was "not the best solution".

    "We expect him to lead our national team for the Asian Cup based on the experiences and lessons he learned during the World Cup," Huh said. Hong, 45, was a star defender and captain of the national squad during the 2002 World Cup when South Korea reached the semi-final. He only took over as coach in June last year after the resignation of Choi Kanghee, and his team selection in Brazil became a subject of heated criticism, particularly his decision to stick with striker Park Chuyoung who failed to score.

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    Hong elects to step down

    Korea Republic coach Hong Myungbo announced his resignation on Thursday following a disappointing 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ showing that saw his team jeered and booed on their return from Brazil. "As of today, I am leaving this post", Hong told a press conference in Seoul. "When we left for the World Cup, I said we would give hope to the people but we ended up giving them disappointment. I really feel sorry about that", he said.

    Hong's decision to step down came just a week after he received a vote of confidence from the Korean Football Association (KFA) who said he should coach the national side through the 2015 AFC Asian Cup. The coach and his players were criticised by the South Korean public and media for failing to advance beyond the group stage in Brazil, managing just a draw with Russia and then two defeats to Algeria and Belgium. When the team returned home, angry fans unfurled a banner at the airport saying "Korean Soccer is Dead" while others pelted the players with toffees - a particularly insulting gesture in South Korea. Hong had offered to step down immediately, but last week KFA vice president Huh Jungmoo said the association had persuaded him to stay.

    While acknowledging the frustration with a winless World Cup, Huh had argued that replacing Hong was "not the best solution". "We expect him to lead our national team for the Asian Cup based on the experiences and lessons he learned during the World Cup," he said. Hong, 45, was a star defender and captain of the national squad during the 2002 World Cup when South Korea reached the semi-final. He only took over as coach in June last year after the resignation of Choi Kanghee, and his team selection in Brazil became a subject of heated criticism, particularly his decision to stick with striker Park Chuyoung who failed to score.

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