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SKoreans should play ugly football
24/06/2010  by Asianone.com
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DON'T say it out loud in front of South Korea, but for them toprogress past Uruguay and intothe World Cup quarter-finals,they have to play like... Japan.

It's not as outrageous as itseems. While Japan have atough match against Denmark tonight to even qualify for the knockout stages, they are already widely credited with beinga superb defensive unit.

And that is exactly what the South Koreans should be, comethe round of 16 and beyond.

So far, their football has been swift and inventive.While veterans such as Park Ji Sung and Lee Young Pyo inspire with their ceaseless running, it isyoung attacking midfielders Lee Chung Yong and Ki Sung Yong who have caught the eye with their effective passing and movement.

Ki, in particular, was in fine fettle in the 2-2 draw against Nigeria on Tuesday, creating one goal and scoring the other with his exquisite dead-ball skills.

But either Ki or Lee must be sacrificed from the starting line-up against Uruguay in their round-of-16 clash - and defensive midfielder Kim Nam Il inserted into the starting XI.

Yes, it is time to play defensive,even ugly, football. The Koreans cannot expect to advance if they leak goals like they did against Nigeria or in their 1-4 loss to Argentina.

They can start by taking a leaf out of Japan's playbook.

They dropped their most recognisable player, creative midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura, from their starting line-ups against both Cameroon and the Netherlands.The result? They conceded just once, against the Dutch -and that was through a goalkeeping blunder.

Praises flowed from Dutchcoach Bert van Marwijk about Japan's sturdy defence and, should the Blue Samurai fail to advance past the group stage, it would be down only to their poor strike rate.

South Korea do have their scoring boots with them and,with their blinding speed, would make a terrific counter attacking side.

Coach Huh Jung Moo has so far been successful in creating a relaxed mood during training, to inspire some flair from his players.

Now that they have achieved the feat of qualifying for the knockout stages for the firsttime outside home soil, they need a complete change in mindset if they are to emulate their memorable semi-final run when they were hosts in 2002.

They cannot be thinking about breaching opponents' defences; they must be focused on stopping attacks.

This is especially since Uruguay have two very dangerous, mobile strikers in Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez.

To go for goals like they did against Argentina - although they had to, after conceding a nearly goal - would mean certain elimination.

In fact, the Koreans can also learn from the Argentinian show to adopt the right mentality to play ugly football.

No, not from the current Argentina squad, but the squadfrom the 1990 World Cup.

Remember them? The notorious bunch who clawed their way to the final by ekeing out painfully boring draws, then winning the penalty shoot-outs against Yugoslavia and Italy?

Indeed, they were the epitome of negative football and were much derided. Yet, it was undeniable that they managed to reach the Final, and were seven minutes to stretching that sterile affair into extra time beforethen West Germany scored their penalty winner.

Those Argentinians - captainedby a certain Diego Maradona- defended with relish, often antagonising their opponents,while their goalkeeper,Sergio Goycochea, boasted thathe would not be beaten in penalty shoot-outs.

Such a defiant attitude fuelled their collective defensive effort, although their reputationas a top footballing nation suffered.

Now, South Korea shouldnot worry about the baggage that comes with playing ugly.

After all, they are the underdogs and are not expected to advance far in this World Cup.

They could even have the support of the entire Asian continent,who would not mind how they play as long as they continue to be in the hunt.

It is time to line up two walls of defence, tackle robustly and frustrate opponents. It is survival football, not stylish football, that the Koreans need to play.

Embrace ugly football, and they may have a chance toreturn to those heady days of 2002.

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