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Neil Humphreys
Friday, Jun 13, 2014

Sports

World Cup 2014: Korea look to rising son

The New Paper | Neil Humphreys | Friday, Jun 13, 2014

South Korea midfielder Son Heung-Min (centre) and other South Korea National football team playes strech during a training session at Saint Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Son Heung Min has already been a hero once this season.

An expectant nation hopes he can repeat the trick in Brazil.

The South Korean nodded in a late winner to secure qualification for the most prestigious of football tournaments. But his jersey colours were those of Bayer Leverkusen and the tournament was the Uefa Champions League.

His header earned his Bundesliga club fourth place and a dramatic invitation to sit at Europe's top table next season. His mission now veers from highly improbable to near impossible.

The South Koreans are strangely subdued. Their World Cup group is formidable and old Asian rivals Japan look the continent's most likely contenders to progress to the knockout stages.

Their "Sonsational" striker leads the line, shackled with a dreadful pun for a nickname, but his partner is likely to be Watford's Park Chu Young.

He has led his country's scoring charts since the previous World Cup, with 11 to his name, but Fabio Capello's Russia and Belgium's dark horses are not particularly perturbed by personnel from Watford.

NOT IMPRESSIVE

They may not know much about Park's goal-scoring form for South Korea. They'll know even less about Watford.

The World Cup draw was unkind to the Taeguk Warriors, throwing them in Group H almost as afterthought with Belgium, Russia and Algeria.

Any chance of progress will involve squeezing between Belgium and Russia, a daunting prospect considering South Korea's lackadaisical and mostly uninspiring qualifying campaign - they finished above Uzbekistan only on goal difference - and their relatively inexperienced coach.

The first Asian player to represent his country at four World Cups, Hong Myung Bo's reputation as a player is beyond compare.

Rightly revered in his homeland, the "Korean Libero" commanded respect as an intelligent centre half, which has carried over into his coaching career.

But it's been a brief one so far. He took over the national job only in July, succeeding the unpopular Choi Kang Hee, who was lambasted for his rudimentary long-ball game.

Apart from working with South Korea's youth squads, Hong has no other top-flight coaching experience.

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