South Korea Eager to Right Ship against Lebanon
South Korea's first 2014 World Cup qualification match against Lebanon on Friday will be an opportunity for the team to put behind it a painful few months.
Korea's last game was a comprehensive 3-0 defeat at the home of bitter rival Japan on August 10, prompting the first real criticism of coach Cho Kwang-rae from the domestic media since he took the job a year earlier.
The team has also been hit by a series of injuries to high-profile European-based players. Lee Chung-yong of Bolton broke his leg in July while Son Heung-min of Hamburg and Wolfburg's Koo Ja-cheol are also absent from the Lebanon match and the game in Kuwait four days later.
Plus the team enters this qualifying campaign without the iconic Park Ji-sung, with the Manchester United midfielder having retired from national team duty.
There was better news as team captain Park Chu-young signed for English Premier League giant Arsenal earlier in the week.
"We are all focused only on Lebanon and we all know how important the first game is," said Park on Thursday. "We are confident that we can get the result we need against Lebanon and move forward and return to the form we were showing before the Japan game."
Lebanon is an outsider to finish in the top two of the group and thereby progress to the fourth round, and German coach Theo Bucker is under no illusions about the difficulty of winning in Goyang.
"We are looking for a good result, that for us could be to get a point or three points or not to lose by a big margin," Bucker told The Associated Press. "We are not focusing on Korea, we have to overcome Kuwait and UAE.
"If I say to you, that we want to win in Korea, everyone will say 'You are dreaming just like people without money dream to win the lottery' but nothing is impossible."
In the other Group B game Friday, the United Arab Emirates will host Kuwait in Al Ain. The Emirates picked up a welcome warm-up win on Friday, defeating Qatar 3-1 while two days later, Kuwait lost1-0 to Oman.
Twenty teams have been divided into five groups of four, with the top two progressing to the final group stage from which four will qualify automatically for the World Cup and another will face a play-off against a team from South America.