South Korea prepared for this weekend’s Asian Cupfinal against Australia in a relaxed mood on Thursday, insisting all the pressure would be on the host nation.
“We don’t feel any pressure at all,” defender Kim Chang-Soo told AFP before the Koreans contest their first final since 1988 when they were beaten by Saudi Arabia.
“Team morale is very high because we’ve made it this far. We know how strong Australia are but the spirit is good and once we step out on the pitch anything can happen. We have a great chance to be part of history for Korean football.”
South Korea’s failure to win Asia’s showcase tournament since 1960 stretches belief given that the Taeguk Warriors have been to the semi-finals of the World Cup as recently as 2002.
Kim suggested that having beaten Australia 1-0 in the group stages already, South Korea could have a psychological edge when they meet again in Sydney where as many as 30,000 Red Devils fans are expected to cheer Uli Stielike’s side on.
“It’s an advantage we’ve played them already so we have a feel for how they will play,” said the Japan-based player. “The Australians are a good team but it will give us a big lift to have such a big turn-out from the Korean fans.”
South Korea offset the potentially disastrous loss of influential pair Lee Chung-Yong and Koo Ja-Cheol by grinding out victory against the Australians to finish top of Group A, giving them a slightly easier schedule from the quarter-finals on.
“We’ve earned that advantage by beating them,” said striker Lee Keun-Ho, who has failed to score during the tournament after being pushed out right to fill in for Lee Chung-Song. “We need to cut down on errors and keep possession better in the final.”
Lee added: “Their centre-backs aren’t the quickest so hopefully we can find space and get in behind their defence.”
But the Doha-based player shrugged off his own personal frustrations in Australia, where the Koreans have yet to concede a goal in five matches — the first time a side has reached the Asian Cup final without being breached since 1976.
“When I play on the right, I have to track back and play more defensively,” he said. “I would like to be scoring goals but I just do the job I’m asked to. Australia will have massive support but we’re determined to make it very difficult for them.” – Agence France-Presse