Korea Republic midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng has warned his team's supporters not to expect another fairytale run to the FIFA World Cup™ semi-finals. As joint hosts in 2002, they produced one of the great FIFA World Cup™ stories as they defeated Portugal and Poland to emerge as group winners before claiming famous victories over Italy and Spain in the knockout stages. Guus Hiddink's team were only halted by Germany in the semi-finals.
Korea Republic are now expected to make a significant mark at each FIFA World Cup™ and Celtic star Ki admits that can put an unwanted pressure on his team. "Since Korea got to the semi-final in 2002, many people expect the same result," he said. "I was in Australia at the time, I was 13 and just a fan then. No one in Korea expected the national team to go to the semi-final so now the expectations are too much.
"But we will try our best and our squad is getting stronger. If we try our best we can qualify for the group stage and then who knows, we could maybe go onto the quarter final."
Ki admits he is feeling nervous as he prepares for his first taste of the FIFA World Cup™ in Korea Republic's Group B opener against Greece in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. But the 21-year-old is hopeful his time at Scottish giants Celtic, playing in front of crowds of over 50,000 on a regular basis, has been the ideal preparation for such a high-profile occasion.
Ki, who made 10 appearances for the Hoops following his January transfer from FC Seoul, insists he has grown as a player since moving to Glasgow. "Coming to Celtic this year has really helped me prepare for competitions like the World Cup," he said. "I have never been to Africa, so this will be my first trip and also my first World Cup. I will probably be very nervous in the first game, but I have some experience from playing at Celtic and also in Korea so I will try my best."
The Korea Republic star will come up against a familiar face this weekend as his Celtic team-mate Georgios Samaras is likely to spearhead the Greece attack. He knows neither can afford to lose the game as they look to qualify from a group also featuring Argentina and Nigeria.
"The match against Greece is the most important game for both of us," he said, "The first game is always the most important. If we lose it will be a big problem so we will be trying our best to win against Greece."