Coach Huh Jung-Moo defined Korea Republic’s campaign in South Africa as 'a joyful challenge' when he stood by the coveted FIFA World Cup™ during the Trophy Tour in Seoul in April. Two months later, upon arriving in Johannesburg last Saturday, he revealed the aims of the Taeguk Warriors .
"The players have long been preparing for the finals and are happy to here to play at this World Cup," he exclusively told FIFA.com. "I hope they will be able to show what they are capable of and leave a giant footstep of Korean football at this tournament."
After their fairytale run to the semi-finals of Korea/Japan 2002, the South Koreans failed to reach the knockout stage at Germany 2006, despite claiming their first win away from home. So, the priority for the east Asians this time around is to progress beyond the group stage of the finals for the first time away from home soil.
"The first and most important goal for us now is to get as far as the second round," said midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng. "It's hard to know what will happen in tournaments after that. So for now, we’re going to do our very best so that we can be among the last 16."
In order to achieve that, however, they will have to overcome their first hurdle in Group B in the shape of Greece in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. And you can never stress the importance of the first match too much, according to centre-back Lee Jung-Soo. "First of all, I believe that we have to do well in the Greece match in order to proceed to the last sixteen. We are thoroughly analysing each individual’s characteristics, weaknesses and strengths," he said.
With their second match against powerhouse Argentina coming five days later, the Taeguk Warriors know from experience that gaining all three points is all the more important. Indeed, they came from behind to beat Togo 2-1 in their group opener at Germany 2006, before holding eventual finalists France to a hard-fought 1-1 draw in the following game. Although they ultimately failed to reach the second round after losing to Switzerland in their final group match, the Korea Republic were within a whisker of joining the last 16 thanks to their impressive start to the tournament.
"We believe that we have to win the Greece game in order to go to the last sixteen, and therefore we will be focused on winning this match," Lee added. "And we’d also like to show the South Korean people that we are one step closer to the next round."