Saturday, May 24, 2014

Meet the Team: Korea Republic


 Highlighting the patriotic symbol the Taeguk Warriors are a little misnamed...after all why would there need to be warriors fighting and destroying others in the name of "harmony and peace"?

Star: For all the criticism heaped on Mario Balotelli for being divisive, controversial and potential spoiled, he's never made racist overtones to Japanese players or publicly criticized both fans and coaches of the national team, but Ki Sung-Yueng has. The volatile Ki is the cornerstone of the Korean midfield, and has been instrumental in a range of Premier League successes. He might not have Super Mario's hair or rep, but he's every bit as integral to the team success.

Hip-Star: While every eye in Asia turns westward to the top leagues in Europe, there is talent at home. Like Ulsan Hyundai/national team full back Lee Yong, he might not have the k-pop hair cut or the international pedigree, but he'll fill a vital role to Korea's chances in Brazil, assuming you're smart enough to care about the fine art of defensive/protective soccer.

X-Factor: Korea may have to overcome the absolute worse case of jet lag in the whole field. With a host of players based in the UK, Germany, China and Japan, a friendly against Tunisia in Seoul at the end of the month and another in Miami a week later (v. Ghana in a Secretary General Showdown) and then a trip to Brazil, you'll forgive them if they're pooped. Worse still, not having played much in-squad cohesion can be a problem...because it has been a problem.

The Coach and the greatest moment
Coach: While a host of Asian teams fixate on bringing in an international gun slinger to buoy their hopes, Korea turned to local legend Hong Myung-Bo: Destroyer of Spain in 1994, Captain of the ship en-route to 4th place in 2002, Stalwart of the Defense, Mentor of the Youngsters. Now charged with managing the national team he helped thrust to prominence, Hong must manage bigger egos and even bigger expectations.

History: Bound for their 8th straight World Cup, Korea has quietly become one of the most consistent Asian sides. Though they're a long way from a repeat trip to the Semi-finals, they were one poor game against Switzerland (in 2006) away from being thrice-consecutive top 16 finisher.

Food: Tempting as it is to brine up some kimchi and call it good, I think a lighter, more creative Dasik (or tea snack) seems like a fine munchable for a matchday. Rice flour, honey and a variety of spices or seeds all in a bite sized treat. A fine bit of sophistication after all the fried meats I'm plotting to eat.

Every politician gets one mortifying
photo...this is Ban Ki-Moon's
Fool: Some fools are dastardly, some are stupid and some are just bang out of luck. Ban Ki-Moon has to be the final kind of fool. He seems to be an utterly capable, thoughtful, considerate and well intentioned leader. Unfortunately the world is inept, impulsive, rude and brutish. Sorry Mr. have only your self to blame for this--most ridiculous of jobs.

Best Case: Never doubt the magic touch of Hong Myung-Bo. A cohesive-dedicated month of practice works wonders for the far flung squad as they top the middling Group H before losing on penalties for the second straight cup (this time to a golden boot bound Cristiano Ronaldo)

Worst Case: Exhausted players sleepwalk their way through a loss to Russia, yawn to a goalless draw with Algeria and wake up just in time to see Eden Hazard net the last of his hat trick goals to send them home hopeless in last place.

My prediction: Unlike the Japanese, I was bearish on South Korea at first, and became more optimistic as time wore on, largely because they've got the far more manageable group H--though Belgium will likely knock them down to second place. Beyond that--facing the brutal quartet of Group G (each of whom could easily top the entirety of Group H)--they're up against too much. 2nd Round.

Added Bonus: Hop in the way back for some Classic Korean Hip Hop. Here's the Seo Taji Boys (starting about 1:06)

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