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US to Play S. Korea Monday in Key Group D Match - 2002-06-09

The U.S. soccer team is set to take on South Korea Monday in what will be one of the most widely-followed matches at the World Cup.

This match will determine which team takes over first place in Group D. Both sides won their opening games.

The United States upset Portugal 3-2, and the Koreans shut out Poland 2-0. The winner would also clinch a berth in the second round if the Portugal-Poland game later in the day in Jeonju ends in a draw.

The crowd here will be heavily behind the Koreans, but the Americans say they can not worry about it. And U.S. Coach Bruce Arena says his players are used to pressure-filled games. "This is not the first time we have been in a big game," said Arena, "although it is certainly a World Cup game. We have played here in Korea before. We played Korea twice in the last five or six months, so we know our opponent pretty well. We know the stadiums, the environment. Additionally, we have a number of players that have played in big games before at the club level as well as in World Cups before. So I think these players will be prepared to play in a game of this magnitude."

American forward Brian McBride, who scored one of the U.S. goals in the win over Portugal, says it should not be any different than playing against arch-rival Mexico.

"To give you an example, playing in Mexico City, in Azteca Stadium with 110,000 fans blowing their horns you feel like you are swarmed with bumblebees," recalled McBride. :So I think, although it is an incredible, incredible atmosphere, it is a soccer game. And you have to make sure that you concentrate on playing soccer and tune everything else out."

McBride added he thinks the Korean crowd will be better behaved. Fans, mostly Korean but some American, camped outside the stadium for two nights together when it was announced that 5,000 additional tickets would go on sale for this USA-South Korea match.

In the one World Cup match played in South Korea on Sunday, Costa Rica got a late goal to tie Turkey in Group C, 1-1. That result clinches a berth in the second round for Group leader Brazil with six points. With one round robin match left, Costa Rica has four points, Turkey has one and China none. The group concludes play Thursday, with China taking on Turkey and Costa Rica facing Brazil.