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South Korea Hoping for Better Performance at World Cup Finals - 2002-05-09

South Korea is a co-host of the upcoming World Cup football (soccer) tournament along with Japan. Although this year's tournament is the first to be held in Asia, VOA's Jim Stevenson reports, South Korea has quite a bit of World Cup experience.

South Korea is making its fifth straight World Cup appearance and sixth overall, the most of any Asian team. But its experience has been dismal, as international football commentator Derek Rae explains.

"South Korea has never won a match at the World Cup finals. And it is a record that I know has haunted them and continues to haunt them," he says.

Despite the poor record, Rae says South Korea has reason to be somewhat optimistic this year, playing in Group D with the United States, Poland and Portugal.

"You should not underestimate the importance of home advantage, of having a packed stadium behind you at the World Cup finals," he says. "They have a very experienced coach in Gus Hiddink. And I think they have a draw that is. Okay, it is not easy. It is never easy at the World Cup finals, but a draw that does give them some hope."

Rae says South Korea will certainly be an entertaining team to watch.

"They play this very distinctive style of game, and that has been the case with all South Korean teams. They run and chase, and very often it is a bit bizarre. You will see two and three players chasing after the opponent with the ball, which is quite unconventional at the international level. But they have made it work for them," he says.

South Korea's best finish was 16th in its first World Cup appearance in 1954. The team's worst finish came in 1998 when South Korea placed 30th out of 32 teams.