Toffee alert for South Korea at Asian Cup

AFP| Last Updated: Jan 06, 2015, 09:27 AM IST
Toffee alert for South Korea at Asian Cup

South Korea will look to end 55 years of Asian Cup hurt in Australia mindful that another flop could result in retribution from their fans -- in the form of an avalanche of toffee.

The 2002 World Cup semi-finalists last won the Asian title in 1960 -- the year Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, won Olympic boxing gold and Elvis Presley returned from military duty in Germany.

South Korea`s players were pelted with toffees by angry fans on their return to Seoul as last year`s World Cup came to a sticky end -- a traditional insult in the country, where "Go eat a toffee!" translates as a fruitier version of "Get lost!"

The Koreans partially atoned for their winless exit from Brazil by ending a 28-year gold medal drought at the Asian Games in October, overcoming bitter rivals North Korea in a politically charged final on home soil.

South Korea`s senior side have never come close to replicating the success of 2002, when their remarkable World Cup run sparked hysteria and turned the players and Dutch coach Guus Hiddink into national heroes.

And they will need to show similar mental steel and attacking verve if they are to emulate the under-23s and win the Asian Cup for a third time.

The golden generation of players such as Park Ji-Sung, Yoo Sang-Chul and Hong Myung-Bo, who stepped down as coach after the World Cup, has been sorely missed, while the surprise appointment of German Uli Stielike as Hong`s replacement will be severely tested Down Under, where the Reds face hosts Australia, Oman and Kuwait in Group A.

The Korea Football Association (KFA) have been accused of lacking ambition for entrusting Stielike with the job, and the former European championship winner will be in the firing line at the Asian Cup as his side can ill afford to drop points against their Gulf opponents before locking horns with the Socceroos in Brisbane on January 17.

South Korea unquestionably have the talent to push Australia and holders Japan for the title with Lee Chung-Yong, Son Heung-Min and captain Ki Sung-Yueng among several creative European-based players at their disposal. 

However, the absence through injury of giant forward Kim Shin-Wook is a blow and, while there is little doubting the team`s dazzling potential, a suspect temperament and an unproven coach with a patchy resume could provide serious obstacles.