Korea Optimistic About AFC Asian Cup

luvsmiling, Dec. 26, 2014, 10:51 a.m.

Korea is looking to recover from embarrassing performances on the international stage with a fresh start in the AFC Asian Cup. The football tournament kicks off on Jan. 9 next year in Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald expects Australia, Iran, Japan and Korea to reach the semifinals but predicts that only Iran and Japan will advance to the finals, with Korea being defeated by its Asian neighbor. 

Korea lost to Japan in penalty shootout in the semifinals of the 2011 Asian Cup and settled for third place, while Japan won the trophy in a final match against Australia.  Son Heung-min, a winger for Bayer Leverkusen, should be a key player for Korea, according to the Australian newspaper. Son "has taken the mantle from Park Ji-sung as Korea's star player," the paper wrote. "Given his age, he is perhaps the most valuable player at this tournament." 

The wild card is Cha Du-ri. "No player in Asia has a bigger tank," the newspaper said. "Cha could just about take up marathon running when he retires in the coming years. He is 34 but covers the ground better than those a decade younger."   Korea is in the same group with Australia, Kuwait and Oman, and will face Oman first on Jan. 10.  The Korean national team, under manager Uli Stielike, will leave for Australia on Saturday and play against Saudi Arabia in a friendly on Jan. 4 to prepare for the tournament.

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