Korean gives Swiss head start at World Cup

South Korean player Won Hee Joe performs a scissor kick during a training session Keystone

Switzerland play South Korea for the first time on Friday knowing they will progress in the World Cup with a point against the Asian side in their final group game.

This content was published on June 22, 2006 - 10:35

swissinfo spoke to journalist Song Jae-Hyeok from the country's state broadcaster, KBS, to gauge South Korea's strengths and weaknesses, and to see what they think of the Swiss team.

South Korea have impressed in the tournament so far, beating Togo and securing a draw against group favourites France.

Switzerland have matched their achievements, but with the crucial advantage of conceding one goal less. This means Switzerland only need to secure a draw in Hanover to guarantee qualification to the first knockout stage.

swissinfo: Will South Korea beat Switzerland on Friday?

Song Jae-Hyeok: Korean fans think the teams are equally matched, but many specialist football observers think the advantage is weighted in favour of Switzerland 60-40.

swissinfo: What are Switzerland's strengths?

S.J-H.: They are a very united and spirited team and Korea always find it difficult against their style of play. Traditionally, Korean sides have had problems against such well-organised teams that press and close down space in midfield.

Alex Frei is the Swiss player Koreans fear most as he is a very strong striker. But the source of Switzerland's strength comes from the team unit rather than individuals.

swissinfo: What are the main strengths and weaknesses of the South Korean team?

S. J-H.: The team's main strengths are their strong will and ambition. The players are also very fit and are able to run around the pitch for 90 minutes without trouble.

Switzerland need to watch out for Park Ji-Sung, Lee Chun-Soo and young striker Park Chu-Young, who has a good goal scoring conversion rate.

Their main weakness is that they have recently changed their defensive formation from three at the back to four, and the players have not yet got used to that.

swissinfo: South Korea reached the semi-final stage of the last World Cup held in South Korea and Japan in 2002. Can they do as well this time around?

S. J-H.: The team felt more confident four years ago because they were playing on home soil.

In a survey conducted before the tournament 80 per cent of those questioned said the team would make it past the group stage and 30 per cent felt they could reach the quarter-finals. I don't think many people believe they will go further than that.

However, confidence has grown after our win against Togo because it was the first time in our history that we have won a game in the World Cup so far from home. The draw against France has further reinforced that confidence.

swissinfo: Switzerland played China in a friendly match before the tournament to get some experience against Asian sides. Was China a good choice?

S. J-H.: China have a completely different style of play to Korea. China usually hit long balls while Korea pass the ball through midfield. It would have been better to play against Japan in the friendly match. The Koreans are definitely a stronger team as China have not beaten us for many years.

swissinfo-interview: Matthew Allen in Bad Bertrich

In brief

In the Fifa rankings South Korea are rated as 29th best side in the world - six places higher than Switzerland.

Switzerland defeated China 4-1 in their friendly game on June 3 in Zurich. Strikers Alex Frei and Marco Streller both scored twice.

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Key facts

Switzerland are appearing in their eighth World Cup finals, having reached the quarter-final stage in 1934, 1938 and 1954.
Their last appearance before this year was 1994 in the US.
South Korea are gracing the tournament for the seventh time (their sixth appearance in a row).
They were semi-finalists in 2002 when it was held in South Korea and Japan.

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