By Jay Mwamba
In the first of two scheduled meetings before they go at it for real in Group D on June 10, World Cup co-hosts South Korea defeated the United States 1-0 in a tune up in Sogwipo last weekend.
Korean skipper Yoo Sang-Chul nodded in the only goal of the match in the 20th minute.
U.S. coach Bruce Arena shrugged off the result, saying, “The World Cup match is the one we are going to compete for.”
The friendly was watched by a sold-out crowd of 42,000 in the new Sogwipo stadium on the Island of Cheju.
The two teams meet again next month in CONCACAF’s Gold Cup in the United States. Team USA and Korea are drawn in Group D, alongside Portugal and Poland.
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Ireland could have a manageable route to the World Cup quarterfinals if they get out of the first round in Japan/Korea ’02.
According to the brackets in the knockout stage, the winners of Group E, comprising the Republic, Germany, Cameroon and Saudi Arabia, will face the Group B runners-up in the Round of 16 on June 15. The Group B winners, meanwhile, will meet the Group E runners-up on June 16.
Group B consists of Spain, Paraguay, Slovenia and South Africa. Although the Spaniards, whose team is built around young Real Madrid superstar Raul, are widely tipped to go far in the World Cup, the Republic would rate favorably with them.
Spain are regarded to be in the same class as Portugal, whom Ireland tied twice in the qualifiers.
Paraguay and Slovenia would also not be considered insurmountable, while the South Africans, edged 2-1 by Ireland at Giants Stadium in the 1999 Nike U.S. Cup, are arguably the weakest of the five African participants.
Should Ireland advance to the quarterfinals, their opponents would come from the bracket matching the Group D and Group G (Italy/Croatia/Mexico/ Ecuador) first-round survivors.
In the run-up to the finals, South Korea have been the target of criticism from animal rights advocates because of its culinary tastes.
Apparently the traditional Korean fondness for dog meat doesn’t go down too well with activists. They are using the pre-World Cup publicity to spotlight the mistreatment of dogs bred for consumption.
But the Koreans, who eat an estimated one million dogs every year, have backers in China, who also have a penchant for dogs.
“Cuisine is part of culture. You must not apply one standard to all countries in the world. The world we are living in is a place of variety and abundance,” Chinese Ambassador to Seoul Li Bin told Korean reporters last week.
Pele said he thinks that England can go all the way in Japan/Korea ’02. He also picks Michael Owen and David Beckham to make a splash in the finals.
“I believe England are capable of winning the World Cup. At the very least they can reach the final,” the Brazilian m’stro said last week. “Their team has really improved ever since Sven Goran Eriksson took charge as their coach.”
The three-time World Cup winner added: “For a long time England used to be afraid of playing proper football. They would charge forward, rather than playing a controlled game. But now they show far more patience in their play, and players such as Michael Owen and David Beckham could become the biggest attractions of the finals.”