Korea vs.Turkey treat playoff deadly seriously

KYONGJU, South Korea, Reuters

There will be no letting up by feisty World Cup hosts South Korea as they battle Turkey today for third place and bragging rights as the most successful outsiders at a tournament full of surprises.

With millions of Red Devil supporters expected to fill the streets one last time, coach Guus Hiddink’s side hope to cap their historic run with a win over a Turkey side armed with similar speed and grit.

Turkey knocked out co-hosts Japan 1-0 in the second round, offering further incentive for South Korea, who have emerged as Asia’s best side in history.

South Korea ended a 48-year winless streak that lasted through five previous finals to beat Poland, Portugal, Italy and Spain with pacy, physical football.

Hiddink’s former Netherlands team were lackluster in a 2-1 loss to Croatia in the third place match at the finals in 1998 but he said South Korea would not disappoint.

“I take this third place very seriously…it will be a very tough game but I think there’s a lot of prestige for third place,” he told reporters after a training session on Thursday.

The only coach to take two teams to the penultimate World Cup match, Hiddink said South Korea owed it to their ardent Red Devil supporters.

“We were supported so nicely in this tournament that we feel obliged to go more than 100 percent for third place,” he said. Stunned champions They are up against a Turkish team that has made the most of their first finals appearance in 48 years.

Turkey emerged from the group stage with just one win but added two more against Japan and Senegal, the team that stunned reigning champions France 1-0 in the tournament’s opening match.

“I’m not going to change the style of the Korean team which (has) made it famous in the world,” Hiddink said.

“It will be a 50-50 game because they (Turkey) have the same style, they like to attack as well, they have technically skilled players.” Hiddink is expected to start Ahn Jung-hwan ahead of veteran striker Hwang Sun-hong who is nursing an injured thigh.

Ahn has scored twice in the finals including heading home a golden goal to dispatch three-time champions Italy.

A shuffle in defense is also possible if Choi Jin-cheul cannot shake off an ankle injury from Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Germany, with versatile midfielder Song Chong-gug a possible replacement. Turkey striker Ilhan Mansiz said the two sides know each other well after sharing to a scoreless draw in March.

“It will be a fun match. We drew with them in a one-off (friendly) game so we know their strengths and weaknesses,” he said.

Coach Senol Gunes will be looking to Ilhan to lead the attack as veteran Hakan Sukur has lacked form in these finals and Hasan Sas will sit out having received a yellow card in the 89th minute of Turkey’s 1-0 loss to Brazil on Wednesday.

Like Hiddink for South Korea, Gunes has created the most successful Turkey side in history while championing young talent such as 21-year-old midfielder Emre Belozoglu.

Both coaches are expected to consider younger players on Saturday as Hiddink did against Germany, when he gave starts on the front line to 20-year-old Lee Chun-soo and 21-year old Cha Du-ri.

Gunes and Turkey’s young players after the World Cup will aim at ensuring qualification for their third successive European Championship, set for 2004 in Portugal.

It will be Hiddink’s swansong as his contract ends with Saturday’s match.