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   1 June, 2002 | 1230 IST



France get the blues

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Poles on the attack

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The World Cup war of words between Poland and South Korea continues ahead of Tuesday's match with the Poles laughing off criticism of their defence and warning that the hosts will be in for a tough, physical battle.

The South Korean press, buoyed by their side's encouraging warm-up displays against England and France, have become unusually bullish about their group D chances.

Having failed to win a single game in their five previous World Cup appearances, the Koreans have suddenly begun to believe that, under the guidance of Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, they can make it to the second round.

Consequently, Poland, their first opponents, are bearing the brunt of the new wave of optimism, especially after the Poles' laboured display in a 2-1 friendly win over Korean champions Seongnam Ilhwa last Sunday.

Though the experienced Hiddink has been careful to praise the opposition, the Korean press has slammed the Polish defence as slow and cumbersome and predicted that the host nation's quick forwards can exploit the weakness.

Not surprisingly, the Poles see it differently and took the opportunity to remind the hosts of the uncompromising approach for which they are famed.

"They must be joking. They are the ones with the weak defence," defender Tomasz Hajto told reporters.

"They should remember that we were the first team to qualify in the whole of Europe and if they think they are in for an easy game they are wrong."

Tomasz Rzasa Marek Kozminski agreed: "One of our defenders won the UEFA Cup (Feyenoord's Tomasz Rzasa) and others play for some of the biggest teams in the world," said the midfielder.

"Maybe we are not all as fast as the Koreans, but they are not as strong as us.


"We have other qualities and we will use them," he warned.

Even coach Jerzy Engel, who has been carefully treading the diplomatic line and praising the Koreans all week, was eventually forced to reply.

"What we think is that their defence is not their strongest point and we think we will get chances," he said.

"They could let in a few goals."

The Poles, who said they initially found it hard to adjust to the high humidity, are also annoyed at reports that some of their players are struggling for fitness, with striker Pawel Kryszalowicz, injured coming into the tournament, the chief target.

"Let them say what they want," Kryszalowicz said. "We'll see who's fit on June 4."

Engel added: "We have no fitness problems in our team.

"We are training only once a day because we want to avoid the sun. We have done all the fitness work we need and are now just working on tactics."

The Poles, who were not particularly pleased to find their previous sessions being videoed, will hold two more closed training sessions at their base in Taejon before travelling to Pusan on Monday.

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