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   June 26, 2002 | 1253 IST


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Europe beckons Korea's talent

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South Korea's extraordinary run in the World Cup has showcased a team full of fresh, young talent to the top clubs in Europe.

Coach Guus Hiddink's young charges took South Korea into the history books as Asia's first ever World Cup semi-finalists.

They will now form the core of a formidable side for the 2004 Olympics and next World Cup buoyed by finals victories over Poland, Portugal, Italy and Spain.

Hiddink gave Cha Du-ri a start in Tuesday's 1-0 semi-final defeat against Germany where the lanky 21-year-old showed off his pace and nimble passing.

Dubbed the "human bomb" for his explosive speed, Cha plays for Korea University but his World Cup experience is expected to send him along the path of his father, Cha Bum-keun, who played in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen.

With the wins has come confidence and dreams of moving to Europe, where just two of the squad of 23 now play.

"They're the next generation to lead Korean football," veteran striker Hwang Sun-hong said of front-line mates Cha and 20-year-old Lee Chun-soo.

The 33-year-old Hwang, with 50 goals and 102 caps plans to retire from international competition after the tournament.

Captain Hong Myung-bo at 33 is also unlikely to be at the next World Cup.

In line are young players including versatile 23-year-old midfielder Song Chong-gug and 21-year-old Park Ji-sung.

"I don't have any particular team in my mind but I want to play in a big league," Park told reporters on Tuesday.

Park is under contract with Kyoto Purple Sanga and youngest of the five South Korea players in Japan's J League.

He scored one of the tournament's most skilful goals in a 1-0 win over Portugal, taking the ball with his right foot, bouncing it off his chest to spin a defender and drilling a left footer under keeper Vitor Baia.

He also scored against France and England in friendlies last month.

Song marked Luis Figo in the Portugal match, drawing roars of approval from South Korea's delighted Red Devil fans by repeatedly stripping FIFA's world player of the year of the ball.

He plays for the Pusan I.cons, one of 10 teams in the domestic K League where most of the national team play.


Ahn Jung-hwan, who headed home the golden goal that dumped Italy out of the World Cup, is one of only two South Korea players in Europe now.

Ahn had struggled for a spot in the line-up with Serie A side Perugia but has grown through the tournament, scoring two goals and this week he renegotiated his contract.

Earlier, Perugia's chairman had bristled over the Italy defeat and vowed never to take Ahn back.

Seol Ki-hyeon, who also scored in the 2-1 win over Italy, plays for Belgian side Anderlecht and like Ahn has found his form with the national team.

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