South Korea set goal of last four: Huh

Having achieved their aim of making the last 16 of the World Cup, "semi-finals" is the team's new goal, according to their coach Huh.

South Korea's Ji-sung Park, left, celebrates with teammates after a 2-2 draw against Nigeria saw them progress to the last 16.
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PORT ELIZABETH // Having achieved their aim of making the last 16 of the World Cup, South Korea are reassessing their ambitions for the remainder of the tournament. "Semi-finals" is the team's new goal, according to their coach. "I think my players will not settle with just reaching the last 16," Jung-moo Huh said. "My players would like to reach the semi-finals. I believe the group phase was the most difficult and from now on, it's a 50-50 chance of going through.

"We can't predict what will happen but I know that my players will want higher targets." South Korea can take a step toward their new goal when they play Uruguay today. A place in the second round of the World Cup had long been a national obsession. South Korea reached that stage as co-hosts in 2002, but it has never happened in six previous attempts overseas. The lucky seventh came thanks to a draw with Nigeria on Tuesday, which secured second place in Group B.

Ji-sung Park, the Manchester United midfielder, said the team had already achieved its tournament ambitions. "I'm not sure what our new goal is but we'll just try to win the next match," Park said. "It really is fantastic to write a new chapter in the history of Korean football." For months, any overseas player returning home was greeted at the airport with demands for a prediction of South Korea's chances of reaching the last 16.

Young-pyo Lee put the probability at 40 per cent, while others, such as Woon-jae Lee, thought their chances more likely. But all stressed the importance of surviving the group stage. After defeating Greece 2-0 in the opening match and losing 4-1 to Argentina in the following game, a draw against Nigeria was always likely to be enough to finish behind Argentina, but it was a nervous finish. "When the final whistle went my legs started shaking," said Nam-il Kim, the midfielder. "I felt happier about this than in 2002 when we reached the semi-final."

Despite the 3.30am start time in Korea, the scenes in Seoul were also similar to eight years ago. An estimated 500,000 fans took to the streets to watch the match on giant television screens. Myung-bak Lee, the country's president, also tuned in and sent a message of congratulations to the team. South Korea will not be underestimating Uruguay, the winner of Group A and their next opponents, Park said.

"We watched a few of Uruguay's games. They have quality and they are strong," Park said. "We have to prepare well." Huh said he was impressed by Uruguay's ability to attack. "The key will be who controls the flow of the game on match day," Huh said. "Uruguay are very strong in counter-attacks and we must take care of it." Huh hopes his side can prove against Uruguay that they can deliver. "I think that Asian football is doing quite well at this World Cup," he said. "We are getting a little bit closer to the international level but we still have a lot of work to do." * AP Watch Uruguay v South Korea (6pm) and United States v Ghana (10.30pm) both on Aljazeera World Cup and Aljazeera Sport +9