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Hong Myung-bo stresses speed for national football team


SIHEUNG, South Korea, July 1 (Yonhap) -- Hong Myung-bo, the new head coach of the men's national football team of South Korea, on Monday stressed the importance of speed for his players.

Ahead of the opening of a youth camp in Siheung, southwest of Seoul, Hong told reporters that South Korean players should make the most of their superior speed at next year's FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

"They must remember one of the strengths of South Korean football has been the high speed," he said. "If we can capitalize on that as we go on counterattacks, it could really work to our advantage."

During his first press conference last week, Hong said he wanted his team to play a "Korean" style of football, applying pressure on ball carriers on defense and maintaining edge in ball possession on offense.

Hong on Monday predicted South Korea will most likely draw stronger opponents at the World Cup and said only the strong defense and quick counterattacks can carry the underdog nation to victories.

"As possession football has gained popularity of late, there has been a tendency to overlook the importance of speed," Hong said. "Our national team will need to utilize speed while increasing ball possession at the same time."

Hong, arguably the greatest defender ever in South Korean football history, also highlighted the importance of organization on defense and pointed to Brazil's resounding 3-0 win over Spain at the Confederations Cup final earlier Monday.

Spain, ranked No. 1 in the world, had won the 2010 World Cup and the previous two European titles, whereas Brazil, though long a football powerhouse, had slipped to No. 22 in the FIFA rankings. Spain had perfected the style of play called "tiki-taka," relying on short, quick passes through tight space and players' movement away from the ball to generate chances on offense.

Yet Spain was rendered mostly powerless against Brazil's defensive pressure.

"As you can see from that game, defensive organization is really important," Hong said. "It can help teams beat anybody. You shouldn't worry about whether you're playing Spain, Germany or Italy. You have to concentrate on defense and consciously maintain that focus throughout the game."

Hong will make his debut at the East Asian Cup tournament, hosted by South Korea, starting July 20. Australia, China and Japan will be South Korea's opponents.

South Korea typically calls up about a dozen players from overseas leagues for international contests but is expected to field a team of domestic league players for the East Asian Cup. European seasons kick off in August and pro clubs there aren't obligated to release their international players for the East Asian Cup so close to the start of their new seasons.

Hong said he is looking forward to testing different players at different positions before finalizing his roster for the World Cup, adding that he hoped friendly competition would keep pushing the national team candidates.

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