Mon, 30 Nov, -0001
Cuiaba: Korea Republic coach Hong Myung-bo is confident his young squad will not be overawed by the occasion when the majority of them make their World Cup debuts against Russia in their Group H opener at the Arena Pantanal on Tuesday.
A sizeable contingent of the squad have already amassed some big tournament experience as part of the Korea side that won bronze at the 2012 London Olympics under Hong, who is happy that his team has a good blend of youth experience.
"This is a very young team,'' said the 45-year-old, who captained the Taeguk Warriors to the semi-finals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, in his fourth and final appearance at the finals as a player.
''They are very energetic, but despite their youth they don't make rash judgments, they make wise decisions. They are the future of Korean football.''
Hong's opposite number Fabio Capello also had one eye on the future, suggesting that Russia's first appearance at the World Cup since Korea-Japan 2002 is part of a build-up process towards the vast European nation's hosting of the finals in 2018.
"The important thing is that we're here in Brazil after 12 years away," said Capello, who celebrates his 68th birthday on Wednesday.
The next step will be playing at home in 2018. We need this experience now to understand the world level of football. The level is top, it's great experience in terms of our preparations for 2018, and the 2016 [UEFA European Championship]. The pressure on Russia at the next World Cup will be even greater."
The vastly experienced Capello is leading a team at the second straight World Cup finals having led England at South Africa 2010 and the former AC Milan, Real Madrid and Roma boss admits he is happy with Russia's preparations for the tournament, which included a 2-1 friendly win over the Koreans in Dubai last November.
"I'm happy at what we've done so far, but this is just the beginning. I'm sure we will play an excellent World Cup, I've got excellent, organised players. The most important things are intelligence, and the respect of your rivals and to play with personality."