2002 World Cup semifinalists to face K-League All-Stars
By Kang Seung-woo
Members of the 2002 World Cup squad will return to the field to square off against a K-League All-Star side in July to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the tournament held jointly by Korea and Japan, the Korean football league announced Monday.
Ahn Jung-hwan, 36, who retired in January and is now serving as an honorary public relations ambassador for the K-League, said that he will pit Korea’s World Cup team from 2002 against an All-Star lineup currently playing in the nation’s top flight on July 5 at Seoul World Cup Stadium.
“Through the 2002 World Cup, the squad members won fans’ affection and (I think) we need to commit to the K-League in return for their love,” Ahn said in a press conference at the Korea Football Association headquarters in Seoul.
“Through the 2002 side coming together and playing a good game, we hope that many people will regain an interest in the K-League.”
Korea managed by Dutchman Guus Hiddink, reached the semifinals at the 2002 World Cup after ousting football heavyweights Portugal, Italy and Spain along the way.
Ahn, who headed home a golden goal against Italy in the round of 16, said that he has invited all 23 squad members including Park Ji-sung as well as Hiddink.
“I have already sent a document to manager Hiddink, and his side said it will positively consider his participation, although he has not confirmed it,” Ahn said. The 65-year-old is currently coaching Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala.
Ahn hopes that Manchester United midfielder Park will join his old teammates, saying the success of the All-Star game depends on him thanks to his rock star status here.
“I am in talks with Park, and he said that he will participate in the game if his schedule permits him,” Ahn said.
“The game definitely needs him to be successful.”
According to Ahn, most players who belonged to the World Cup squad including Hong Myung-bo, Hwang Sun-hong and Yoo Sang-chul, all of whom are in managing positions as well as active players such as Kim Nam-il and Seol Ki-hyeon, will take the field.
The K-League All-Stars will be selected by fan ballot in June.