Beating Japan perfect gift for centurion Park

DOHA - Victory over Japan in their Asian Cup semi-final would be the perfect gift for South Korean captain Park Ji-sung on his 100th appearance for his country, coach Cho Kwang-rae said on Monday.

Park is expected to reach the 100-cap milestone when his side face three-times champions Japan in an eagerly anticipated semi-final at the Al Gharafa Stadium on Tuesday.

"I would like to congratulate Park for 100 caps, and as a gift I want to give him victory in tomorrow's match," Cho told reporters.

"Park Ji-sung is a player with outstanding leadership on and off the pitch and he did an excellent job for his country so far and I want him to continue his excellent career until the end of the Asian Cup so he can win the trophy."

Park said prior to the tournament he would retire from international football but when asked during it if that was still the case, he would not confirm his intentions.

Cho will be hopeful he can convince the midfielder to stay on.

The 29-year-old has been at the centre of his side's impressive displays in reaching the last four and his team mate Koo Ja-cheol revealed his importance to the Korean team as they try and win their third Asian title and first for 51 years.

"I am very proud of him. I'm playing with one of the best players in the world," said Koo, the tournament's joint-top scorer with four goals.

"He gives us advice on and off the pitch and makes the young players like me very comfortable through his excellent leadership of the team."


Tuesday's opponents Japan, however, will mark a step-up in class for the Koreans as the Blue Samurai have scored 11 goals, the most in the tournament, displaying a similar attractive, attacking style.

Japan's Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni said he had given his squad a day off on Sunday so they could refresh after finishing two matches with 10-men en route to the last four.

"So far we played four matches and the two matches we played with the 10 men so mentally the players looked very exhausted and also we are in Qatar for 20 days already and not having any days off," Zaccheroni explained.

"Physically it is important but also mentally it is very effective when we have a tight match so I gave the players a break for their mental wellbeing."

The two East Asian rivals will be have to make alterations to their defensive line because of suspensions with Japan missing Mayo Yoshida and Lee Jung-Soo out for South Korea.

Uzbekistan will face Australia, both making their first appearance in the last four, in the second semi-final at the Khalifa Stadium, also on on Tuesday.