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2002 World Cup success defined South Korean kids - Cha

Cha Bum-kun is of the belief that the 2002 World Cup helped define a new generation of South Korean footballers.

The Taeguk Warriors, under the tutelage of Dutch maestro Guus Hiddink, finished an unprecedented fourth at the FIFA World Cup finals in Japan/South Korea which leads the country's all-time top scorer to suggest that the run of that team helped cultivate today's group of burgeoning Koreans.

Hiddink's team beat Poland, drew with the USA, got the better of Portugal, upset Italy and edged Spain in a quarter-final penalty shootout before going down the might of Germany 1-0 in the semi-final and Cha feels that was the impetus for the amount of South Koreans currently playing at the top level around Europe.

"The 2002 World Cup finals co-hosted by South Korea were a defining experience for today's younger players," Cha told Bundesliga.com.

"Our team made it through to the semi-finals and that showed the kids they could be a match for the Europeans and South Americans. It boosted the self-confidence of an entire generation. They're not afraid to try their luck abroad now and feel they're good enough to compete in European club football."

Cha also suggests that the German influence on youngsters in South Korea has also attributed to the success of such players as Son Heung-min, Ji Dong-won and Koo Ja-cheol.

"Last year's all-German Champions League final (between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund) and the recent performances of the national team have made a big impression across Asia," he added.

"The young German players are really popular here. And people are seeing as well that a lot of players from the Far East are making a name for themselves in the Bundesliga.

"It started with the Japanese and now they're being joined by ever more South Koreans. Up-and-coming players have different ambitions now."

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Andrew Slevison
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Andrew Slevison

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